Yes, You Belong Here - Helping Others With Impostor Syndrome
This is part three of the series on my talk about impostor syndrome. You can read the first two parts here and here.
In part two I discussed things that you can do to overcome and manage impostor syndrome. I'm going to wrap things up by discussing things you can do to help others affected by impostor syndrome. Whether you aren't affected by impostor syndrome or have a good handle on it, there are always things you can do to help.
Improving Your Impostor Radar #
Before you can help anyone with impostor syndrome, you need to know how to recognize people affected by it. This can be tricky because remember, they already feel like an impostor and will most likely be trying their best to hide signs that they're feeling this way.
Someone with impostor syndrome may regularly disclaim or understate their experiences or skills. You can see this in their speaking or writing when you encounter phrases such as "sorry if this isn't very good but..." or "yeah, I didn't work on it very hard so sorry about the quality".
Another sign may be not willing to take credit for their role in projects. You may even need to nudge it out of them. Their work may actually be good but they don't want attention called to it in case it doesn't measure up to others that they feel did most of the real work.
Self-deprecating humor isn't always a sign of impostor syndrome as some people just enjoy getting a laugh at all costs but it's something to be aware of. Look for the more cutting humor that can be painful or uncomfortable to hear.
Now What Do I Do? #
Have an idea of how to spot those with impostor syndrome? Here's what you can do to help.
The Hacker School has a few guidelines that are not only aimed at helping combat impostor syndrome but they're good to follow in general to be a good human being:
- No feigning surprise
- e.g "Really? how do you NOT know what a lambda expression is?"
- No well actually's
- Well actually...
- No back-seat driving
- Fully engage or not, don't just butt in sporadically.
- No subtle sexism
- Or any other isms. This has no place in the workplace either. Just don't.
This may seem like common sense but something that's helpful is to simply recognize and call out successes. If you see someone doing awesome stuff, say something! Even if they don't have impostor syndrome, they'll be happy you did. I've never heard of anyone regret uplifting someone else.
Another thing that has been helpful to me in the past is "give people permission to start". What that means is some people may want to put themselves out there but are reluctant to do so because they're feeling a bit of impostor syndrome. All they may need is for someone to believe in them and let them know that they'll do fine.
Remember in the last post I talked about how people with impostor syndrome need to avoid negative people? Don't be a person that they need to avoid.
Be proactive when offering help. Remember that people with impostor syndrome want to avoid situations where they may be revealed to be an impostor so asking for help may be difficult for them. "Let me know if you need help" is usually not enough. A better approach is to ask directly if they need help so that there's one less barrier to getting help on a project or problem.
Finally, if you happen to be some sort of geek celebrity, remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Find ways to help those with impostor syndrome if only just making people aware of the problem and how to deal with it.
The (Not So) Surprising Truth In All Of This #
Here's the most important thing that I've learned through studying impostor syndrome:
We all experience some degree of impostor syndrome.
It's actually normal and healthy to feel this way. As you learn how to manage and avoid the negative effects of impostor syndrome, you can use it to move yourself forward. You may not be 100% successful at first but as your grow in your career it will become easier to manage.
I hope reading these posts have been useful and have given you some incentive to learn more about impostor syndrome. Help others be aware of it by sharing your own experiences in a blog post or talking about it.
If you're currently suffering from impostor syndrome, I hope I have given you enough resources to get started on managing it. There are more below as well.
If you know someone that is suffering from impostor syndrome, see if you can help them. Simply learning what it is called is tremendously helpful.
If you find yourself asking yourself, "do I belong here?" remember that the answer is "yes you do".
Thanks again for reading. Please comment below if you have any questions or comments or hit me up on Twitter and Google+.
- It’s Dangerous to Go Alone: Battling the Invisible Monsters in Tech - Julie Pagano
- I’m a Phony. Are You? - Scott Hanselman
- Impostor Syndrome with Tim Chevalier - Ruby Rogues Podcast
- Impostor syndrome - Geek Feminism Wiki
- Hacker School User's Manual - Social rules