What to do about your imposter syndrome

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Imposter syndrome is a relatively newly understood phenomenon. It’s the secretly nurtured fear that the only reason we’re here is that someone made a mistake and that any day someone is going to point to us and declare “you don’t belong here”. It leads us to self sabotage because of the emotional energy we spend being on edge. Waiting for the revelation and rejection of those around us. It’s a lonely road to walk. Everyone around us seems so accomplished, so together that we must be the odd one out.

When I walked through the door at Google I felt this acutely and continued feeling this every day for the following ten years. I also came to realise I wasn’t alone. Nobody really felt like they deserved to be there. I was in a presentation on the topic where it was introduced to me for the first time and I saw a room full of senior people start nodding their heads. As 300 people collectively had the same epiphany “so this is why I’ve been feeling this way” then looked around and realised they weren’t alone any more. It was then I realised that the people who don’t feel this way are the ones you have to worry about. Anyone who operates without self doubt is also likely to operate without conscience.

Having imposter syndrome doesn’t mean you’re broken. It just means you’re human. That still means we have to walk the lonely road. With lockdowns all over the world this road feels that much more lonely. The lack of regular direct human contact exacerbates these feelings. Here are some tips from my journey that might help you help yourself and others.

  1. Reflect on your values and who you aspire to be as a person. The first person you have to make happy is yourself. If you are acting in line with your personal values then your sense of self worth and security are enhanced. This makes you less reliant on the fickle opinions of others. It’s the looking in the mirror test.

You do belong here. You’re not alone on this journey. Everyone around you is likely to be on a similar path. Anyone who tells you they aren’t are either kidding themselves or some kind of sociopath. By being open about your own vulnerability you take away its power to hurt you and you find and become the support network for everyone around you.

Ex-Google, ex-Netscape, ex-Skyscanner. Interested in solving complex problems without complexity and self sustaining self improving organisations.

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