Imposter Syndrome: 4 Steps to Tackle It

Like many of you on this forum who perhaps don’t have a degree in your profession, I was never formally trained in administration or bookkeeping. My BA in History isn’t super helpful while balancing the books. I’ve “only” been doing bookkeeping and admin in the real world for 20 years. When I first read about imposter syndrome it was a real ah-ha moment for me :slight_smile:

When I attend the Quickbooks conference or am around CPAs, I find that being a listener usually serves me well. I speak up when I am certain of what I want to say and when it is constructive. People in the working world who are brave enough to share their experiences don’t need negative opinions or armchair quarterbacking but thoughtfulness and suggestions should always be welcomed. Sometimes having less formal experience makes for creative and original solutions. I also fall back on the old classic “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. Though as @Geoff Perlman will confirm, I am passionate about Xojo and I can play a mean devil’s advocate when necessary :slight_smile:

When I get sucked into imposter syndrome, I focus on my professional achievements - like never being fired from a job and constantly moving up in my chosen profession. This year I’m celebrating 10 years at Xojo - being hired as a bookkeeper and making my way to Director of Administration! I also remind myself that I’m a member of this community, strength in numbers and all that. As Nina West said, “kindness is king” and any community will grow stronger when its members support each other and share positive experiences and ideas.

Oh, and I always proofread my communications with the goal of removing qualifiers and undermining phrases like “imho”, “actually”, “just”, “please” and unnecessary apologies. Don’t downplay your own experience and remind yourself that you have worked hard and that is worthwhile :slight_smile:

The first time I spoke at a Xojo conference (Real World circa 2004?) I felt like such an imposter. What could I possibly have to contribute to the community!? I didn’t feel comfortable speaking and I’m sure my um’s and ah’s were awful (this was before the conferences were recorded).

A few years later I started doing the video training series and when I was editing the videos I was sick of the um’s and ah’s and having to edit them out. So I found a local Toast Masters chapter and spent the next year and a half learning how to speak in public. I achieved my Competent Communicator certificate in Toast Masters. Now you can’t shut me up (despite being an introvert).

Slowly, over time, you get over feeling like an Imposter and more knowing that you don’t know everything but you can find the answer. Is that wisdom? I don’t know but it might be. So there is certainly a little bit of “Fake it until you make it” going on but isn’t that what learning anything is about? You don’t know until you spend the time learning and getting better.

I have a more recent experience where I joined a Mandolin Orchestra in KC. WAY over my capability to play and I was paired with someone that was just as inexperienced as me. Big mistake as my first season (as 2nd mandolin) was truly awful because I felt set up to fail. The music was challenging to begin with and my partner wasn’t helping so the pressure was solely on me perform well. This season I tried it again and they put me at 1st mandolin 2nd chair and my stand partner is a long term friend, has 25+ years of mandolin experience, is really good, taught my kid fiddle music, and above all patient. We did Mozarts Eine kleine Nachtmusik (all 4 movements) and I was challenged and had fun even though both first mandolin’s got lost in one of the movements because the conductor went WAY faster than we’d ever rehearsed. We complimented each other in many ways and he taught me many things along the way (sometimes with a here’s a better way of doing this complicated thing). Am I great at mandolin now? Nope, but give me another five years of the orchestra and maybe some outside instruction and I’ll be decent (I know enough musicians to know they are never ‘great’).

Imposter Syndrome. Needing 10,000 hours of practice time. All of those revolve around gaining enough experience to know what you don’t know in my opinion.

This is something, as women, we do far too often! Often, it is done out of habit - not really even thinking we’re sorry or it’s just our “humble” opinion, but we do feel the need to somehow hedge our strong opinions, which is a type of imposter syndrome. Kudos for checking yourself on that!

That’s huge. I used to tell my fresh-out-of-college project managers that they needed to follow the process to the letter until they knew what they didn’t know. I guess its a form of telling your kids “because I said so” when you know they don’t know enough to understand the reason. But, it’s completely true. Not knowing what you don’t know makes you DANGEROUS.

