Imposter Syndrome: Not Just for Imposters

Imposter Syndrome: Not Just for Imposters

Last week, I arrived on Wednesday morning excited for my first day at Ohanafy. I had brought all the work setup essentials - my tiny dinosaur terrarium, a stuffed animal desk buddy, and a bundle of packed snacks. I expected it would be a day of meetings - “who we are,” “what we do,” “set up payroll or else you won’t get paid,” etc. 

Instead, I joined the team stand-up meeting at 9:45 AM and everyone turned to look at me before someone asked: “How good is your Javascript?” Naturally, I shrugged, and said I had some - but not a lot of - experience, and I’d love to help out and give it my best shot. Not even an hour later, I was helping to debug and write code for an upcoming sprint deadline.

I left the office at the end of my first day feeling excited (and sure, exhausted) and totally ready to come back the next day to do it again. I regaled my friends, family, and anyone who would listen about my amazing first day, and I was really happy.

And then the clock struck midnight.

Before you ask - no, I didn’t turn into a pumpkin, and my clothes didn’t transform back to rags or anything. Instead, as I laid in bed, a familiar “friend” crawled into my mind and told me some hard “truths:”

“You couldn’t come up with the solution for the problem they were trying to solve today. Do you really have what it takes to be on this team?”

“I’m sure the CEO and CTO are at their homes right now questioning why they ever hired you. You definitely oversold your abilities in your interview.”

At this point, I felt the panic welling up inside of me. This voice must be right. I am under-qualified and under-skilled, and I have no right to be a Software Engineer at Ohanafy or anywhere else. 

Luckily, I had enough presence of mind to recognize that this voice was, in fact, no friend of mine; it was Imposter Syndrome that was trying to rain on my parade. WebMD defines Imposter Syndrome as “...describ[ing] someone who feels they aren't as capable as others think and fears they’ll be exposed as a fraud” (it also disclaims that this is not a mental health condition, but rather a common psychological phenomenon). 

There have been many times in my life where I have felt like an imposter. Still, I have found the moments when I have the opportunity to experience the greatest amount of growth are when these feelings come out the strongest. I did what I learned is the best way to lessen these feelings: talk about it. 

I got up and told my boyfriend how I was feeling about my day, and he helped me work through it enough to get a good night’s sleep. I went to work the next morning and told my coworkers what I was feeling. I made a song about it and sang it to my cats at dinnertime (they gave the performance a 1/5 stars, unfortunately).

The worst thing that can happen when these feelings arise is to hold them in and let them echo around in your brain. I feel lucky to have a great support system of people who have taught me to identify when I’m feeling Imposter Syndrome and also for those who are resources for me to talk to when the feelings inevitably show up again. 

The bottom line: Imposter Syndrome does not need to define you, and more often than not, it actually might be an indicator that you are on your way to an amazing growth opportunity. I know that with Ohanafy, I have the chance to do something great, not just for myself but for the broader community as a whole. Their mission - and my mission - is to grow and lead through love and purpose. That is something I can be passionate about every day. 

The great Nelson Mandela once said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” For me, perhaps passion is not the absence of Imposter Syndrome, but the triumph over it.

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