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Dealing With Impostor Syndrome

By Gavin Davies

Impostor syndrome is reported everywhere in the software industry and beyond. I got past it, I hope others can too. Here’s what worked for me…

Impostor syndrome (a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments) seems to be super common. It’s heavily self-reported in my industry, at least. I certainly went through a lot of imposter feelings in my 20s.

Thankfully, I don’t suffer from it now.

In my experience, these things were the solution:

  1. Realising that a lot of people feel like you do.
  2. Realising you worry if you’re good enough because of a fundamentally good reason - you care and want to do a good job with the people entrusted to you.
  3. Realising that someone is still paying you to do the job so they believe in you enough to hand over money.
  4. Externalising the voice in your head that’s undermining you. The best way to do this is to find a mentor in your line of work who you can regularly check in with and discuss how you’re doing. Then, choose to believe that voice. This gives you another voice in your head, alongside the anxious and confident self-voices. Then, you have a majority, which is supported by external evidences, and is therefore more reliable, so anxiety can be put into perspective.

So, that’s 3 realisations and an externalisation.

Doing those things allowed me to take that feeling of not being good enough and turn it to my advantage and prevent it from undermining me. It wasn’t a strategy at the time, it kind of just happened, took years, but it’s possible to get past it for sure.

A deeper solution

There is also an even more powerful weapon against feeling like an impostor - a Biblical self-perception where our own opinion of ourselves isn’t the one that matters, that God’s opinion is what counts. Hold on though, I mean, if we’re not good enough for our own standards, how are we gonna fare against the standard of the perfect Creator and sustainer of the Universe - not great, I bet?!

And yet, properly understood, we just fall down in helpless gratitude before Father God. A Christian man knows he is a sinner, he knows he needs a Rescuer. He therefore knows that his own performance doesn’t have the last word in eternity - we are saved by faith FOR good works, not by meeting some standard through our own self-driven efforts. From this position, we can come before God’s table able to honestly examine ourselves (1 Cor 11:28), knowing we are going to find sin, knowing we aren’t good enough - but ultimately bringing it to Jesus Christ, who, unlike us, can actually do something about it!

It’s only in the shadow of the Cross that we can really look at the horrors that lurk in our own hearts. We can safely bring them into the light because Jesus’ death is the payment for our account. And from there, we truly can grow in virtue, being drawn to goodness by grace, not hunted by our secret fear of failure.

This level of emotional and rational security isn’t something I have fully attained. But I can see it. I can see that Jesus is the answer to every thought that undermines me, every little notion that I have to prove myself. I’m not the saviour, He is. I’m not the One who is able. He is. I’m not the answer to my problems, He is. And so on and so forth!

And so, I can stop saying “am I good enough?” and get on with doing my duty.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

  • Jesus, Luke 17:7-10