Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

with Alicia Liu

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To overcome Impostor Syndrome, you need to recalibrate your worldview.

Alicia Liu

Software Engineer, Entrepreneur, Writer

Lessons Learned

You have nonobvious knowledge worth sharing that others would like to know.

It is better to underestimate your skill than overestimate it.


Lesson: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome with Alicia Liu

Step #7 Realized: To overcome Impostor Syndrome, you need to recalibrate your worldview

In my post I talk about the turning point when I kind of discovered that my world view was inaccurate. I think that particular image has been shared a lot and even other people have been giving talks on Impostor Syndrome, sharing that image. Where I thought that whatever I knew, everyone knew because, well, I'm not very good so whatever I know, other people must know. But then when I realized that wasn't the case, was when someone I considered a really good programmer thought what I did was really cool and he didn't know how to do that.

All of a sudden that shifted and I was like, "Oh you know what? I have actually been coding for like years, and years, and years, and I have learned some things along the way that are not actually obvious or not easy, they're not simple." That's when it shifted for me. So now that recalibrating my world view, it's like, okay I know things. Other people know things. There's an overlap. I have knowledge that is worth sharing that is not obvious that other people would like to know about.

If I had to choose between overestimating my skill and underestimating my skill, definitely underestimating your skill is better, because if you underestimate then you feel like there is something to prove, you're going to work harder, you're going to learn more, you're going to try to do more. Obviously, there are negatives too, a lot of people just end up giving up even though they shouldn't because they're actually quite good but they just can't see that themselves. There is a balance there.

The other effects can be quite, not detrimental but certainly negative, like the need to be a perfectionist, to feel like you can't fail at all or have any minor error because you'll feel like you'll be exposed as a fraud. Anxiety, you're not at peace, you always feel like you're going to be exposed and someone is going to find out that you're actually really dumb and that you've been faking it all this time.

Impostor Syndrome, the worst effect is that it limits you because you think that you're not good enough. You don't actually step up and try to reach those higher goals where, sure, you might fail because you've never done it before, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try and once you've tried a few times, you'll succeed. I think that is the biggest thing, is that you quit or you limit yourself in very, very big ways. If I remember correctly, Dunning-Kruger did do a follow up test where they did find that women, after they were given some kinds of science tests, were much less likely to say that they were qualified to enter a science competition versus men even though they did just as well on the tests.

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