Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is an extreme form of underconfidence. Your life is one big error! If they found out how little you know, you wouldn’t be where you are now.

I have no training in psychology, but if I had to pick an opposite for Imposter Syndrome, I’d choose narcissism. You’re the best! You’re amazing! The world should recognize your brilliance!

In the tech world, Imposter Syndrome seems to infect younger women and older men. Younger women believe they know nothing because they just started their careers. Older men started to realize how little they knew when they just started their careers, and they believe they still know nothing now.

It seems to happen to conference speakers and workshop instructors. Why was I picked to teach this topic? What do I know? If I’m not comprehensive in this area, then clearly I know nothing.

But here’s the thing to know: no one has your life experience. You have a unique perspective on a topic and a unique way of presenting it.

The best way to overcome Imposter Syndrome when teaching is to stop thinking about your 4th grade teacher. (S)he was the teacher, a “sage on the stage.” You were the student, expected to absorb. Knowledge transfer went one-way only.

Instead, think of yourself as a coach, leading and guiding the group. You have some ideas that are important. However, you don’t have a lock on the perfect way to teach the topic for everyone. There’s value in having other people explain your material to each other. Some of your students have interesting perspective, ideas, and life connections to bring to your material. It’s all an important part of an excellent class.

How much does Imposter Syndrome affect you? Take the quiz.

Jen Kramer @jen4web