Jon Shaulis (blog|twitter) is hosting T-SQL Tuesday this month. Thanks Jon! And the subject is obvious if you read the title of the post and if not it’s Imposter Syndrome! It feels like I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome all of my life. I should point out that I have no solutions here, just my experiences.
In case you aren’t aware, Imposter Syndrome is, according to Wikipedia:
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.
Let me start out by saying I’m smart. I know I’m smart. It’s been proven to me on more than one occasion that I have well above average intelligence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no genius, but do I do pretty well. Logically I know this. Emotionally? Not so much. In fact one of my coping mechanisms is to remind myself of this, over and over again. Want to guess when I developed this particular coping mechanism? Well, I’m not completely sure, but I remember using it as a senior in high school and I doubt it was the first time.
Now, from what I understand imposter syndrome is caused by how we view ourselves and what we know as compared to those around us and what we realize there is to know.
How we view our knowledge compared to what there is to know.
My knowledge of SQL Server goes pretty deep in certain areas. On the other hand I also know that my knowledge is out of date in those areas and that the area I’m good at is a small sliver of what there is. For example, I know very little about SSRS, SSAS, Power BI, etc. So when I think about how much I do know, I don’t see how much I know, I see the percentage of how much I know, to how much I don’t. And it’s a tiny, tiny, percentage of the whole. And the funny part of that? I’m well aware that my ability to see how much more there is to learn is a function of how smart I am and how much I already know.
Comparing ourselves to others
Next, we tend to compare ourselves to others. In the country, or world, as a whole, I’m above average. But does that matter if everyone I work with/deal with on a regular basis is also above average? It’s the big fish in a small pond vs small fish in a big pond thing. A trout in a pond of minnows feels huge. That same trout in an ocean of blue whales? Not so much. A fair number of people I deal with on a regular basis are those blue whales. The people who I am trying to learn from. And honestly? Some of them might be no smarter than I am, they just know different things, which makes them feel smarter from my point of view. Because of all of this, when I look around me, I feel, at best, average.
So what does that mean?
Honestly? I have no idea. When I first read the prompt for this post my initial thought was I don’t have imposter syndrome, I’m honestly just not that good. So I guess my only suggestion here is to look at what you actually know and don’t worry so much about what you don’t. And to look at those around you, and rather than think These people are amazing, I’m not that great. Instead, try These people are amazing, and I’m with them, so I must be amazing too.