How to counteract Imposter Syndrome

Sometime ago David Walsh wrote about imposter syndrome on his blog. David’s blog post really resonated for me, as it did for a lot of people in the programming community.

Whatever field of work you are in I imagine that many people have felt like an imposter at one time or another.

It’s a difficult feeling to shake. Working as part of a team has helped me deal with Imposter Syndrome and I feel like team work is the perfect antidote.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is the feeling you get when you think you shouldn’t be doing the job you’re doing. You’re not qualified enough. You’re not as good as someone else in your field. The feeling that you should know more, you should read more and you should create more things.

The truth is that you aren’t going to be better than everyone at everything. There are too many things and not enough time to be good at all of them.

Cheerleading vs Imposter Syndrome

One way to build confidence in yourself is to work as a team. In a well rounded team you’ll find a mixture of people with different skills. By supporting other members of your team you also gain confidence.

For example I’m a web developer, I’m pretty nifty at the database and back end work. I’m not great at the front end work, I can do it but it takes me a while. One of my colleagues is an amazing front end developer, he’ll run with a design and make it shine in no time. I’m always telling him how good his work is and in turn his confidence has grown so his work gets better.

Being a cheerleader for other members of your team helps them realise how much they know about their field of expertise.

Workload sharing vs Imposter Syndrome

There is less pressure for an individual to be good at everything when you are part of a team. You can be an expert in your particular field and not have to worry about having an in depth knowledge about a lot of other subjects.

Learning vs Imposter Syndrome

One of the side effects of working in a great team is the additional knowledge you’ll gain from your team. Either:

  • You get to focus on something for longer so you gain more knowledge from experience.
  • Or you gain knowledge by learning from other members of your team whenever you call upon them for a helping hand.

Over time it’s likely that you’ll become the go to person for a particular type of problem. Even if that type of problem is particularly niche.

Seniority vs Imposter Syndrome

As a junior in a good team you’ll soon realise you are better at something than the senior members of your team. A good team player will always ask for help from any member of the team, even if the person they’re asking for help from might be at the start of their careers.

Senior team members will enjoy sharing their knowledge with the junior team members and also benefit from a reduction of imposter syndrome.

The Team vs Imposter Syndrome

A team is the ultimate antidote to Imposter Syndrome. Try to:

  • Help others: sharing your knowledge will make you realise how much you know.
  • Thank others: if someone has helped you then say thanks. Try thanking the author of a book or a blog post you just read.
  • Ask for help: if you are stuck then ask people for help.
  • Join a community: if you can’t be part of a team then join a community. If there are no local groups then look for an online group.