My Imposter Syndrome Controls Me

On Wednesday evening, I attended a short writing workshop with the author Mark Matousek. It was quite impactful for a one and a half hour workshop. The very first question he asked was “write about something you tell yourself that you know isn’t true”. Instantly I knew that I had to write about my Imposter syndrome. 

I’ve been battling Imposter Syndrome my entire career. I’m 19 years in and to this day feel like I know nothing about software engineering and that I am constantly surrounded by people who know far more. I think that’s the way this industry is. Technology changes so quickly that you never get your feet firmly underneath you, at least not if you are still moving ahead. The thing is, the fundamentals don’t change. How we build software doesn’t change that much. I know I’m not really an imposter as a) I keep getting promoted, and b) when people ask for advice, I tend to surprise myself with the advice I give. I think I’ve been telling myself this story for so long that it’s a habit to believe it. It took someone asking that question for me to admit that, in my heart, I really no longer believed it to be true.

The next question Mark asked was “what is something you desire that you keep buried in your shadow self?” That question took me a moment to grasp, but the conclusion I came to was about writing. I was drawn to the workshop because it was about writing, specifically about journaling the truth to yourself instead of replaying the same stories over again. As I wrote about my love of cooking and writing about cooking and food, that the reason I don’t make time for it is because I spend an inordinate about of time focused on continuing education for my job, and I do be inordinate. I realized at that moment that my Imposter Syndrome controls me. I’ve spent the last 20 years embracing it as something that has continued to propel me forward in my career, which I truly believe it has, but the time has come to give myself the freedom to live the other parts of my life that I want to live. I’ll never get away from studying new technologies and new ways of delivering software, but I also don’t need to spend two to three hours a day learning the latest framework I’ll never use just to convince myself that I have to keep up with everything.

So my goals for this blog are to dig in and start exploring the parts of myself that want to get out more, especially getting back to a focus on cooking and food writing. I have some diet restrictions that make that more challenging but also force me to be more creative and I want to explore those limitations. More to come, where I’ll explain the story behind that, and where I think things are likely to start going.

I encourage you to ask yourself those same two questions and have the courage to be honest with yourself.

  1. What is a story you tell yourself that you know is not true?
  2. What is a desire you have that you keep buried in your shadow self, the part of you that you don’t let out?

I read Mark’s book Writing to Awaken before the workshop and took the time to note all of the questions he asks in a document for further exploration. If those first two questions are impactful for you, I’d encourage getting his book and working through the rest. If you get a chance to see him speak, take it. That hour and a half changed how I view myself, my world, and gave me some freedom that I hadn’t let myself have before.

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