Last week, the often-sarcastic but very charismatic Al Sweigart posted on Twitter:
“I’m a total fraud and I don’t know what I’m doing and I can’t even seem to get simple things to work. Whew. Feels good to get that off my chest after all these years.”
To give a little more context, Al is a software developer and the author of a successful series of books about the Python programming language. He also is an inspiration to tens of thousands of readers and followers around the world. So, why might he say something like this?
The tweet seemingly came out of some frustration he was facing while working on his own website.
We’ve all been there before. We try to do something that should be so simple, and we end up feeling useless and stupid. “I should know how to do this,” we say to ourselves… “I don’t know how to do anything.”
Feeling this way from time to time is completely normal. But if you feel this way regularly, you may be suffering from impostor syndrome.
What Is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome) is not an official diagnosis listed in the DSM. Nevertheless, many psychologists and other professionals in the field of mental health acknowledge it as a very real struggle.
The phenomenon was first described in the 70s by psychologists Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., and Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D. They described it as a sort of intellectual self-doubt that occurs when people are unable to recognize and accept their success, chalking it up to luck or to defrauding those around them.
Who Can Suffer From Impostor Syndrome?
While impostor syndrome can be experienced by anyone, it tends to primarily affect high achievers. In other words, people who are successful but unable to accept their success. Impostor syndrome doesn’t discriminate in terms of the type of career; it can be experienced around any achievements of all sorts.
One area where I personally see this syndrome regularly is in the world of tech professionals. This is not that surprising, as technology is an industry with endless niches and domains of knowledge. No matter how skilled and experienced an individual is in this field, they will simply never know everything there is to know.
Because of this, tech can seem like a daunting field to try to get into. Luckily, the tech scene is full of individuals who go out of their way to help and support newcomers like me.
Beginners And Experts In Tech – A Hilarious Anecdote
Chuck Keith (aka NetworkChuck) is a bit of a celebrity in the world of tech, as he has helped countless people get started in the field of computer networking. Since starting his YouTube channel in 2014, he has amassed almost 2 million followers. Despite his tremendous success, Chuck admits to experiencing impostor syndrome regularly. So much so that he decided to make a great video dedicated to facing this syndrome in order to grow emotionally and professionally.
One of the highlights of this video is Chuck’s conversation with his dad, an IT professional with various decades more experience than him. In the video, Chuck admits that as a young person, he feels like an impostor among well-established tech experts such as his dad. In a hilarious twist, his dad admits that he also feels like an impostor albeit for the opposite reason. Namely, so many young and skilled people are getting into the field and he is having a hard time keeping up. So, who is the real impostor?
Impostor Syndrome In Recovery
It’s not uncommon for people who are in recovery to feel like impostors. No matter how much progress people make in recovery there is a sort of weight that is hard to shake off. Even if those around them see them as successful, they worry about being exposed as a fraud or as the “addict” that they are or were.
This weight is called stigma and affects everyone who uses substances. The fear of being discovered as a fraud combined with the weight of substance use stigma makes it hard for people who are in recovery to talk about how they feel. But being able to talk about these things is important in working towards recovery.
The Irony Of Impostor Syndrome
It’s okay to feel like an impostor sometimes. In fact, most people feel like impostors from time to time. When we get the chance to listen to the inner thoughts of the people we admire, the irony becomes obvious. Everyone has some degree of self-doubt and some degree of inability to recognize their own success.
Being honest with ourselves about feeling like an impostor allows us to take ownership of these feelings and face them head-on. Having the radical courage, to be honest with others, as some of the folks I’ve mentioned here have done, can be affirming and provide tremendous support to others who may feel the same way,
Ionatan Waisgluss is a writer, educator and tech professional living in the qathet region of British Columbia. He is the founder of SquareByte.ca
Sunshine Coast Health Centre and the Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic support individuals in treatment with science-based holistic approaches. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or mental health, give us a call today.