Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you’re not good enough to have achieved what you have. You may doubt your accomplishments and feel as though you don’t belong where you are.
It is a feeling I have faced and dealt with throughout my engineering journey – even when starting this blog. Who am I to be giving out advice to you? Have I done enough to warrant this position? I realised, however, that this is my personal experience and opinion, unique and valuable; I share it with the hope of helping at least one person reach their potential and pursue a career in engineering.
You can experience imposter syndrome at any point in your education or career, so I thought it would be useful to share a few tips which have helped me overcome any doubts and grow more confident in my abilities.
Most successes only come about due to the time and effort you put in. It is so important to remind yourself of this – your achievements are deserved because you have put the work in! On this note, it is also extremely important to remember that you don't have to do everything to prove yourself.
I am a huge believer in saying yes to every opportunity, especially if you will find it challenging, but this must be done with balance. You shouldn't overstretch yourself and if you don't have time to do something then that is okay.
Understand that perfection doesn't exist
When experiencing imposter syndrome, you may be overly hard on yourself for minor mistakes or what you see as failure. Firstly, failing is so important. It helps you to learn and enables you to make changes moving forward. Secondly, ask yourself: is it actually a failure? There will be times when you work to the best of your ability and within the time available and you may still be disappointed, despite others seeing it as a success. Whilst any setback or disappointment offers an opportunity for reflection and is again a learning experience, you must realise that you have not failed.
What you see as perfection may not be possible within the constraints you are working with. So, take the time to assess what you can improve next time, but don't beat yourself up about elements out of your control. The fact you have learnt from the activity should only be seen as a positive.
Don't compare yourself to others
You can be exactly what you want, and your career path can be exactly how you want it. With this in mind there is little benefit in comparing yourself to others. Look at others as role models and for inspiration but have the confidence to do what you want. Everyone has different strengths, and this is part of the reason why we work in teams; we all bring something different to the table (see my previous article on The Advantages of Being Different). Don't think you can't do something your way just because a peer is already doing it differently.
People will also all progress in their careers at different rates. Deciding what you want to do and gaining the relevant experience both take time. Don’t feel disheartened by a peer being a few steps ahead - you will get there.
Use your support network
People in your support network will come in many different forms: friends, family, teachers, mentors, classmates. They are all equally important in overcoming imposter syndrome. Who better to remind you just how great you are than your biggest supporters? These are people with whom you can discuss any doubts and celebrate your successes, and I would encourage you to do both. Talking through concerns often helps put them into perspective and will hopefully help you to realise that you are doing a great job.