Impostor Syndrome

At Pycon 2014 I saw Julie Pagano's talk "It's Dangerous to Go Alone: Battling the Invisible Monsters in Tech" which struck a nerve with me. It showed me that there's a name for some of the feelings that I've felt both in my career and in my technical life.

At dinner tonight I watched "Nickolas Means: You Are Not an Impostor" and I decided to publicly come out and formally say it.

Hello, my name is Craig Maloney, and I'm an impostor.

Here are some examples of how deep this has run:

  • When I was hired at Sourceforge I was convinced it was an elaborate hoax, and at any moment someone would say "just kidding" and I'd be disgraced and have to plead for my old job back.
  • I tend not to start things because I'm convinced they're going to fail anyway so what's the point of even trying.
  • I look at other folks game designs / code and feel like I should just pack my books, computers, and what not and find something else to do with my time.
  • When I've been laid off it came as a relief because it meant I didn't have to worry about it happening anymore.
  • Whenever someone compliments me rather than dither on about how whatever I did sucked I'll try to just say "thank you".

I've gotten better about opening myself to talks and contributions. I've been fortunate to have several groups in the area that I feel comfortable giving talks at. I've been fortunate enough not to endure criticism for the podcasts I've been on which keeps me wanting to do them (and I'd probably do them despite criticism, but it would be more difficult). I've been fortunate enough to have a loving and supportive wife who has encouraged me to put myself out there, and I have family who are also supportive with whatever crazy stuff I do.

It's not easy overcoming your own self doubt and constant fear of failure. I've certainly not licked it myself, but each day presents opportunities to overcome and ways to turn off the negative self-talk.

I've been looking into mindfulness and procrastination avoidance as of late. Maybe at some point I'll share what I've learned on those fronts.

Ever onward.