Jan 18, 2021
How I overcame my impostor syndrome
I’m not worthy of being here.
That how I felt in my early time with Shopify.
One windy spring morning, I took sick leave. I wasn’t physically ill, but I was mentally exhausted. I felt small among my teammates. Everything I learned from my previous experience wasn’t 100% working. My confidence hit the low-point. Why did they hire me?
I questioned my ability.
I didn’t know there is a name for the feeling I experienced. It called Impostor Syndrome, coined in 1978 by two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes.
Fortunately, Shopify provided a life-coach, and I booked a session. The coach was amiable; she was trying to understand what triggers my worry. That conversation brought a realization to us that I had been playing a narrative on my own head. In that narrative, I project how people think of me or ridicule me. After she gave me some perspectives, she told me to experiment with two approaches. So I did.
Reframe my narrative
The first one is a small thing but really powerful. I will reframe my doubt and the narrative on my head. For example, if I want to voice my opinion, I will force myself to think, “I will speak with no ill intention.” Rather than, “I will be ridiculed if I speak.” It helps me break the narrative out of my head and remember that my pure intention. Turned out this is one of the recommendation based on 1
Seek for feedback
Second, I tried to be proactive in seeking feedback about myself. Whenever we completed a project, I reached out to my team for feedback. It helped me to understand how people actually think of me. Fortunately, the environment in Shopify allowed me to get constructive feedback, I got the list of what I will need to improve and what I need to keep doing.
Those two small actions didn’t instantly resolve my anxiety. Instead, it gradually helped me to focus on delivering impact rather than worrying. After 6-8 months, the feeling started to fade away after I focused on my potential improvement. I had peace with myself.
That is my story on how I overcome my impostor syndrome.
If you are going through this feeling. I hope you know you’re not alone and it’s normal. Researcher have estimated that 70% of the general population has experience this feeling at some point.
The first step is to recognize what you feel, ask yourself what makes you uncomfortable. Articulate that explicitly on paper. A research suggest it’s even better talk about it with someone you trust.2
Community discussion: Please share your story
Two days ago, I reached out to my Twitter followers and asked if anyone want to share how they overcome impostor syndrome in the past. A bunch of people told me their story, which I’ll share in the next blog post.
If you’re interested in sharing your own story, please email me. Whether you have overcome it or still working on it. I’d love to hear it in this structure:
- Describe how did you first recognize the feeling? What was the trigger?
- What was your approach to overcoming the feeling?
- What was the turning point that helped you overcome it? (If you haven’t, skip this part)
- Clance, Pauline R.; Imes, Suzanne A. (Fall 1978). “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” (PDF). Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice. 15 (3): 241–247. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.452.4294. doi:10.1037/h0086006. ↩
- Ravindran, Sandeep (November 15, 2016). “Feeling Like A Fraud: The Impostor Phenomenon in Science Writing”. The Open Notebook. ↩