Demons in the Mirror

I'm curled up on the sofa, my newly-wiped and re-installed hard-drive-laden notebook in my lap. It's humid outside, so the air conditioner is on, but that means it's chilly so I am wrapped in my partner's Apple sweatshirt. Notes and reference books and index cards are scattered around me. I have a hundred things to accomplish today.

And I am completely frozen.

Today, moreso than many other days, I'm feeling the weight of Impostor Syndrome. It permeates my fingertips, making the code feel awkward and the commands fumble across my screen. My brain is operating at an incredibly slow pace, fighting through fog and clouds to get things moving on the hundred projects I've got spinning at once.

Everyone feels like a fraud sometimes.

It's sadly become the norm in our culture, where everyone is pressured to be bigger, better, faster, stronger, than everyone else. There is a helpful counter-attack to this aggravating and destructive pressure that takes some of the steam from the pot and helps people like me and you have a language and framework for recognizing this feeling. When we recognize Impostor Syndrome, we take away some of the power that the feeling of helplessness wields over our work and lives.

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to the Ruby Rogues podcast. Recently, the cast discussed Impostor Syndrome and particularly it's impact on programmers. Given that, my experience (or lack thereof) in programming is a huge part of my current experiencing of Impostor Syndrom, this podcast episode was both a blessing and a beast to listen to this afternoon.

When learning any new thing, it's important to keep a perspective that being a beginner is ok. In fact, it's often downright delightful. But it can also be very challenging when everyone around you has so much more: more knowledge, more opportunities, more skills, more experience, more connections, more ... It can be overwhelming to even consider. Remembering that I'm not the only one who feels this can be helpful, but what's more useful is actually working through the feelings and challenges enveloped by this Impostor Syndrome and finding ways to work through the struggles to find the ways I shine.

If I can find things I am good at, things that I have demonstrable skill with, I can find places in my heart that shine brighter than the Impostor Syndrome and recognize my own ability. If I can then do those things and share them with others, I increase the chance of external reinforcement of my abilities -- which I know (for myself) is a great way to combat Impostor Syndrome by being recognized by others.

How do you combat Impostor Syndrome?