An Imposter Among Us

Starting to learn again and overcoming feeling like a fraud.

Much like the lockdown smash hit Among Us the feeling of being an imposter is one most people will face, especially when learning something new. Having switched from my career comfort zone (which you can read about in an earlier post by me) I’ve had feelings of being an imposter on a seemingly daily basis.

I’ve double-downed on this lately by having my daughter starting kindie, and losing most of my study time which has given both time pressures and logistical challenges of the school run plus making sure we feed our kid!

Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

These time pressures coupled with dropping into a new class has made it so I am learning a new bunch of people, new programming language and all on a new schedule. This has left me feeling like a fraud and not good enough to be able to do what must surely be “the most simple thing in code” on the regular.

When this hits productivity goes down the drain and tasks I’ve been putting off for ages suddenly look more palatable. So the big question — how do you overcome this?

Overcoming that nagging feeling of doubt

Doubt is definitely a key part of my feeling like an imposter, how do you do that dump the doubt and start delivering? It’s when you can’t see the solution or even how you can get there in some cases that doubt really makes you feel like an imposter.

I have come up with a five step method to work through the imposter syndrome.

  • Step 1 — Acknowledge that it’s okay to not know what’s happening.

If I keep thinking about the problem that has left me feeling like a big ol’ dumb dumb, it won’t be resolved and I’ll want to hide away, but if I acknowledge that I don’t know something, I can begin to seek a solution.

  • Step 2 — Broaden your field of vision.

Once you accept you aren’t going to know the ins and outs of a concept from what can be a narrow set of parameters you have initially been given. Flip that brief on it’s head and use it as a jumping off point. Problem solving and human nature may both gravitate to the simplest solution, but peeking at the back of the book for the answers won’t necessarily help you understand. Bounce ideas of friends, the cat, the mirror — some may be more receptive to your rambling than others, but just voicing the concerns can make the mountains become molehills.

  • Step 3 — Try a different medium.

With most things you feel like a fraud at, it may just be how it’s presented. I am relatively certain Newton didn’t discover his laws of thermodynamics on a whim, he had probably been pondering it for a while before he decided to go sit out under that apple tree. Much like Isaac, doing something different might result in a change of perception on the problem, and a solution can be found.

  • Step 4 — There are no stupid questions, so don’t assume yours is.

You’ve exhausted all your friends talking about your problem, the cat has taken to staying out, you’ve sat in the bath for a couple of hours, and read “My issue for Dummies” cover to cover and still don’t feel closer to the solution. It’s probably time to pop your issue into a search engine of choice and you will likely find you aren’t the only one with that problem. Assuming you are unique with your problem is a habit you should try and quash. Asking a question to an expert can make 10 hours of heartache be soothed in 10 seconds. If you don’t know something, ask.

  • Step 5 — Solved it? Write it down!

Sharing is caring as they say — if the penny dropped and your problem has gone away, make sure you document how you did it. It’s one of the best ways to reaffirm any learning and also serves as a record of where you were, and where you are now. As an aside — if you ask your question in a public forum and nobody has an answer but you solve it don’t just update with “Solved” — I’m looking at you xXBacinator420Xx! explaining how you did it might trigger the hive mind into refactoring your solution into something more elegant, or at very least save someone the heartache you’ve just been through.

The recap

How to beat feeling like an imposter:

  1. It’s okay not to know.
  2. Widen your view point.
  3. Change the environment.
  4. Just ask the question.
  5. Write it down and share!

Hopefully my methods of beating imposter syndrome will be of help to you if it is drop me a line — or share any methods you have!

Take care and be good to each other.

Former tech banker, now aspiring software engineer. Feel free to get in touch.