3 ways to protect yourself from imposter syndrome

It can be hard to believe you deserve success, sometimes, but these tips can help you combat impostor syndrome and accept the accolades you've earned.
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Poet and activist Maya Angelou published many books throughout her storied career, but each time, she feared people would figure out that she'd "run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out." This seems an odd response from a well-honored writer. What she is describing is her own challenge with imposter syndrome.

Think for a moment about your own accomplishments. Being hired into a new role. Having your first open source contribution merged into the project. Receiving an award or recognition. Being invited to participate in a project or event with people you respect and look up to. Did you question whether you belonged there? Did you fear people would "know that you didn't belong?" There is an extremely high likelihood that you have also experienced imposter syndrome. Please check the survey at the end of this article to see that you're not alone.

Imposter syndrome is a "psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud." It's not considered a disorder, but it's persistent and can keep you from trying new things, accepting praise, or enjoying success. It's also important to understand that imposter syndrome is indiscriminate to gender, race, or nationality. Anyone can be impacted. Fortunately, you can be prepared for when imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.

How do you protect yourself from letting imposter syndrome limit you? Here are three techniques that you can start using right away:

1. Feelings vs. facts—It's important to understand that imposter syndrome is a feeling and doesn't represent a factual assessment of your value or acceptance. Instead of thinking, "I don't deserve to be here," say to yourself, "I'm here because I earned it," or "I trust the judgment of those who invited me here that I truly deserve to be here." Ask yourself if the negative thoughts are from facts or a story you are telling yourself. This simple shift in focus from feelings to facts can set you back on the right course.

3 panels, woman says "I don't deserve to be here." with red X on top, woman says "I should trust the judgment of people who invited me." with green check, woman says "I deserve to be here." with green check

2. "Outsider" does not equal "fraud"—Simply because your peer group has changed does not mean that you do not belong. Inclusion in higher levels of an organization, accomplished industry peers, or a group of award recipients is almost always a result of meaningful contributions. That first day of school feeling never goes away, even if it's remote school. So, unless you are legitimately a party crasher, keep in mind that you have value to add to the group and share it, even if you are nervous at first.

3. Faking it—Unfortunately, it's not universally understood that people learn how to do the job AFTER they get the job. There are few better ways to set yourself up for continued success than first believing that additional success is possible. Just be mindful not to fall into the trap of the cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, which leads people to vastly overestimate their capabilities. "Fake it until you make it," but commit to continued learning.

There are so many ways imposter syndrome can disrupt both our professional and personal lives, but with some awareness and preparation, you can avoid letting it limit your growth and success. These are just a few ways to address imposter syndrome. For more information, you can also visit https://impostorsyndrome.com/.

In this survey, we'd like to ask you to provide some information based on your experiences, which we'll use to help further inform the community about imposter syndrome and how prevalent it is in our industry.

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This post includes excerpted content from an upcoming community presentation titled "Imposter Syndrome First Aid Kit" by Josh Atwell and Amy Lewis. If you're interested in hearing the full presentation, you can check it out at Splunk .conf20 on October 20-21. Registration is available at http://conf.splunk.com.

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@Josh_Atwell - Josh-Atwell.com
Josh is a Senior Technology Advocate at Splunk, focused on helping IT organizations evolve to support the growing demands on them. He has worked within the realm of IT for over 20 years beginning with desktop support and moving through automating enterprise architecture and operations.
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Amy Lewis is a Community Advocate by choice and a Global Marketing Executive by trade.

1 Comment

One of the things to do is to not be afraid to say when you don't know something, or understand something. What you will learn is that people will tell you what they didn't know when they started, and that is to be expected.

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