Matt Trask

Pushing past Imposter Syndrome

May 17, 2016 | 4 Minute Read

I have Imposter Syndrome.

And so does everyone else.

Per Wikipedia.org: “Impostor syndrome (also spelled imposter syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud””.

I have that exact problem. It sucks. Its been a driving force into why Im timid at times, its been a driving force of fear in my life. Ive accomplished some amazing things so far. And yet, as I look forward to new challenges, I never think that my past is the reason why I can succeed time and time again.

In fact, I just started working for Tandum, run by the awesome Jacques Woodcock. He personally asked him to come work for him. After being flattered he would ask me of all people, doubt flooded my brain. Its a start up, its going to be the biggest challenge Ive ever encountered. All through the interview process I did pretty good, cause they kept scheduling more interviews. Fun times right? When the offer came in, thats when it all hit me. The imposter syndrome flooded throughout me. I at one point even told Jacques thats its a no go. After he talked me off of that, I started my journey with him at Tandum. Its been a great time, but the reason Im writing this is cause this week was a big bout of the Imposter Syndrome.

What generally happens is either you have a job, project or even task. Immediately you look at it like ok seems easy enough, but then I personally freeze. Of course I know how to do {$php_action}. Make a key for an array, sure. Alter a SQL query, definitely. But then I freeze, Ill get overwhelmed. I forget the simple things. And suddenly a simple task has just become a monster looming over me. And this is my struggle. And I know its a struggle for a lot of people. And Im still looking for a solid answer on what to do when these things happen. Right now, its take a lot of notes, write things down, UML map it out. But thats cumbersome at times. One thing that has helped is a direct line to the senior developer, Elizabeth Smith. At my previous job, we had “ze Germans”, Arne Blankerts, Stefan Priebsch and Sebastian Bergmann. Wanna talk about getting hit with imposter syndrome? Try walking through code with those guys. Elizabeth is on the same levels as them. Wicked smart and wants me to succeed. Thats what everyone wants in the end. No one wants to hire someone and have them level in a few weeks. They want them to settle in and kick ass. Both the Germans and Jacques and Elizabeth want the same thing. Its something you should remind yourself everyday. And its why Im so damn proud of this community. While we are all busy, Elizabeth takes the time to reach out and see when if Im stuck, or what she can clear up for me. While Im not going to get better over night, she has helped immensely.

Unfortunately, this has extended into the open source programming I want to do. I would love nothing more then to contribute to a project, but this imposter syndrome has a rampant fear over me. Why? Shit I dont know. Sometimes its because I dont know how to replicate the issue, othertimes I look at a bug in the issues section of Github and while it looks easy, I get lost in it. The best advice I got about this was from Stefan Priebsch, who told me “At the simplest, all this is is taking data in and returning data. Thats all. So break it down to that point. When you get there, work on that small issue and build up”. Is it tough to do that, yea. But I wont lie, it helps.

If you are getting stuck with Imposter Syndrome, take heart in knowing its not just you. And remember, break the issue down to the smallest possible point, and build up from there. It works, I promise.

If you ever want someone to talk about it, please feel free to reach out. Im always happy to talk.

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