One can find the formal definition of Imposter Syndrome here.
Do I suffer from it? Sometimes I feel like I do; yes- especially during job interviews. I have been working with SQL Server for many years and while I will acknowledge up front that I STILL do not know everything about it that I think I should, I know enough to be dangerous. Or do I?
Why Do I Want to Jump Off?
I’ll share an experience I had many years ago. It really bothered me when it first washed over me. This has happened only two times in my life.
When my family went to the Grand Canyon and on the overlook, I felt an odd feeling that I wanted to jump off.
When we went to the Royal Gorge Bridge here in Colorado, I felt the same thing when I looked over the railing in the middle of the bridge.
This didn’t make any sense to me at all. I’m a normal, mentally healthy and stable person so why would I have these strange and odd feelings?
There has even been a study about it: An Urge to Jump Affirms the Urge to Live.
So why compare and contrast Imposter Syndrome with high place phenomenon (HPP)?
Because I think sometimes we can’t rationally explain these odd feelings based on inputs and other thoughts. We fall into the trap that we have put in the thousands (!) of hours so surely we must know a lot about our career field. And yet sometimes we just can’t believe that we have really earned our success when compared to our own individual progress over the many years and even comparing ourselves with our peers with similar number of years of experience.
So we fear being found out, that we have been believing all these years in fake it till you make it– but never did make it! Been faking things since last millennium (when I started working with SQL Server)! However, during a job interview as both an interviewer and interviewee and doing a true technical skills test, fake people can be eliminated pretty quick. In fact when I was interviewing people as a DBA Manager, the technical skills test I created shocked me at times- so many people talked a great game but when asked to do things in SQL Server Management Studio, they froze up or panicked, couldn’t type T-SQL, etc. It was even embarrassing and sad at times. But that was part of the interview process- can you perform under pressure?
I think it is natural to feel like we do not know a subject top to bottom. Do we know enough to demonstrate competency with a specific skill? Can we learn new things and immediately apply them? Do we trust our own imagination, creativity, and troubleshooting skills? Can we jump in and not know anything but trust in our past to figure things out? Another reason why great FSO people are so valued in startups.
Learn like there is no tomorrow and your life depends on it!
This year I’m learning many things that right now I don’t have a clue about other than I know I need to learn them.
For me, the “Do or do not” is to focus on the actual doing. You do not improve skills by just reading about skill improvement. You have to do the hard work. Are you willing to suffer crippling, humiliating defeat time and time again to reach that one win? You have to learn the material. You have to immediately practice and demonstrate competency. You have to keep it sharp or you will loose it. You have to practice it everyday. Even Yoda endured failures… And succeeded in the end!