Imposter Syndrome is particularly insidious in engineering but is common in any field where special knowledge or skills are needed. The feeling is best described by the feeling of not being capable of doing your job well or being underprepared. It is a unique but not uncommon feeling that may impact all of us at one point or another. It can present a lot of stress and overwhelming discomfort, and defeat. So let’s explore how to deal with imposter syndrome.
Featured Image Credi
Imposter syndrome will hit you like a truck, and you will sense an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy and question yourself. This discomfort happens to everyone, even the best in any skill. This is because we are hitting the boundaries of our comfort zones. Even though we may be very good at what we do, we may need to apply it differently, speak up in a crowd, or do something where we get a touch more uncomfortable. Ultimately, this is the source of the inadequacy, and the cure is understanding the discomfort.
The discomfort can be seen and viewed as an excellent stress inducer. You are never good enough, so you should not try to do anything you are uncomfortable with. However, sucking up that significant discomfort will make you push those boundaries ever so slightly to grow and learn more. Take charge in those meetings, show you have a voice when you have an opinion, and try to take those assignments that others claim are hard. Having the mindset to embrace discomfort mitigates the overwhelming feeling of Imposter Syndrome and its icy grip over your confidence.
Further, you may feel rightful imposter syndrome when stretched too far. You’ve gone straight for the most complex work and found you are not yet ready. That’s okay. Whether your environment agrees with this, the team and support should be ready to help you grow and not set you up to fail. A healthy environment encourages failure as it is this frequent failure where you can continue trying, adapting, and growing. The more you fail, the more you will start to succeed as the experience gives way to confidence, and you need to embrace more complex challenges to continue to be uncomfortable.
Building skills that relate to your goals
Aside from understanding the root of the discomfort that we call Imposter Syndrome, let’s also explore how to slowly erode the discomfort by building on supporting skills. These skills may not be apart, but if you take a moment to consider where you are most uncomfortable or where you have failed the most. Then, you can start coming up with ideas around support skills you can invest your time into building more knowledge, practice, and experience.
These comfort and support skills will help you overcome many situations that may stretch your based skills by offering an extended tool chest that you can utilize to conquer the problems set before you. It gives you a diversity of mind that gives you options. Also, the much-needed crutch, confidence that helps you better assess your success odds in any given situation. It also adds experience. Experience in related skills that are similar in the area does help with contributing to the overall confidence mindset. Thus, ensure you invest in supporting skills that may help your growth and don’t over-emphasize one overall.
For example, an engineer may think, “math is all that matters.” Others may think “algorithms are king” and overemphasize in either direction. What if you learn both? What if you learned how to make friends with co-workers, drive negotiations, be a leader, or be a more kind person? Perhaps the relation of how some supporting skills help with the “algorithms are king” mindset. However, when you start feeling the icy grip of Imposter Syndrome, I implore you to try this exploration of other skill sets.
Become more of an expert in those skills
Ultimately, Imposter Syndrome is caused by this instinctive discomfort we all experience when we are not entirely sure of the outcome. When you embrace more challenging and complex tasks, it may be impossible to know the outcome. Your confidence kicks in, and strong confidence is the sum of your experience. You have experienced success with similar tasks many times. Thus this one should not be too much out of your capability. This experience-based confidence and ability to visualize the outcome are powerful tools to combat Imposter Syndrome.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, you may need to build more experience and expertise at your skill level before trying to tackle more challenging things. Again, it would be best if you always were uncomfortable, but sometimes you may be too uncomfortable and stretched too far. You should tone it down, reflect on your failures, and consider how to adapt. You must understand fully how you are failing and try to do those things more. Change your strategy. Do some reading. Hire a coach. You hit a plateau, and getting ideas to fill in where you are failing will help you overcome the hurdles faster and be well on your way to further growth. With many successes and failures, you will find you’ve built yourself a natural wall of confidence.
The best relatable example I can have here is going back to my skiing analogy. If your skill level is early on, you will feel uncomfortable skiing a green zone meant for beginners. This does not mean greens are easy. On the contrary, they challenge you about where you are in your skill-building journey. It would be best if you were uncomfortable zone and should continue to ski green zones instead of pursuing challenges in fear of embracing further discomfort. You will remain capped at being as good as the green zone lets you.
Those who push on will find themselves at the top of the mountain, surrounded by the most expert-level double+ diamond runs. Do these expert skiers never feel fear? No, they sit at the precipice of an icy cliff and leap ritually after embracing their discomforts. Of course, the stakes of failure are much higher at double-diamond levels versus green, but one would imagine the double-diamond skier will make fewer mistakes. Mistakes will be had, though, and the expert skier knows this.
The most significant difference between the green zone to the double diamond zone skiers is that the double diamond skiers likely have understood the need to embrace being uncomfortable to progress. They understand that they will never get better if they do not hit demanding challenges and embrace things that push their limits. They will never continue to decrease the risk of failure. It is easy to sit at the top of the mountain and vision yourself crashing and burning. Game over. Yet, you push forward with all the combined skills and experience that have gotten you this far. You are backed by confidence from experience. The discomfort is like a friend constantly pushing you harder to turn faster, make a tighter stop, and jump a bit smoother.
Back to engineering
Much of this can relate to an engineer’s climb to the top of the mountain. Learning basic building blocks, learning how to make those building blocks into ever so much more complex structures, and then leading teams that need to follow in their footsteps of growth. The learning and teaching never stop, and the higher the mountain you get, you never truly stop being uncomfortable; when you do, you’ve stopped growing. Of course, the higher the mountain you get, the more danger arises, but that’s why you need the experience and time to climb to that part of the mountain to be backed by the confidence that has helped you get there. Progressive growth and a strong understanding of the experience gained equate to confidence and constant discomfort.
I hope you learned something about my engineering around travel series today! Give a like to the article if you found this helpful, and check out a good continuation article to this one: How To Learn Any Skill Quickly! Happy travels, and stay safe!