Written by Garrett Brown – January 24th, 2024
Originally published by PDX Women In Tech
When I was enrolled in a virtual coding bootcamp, I would turn off my camera and hope that the instructor never called on me. I enjoyed the work, but I believed I was out of my element, surrounded by classmates more elegant and learned than me. Although my worry was unfounded, I felt an underlying fear that if I showed any insecurity in my performance, everyone would realize I was an interloper and cast me out of the class. My imposter syndrome increasingly got in the way of my ability to learn.
WHAT IS IMPOSTER SYNDROME?
Imposter syndrome has been reduced to a buzzword in recent years, but the reality is that it is a systemic problem affecting workers in tech spaces. For those not aware, imposter syndrome is a self-asserted–or prescribed–notion that an individual does not belong within a structure or a community, that they must have ended up as a part of the community by accident, by chance, or by some factor other than talent or aptitude. Anyone can experience imposter syndrome, but it is acutely felt by social groups not represented within the dominant culture.
Before we continue, let me be clear: imposter syndrome is not always the same as self-doubt. Self-doubt can be a reactionary feeling, an anxiety that something is wrong or not adequate regarding a decision you’ve made. While this can absolutely be a form of anxiety that can impact work, it can also be a gut instinct that allows someone to reevaluate their approach to a task. Imposter syndrome, on the other hand, is a result of systems built to maintain the status quo and to discourage non-conformers from becoming a part of the group. These systems place the responsibility of improvement on the individual worker, hoping that by piling on insecurity, the worker is too preoccupied to question why these systems have them questioning their self-worth in the first place.
Anyone can experience imposter syndrome, but it is acutely felt by social groups not represented within the dominant culture.
HOW DO WE OVERCOME IMPOSTER SYNDROME?
Many self-help coaches propose a panacea of self-empowerment, that the affected worker needs to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps to move forward. While it’s important to build self-confidence, the truth is that change needs to happen on all levels of the industry. People highly susceptible to imposter syndrome often include people whose identities (such as gender, race, sexuality, and ability) are not represented within leadership, or the workspace is not designed to support them (for example, single parents, non-traditional educations, language barriers).
PDXWIT is here to provide you and your company with a space to generate ideas and actions to make your slice of the industry more accessible. For instance, as a CEO or manager, does your team feel safe to ask questions or ask for accommodations? Do people in underrepresented communities feel they have mentors or peers they can reach out to? As an employee, do you feel empowered in your company, valued not just for what you can accomplish but also who you are?
PDXWIT is here to provide you and your company with a space to generate ideas and actions to make your slice of the industry more accessible.
Imposter syndrome is a real problem, but the solution is not something anyone has to overcome alone. When one person tries to make their workspace a more welcoming and open place, that benefits everyone. I wish that I had been more aware of the resources PDXWIT has available during my bootcamp, but I am excitedly looking forward to how I can both give back and as well as engage in further learning with PDXWIT!
Are you interested in learning more about debunking imposter syndrome? Reach out to our PDXWIT Speakers Bureau to request and schedule a talk!