And, as for fake it until you make it, that’s not really true. Because when you’re “faking” it, you are ACTUALLY doing it… so, not really a fake!

To your musical abilities, I find it VERY interesting how many software developers also actively play music. It is a really high number. I think we need a psychological study on the whys and hows on that!

I’ve been a mentor for robotics for 8 years and I wish I had a dollar for every time I said, “Humor me.” The kids think they know everything. I have a guilty pleasure when the mentors talk to each other go, “we told them this would happen.” :slight_smile:

I have noticed this too. The orchestra has several engineers and programmers. The very big group we jam with every year in September is filled with technical people too.

I think music is a form of language. So is software development. The individual pieces go together to do something bigger just as a program does something bigger than its components. We are going to France in a few weeks so we’ve been learning French. I’ve found parts of it to be really easy (not sure I’ll ever speak it properly) but the fun/frustrating part has been to learn the rules without much guidance (DuoLingo is interesting way to learn). Which isn’t learning the rules a big part of music and software development and language?

Rules! Maybe that’s it! I also think there is some degree of precision that is involved in coding and music which might be part of the attraction.

Or just the creative aspects of software development.
Writing software is like being an architect. There are aspects of science and art involved.
I can’t play and instrument or carry a tune in a bucket.
But I’m not so bad at designing and constructing things - small buildings & decks for instance.

the only thing i can play is the radio

I’m pretty handy with a reciprocating saw (with a demolition blade) and a sledge hammer :stuck_out_tongue:

I am a self-taught (well, me and Google) programmer with the exception of a FORTRAN class in college. For 20 years I did programming as a side job, to automate the real work I did, and for those twenty years I never even knew another programmer. I went to my first XDC last year in Denver feeling like an imposter for sure, but after talking to lots of people and asking advice on ideas that I had, it turns out that I pretty much did know what I was doing.

I am now trying to make it on my own now as a developer, but I still have feelings of inadequacy since there are still many areas of application development that I have never even touched. What gets me past those feelings is the fact that I fully believe that I can learn what I don’t already know.

It’s more than just software - it applies to all levels of logic processing. The last 11 hires here have all been musicians instead of Comp-Sci. I was a music major before I switched to EE. I just find that a musician can think through things in ways that a dyed in the wool Comp-Sci major can’t. As Bob says about his Robotics mentoring, and I admit this is a generality, the Comp-Sci grads come out of school thinking they already know everything. Musicians know that there is always something new to learn. I can teach a learner, but it’s very difficult to unteach a know-it-all.

I think learning has more to do with attitude than what degree you got
Over the years I’ve worked with some CS folks who knew everything, some who knew they didn’t and learned, and a wide variety of BEd, BA and other folks
And a few who had no degree that knew way more than most everyone else because they had a burning desire to learn
Like Joe R

I think that’s something that you can do to get over imposter syndrome… just realize that you aren’t. A lot of that involves self-awareness.

No one can know everything! (Knowing what you don’t know is important too!) But as you say and as @Tim Jones and @Norman Palardy have seen, it’s that ability to learn that really pushes you ahead in your career. And I think that when you know you have that ability to learn, those hints of imposter syndrome start to dissolve.

Nah - they still nag at you until the day that you die - :smiley:

@Tim Jones - they “start to dissolve” - just start… lol

Well, almost all of my robotics programmers go through a phase where they think they know more than they actually do. It’s a phase that everyone goes through I think.

But I’d much rather higher someone from a strong high school robotics program/experience over a college grad that only has grade to show for it any day of the week. Or a musician, or artist of some sort. I think it shows they can think outside the box.

We do interviews at one of those places that trains ‘programmers’ in a 16 week program. We’ve had good success with their graduates believe it or not. Most can’t interview worth a darn and can’t answer the question: So what do you do for fun? I’m literally looking for anything: musician, artist, darts, or even coding their own game. 90% don’t even have that. Crazy, I know.