Impostor Syndrome

And four pieces of advice I found in order to overcome it.

“I’m a fraud” — Google this and the first result that comes up is a Wikipedia entry on Impostor Syndrome. I found out about it a few nights ago after impulsively typing the aforementioned sentence into my phone. I had been through a night-long session of staring aimlessly at the ceiling. Insomnia hit hard since I first received news that I had been promoted as head of the motion graphics and video department at one of the largest digital agencies in my country.

For my own sake, as well as my company’s, I must remain anonymous. I apologize for this, as I know it must come off as a coward and unrespectful move.

For the last two years my department has been the one bringing in the most money. My role in this new position is just about to start but I don’t feel ready at all. In fact I feel like I just landed this opportunity by pure luck, a reward for being in the right place at the right time. I don’t feel qualified and I doubt I can keep the well-oiled machine that my team is, running as good as it has been doing until now.
Except I can’t tell this to anyone. I know what an amazing opportunity this is for me and I couldn’t forgive myself if I turned it down, so I act like everything is a-okay. I feel like a total fraud.

“Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. [1]”

After finding out that a ton of people feel the same type of shitty as I do, I instantly felt better. So that night I read everything I could find about it and I kept reading until it was getting late to go to work. As every other adolescent reaction there’s way more material on it than it perhaps deserves. I’m yet to understand the roots of my own impostor syndrome, yet I compiled the best pieces of advice I found around for anyone feeling the same way as I do:

  1. It’s not such a dumb thing to feel unprepared.
    Seize that feeling and use it to your advantage, learn everything that could help you feel more confident about your role.
  2. No one is ever ready for nothing.
    Think about everything you know, think about all of your skills. There was a time where you lacked all of them, and the odds are that the more useful they are to you today, the more they felt as an imposible feat at first.
  3. Accept that you played a part in order to get to where you are now.
    No, the world is not a fair place. Chances are you don’t even deserve all the things you have, just take a look at this infography. Yet there’s no chance you could be where you are now if it wasn’t because you did at least some things right.
  4. You’re not that important.
    Of course you have to give your best no matter what you do, but it doesn’t really matter if you fail, not to the big picture. Remember you’re just a speck of dust in a vast, vast universe. Get over yourself.

A few days away from starting in my new position, I still don’t feel ready but the above advice has become my mantra, and even though my insecurities haven’t disappear, I now feel able to face the challenges that are about to come.