Scariest Monster in the Galaxy: Impostor Syndrome

Yesterday, thanks to a friend’s advice, I realized that I have not talked about a very important topic here. The woman programmer’s worst enemy. Impostor syndrome.

If you have never heard of impostor syndrome, then you truly are lucky. It is a dark monster that gets inside your head one day and makes you feel like it will never get away. Spooky, and very Halloween-themed. But seriously, what is impostor syndrome? Have you ever felt in your life that everything you have done… you did not really do, you simply got lucky? That awesome job? That promotion? A’s in all of your classes? A stellar degree? Yep, all that was pure luck. How come no one else noticed what happened to you? A very simple explanation as well: you fooled them, you fooled them all! And the worst part yet? Any time now they will discover what an impostor you truly are, and you shall lose all that you worked so hard for were so lucky to get.


Sounds familiar? I am about to tell you how to slay this beast.

I lived with the impostor syndrome my entire school life (K-12, undergrad and grad schools), and I know how devastating the feeling is. But I can proudly say that after many years of fighting the feeling, I finally learned how to overcome it. The feeling does come back periodically, but now I know how to fight it and throw it back to the dark hole where it came from every time it returns. So how do you do it? How do you become confident about your abilities and achievements? How do you defeat the impostor syndrome feeling?

Say a Couple of Daily Affirmations

I do not want to sound too New Age-y, but daily affirmations are like the prayers you say to glorify your awesome self to get the energy and power for the new day. Find the affirmations that best describe you. You will know which affirmations fit you best because of the warm feeling of power in your stomach when you say them. Make sure you repeat them daily, preferably when you just wake up. Here are a couple of sample daily affirmations I use:

  • “I am the best programmer.”
  • “I am wise.”
  • “I am strong.”
  • “I am perfect.”
  • “I live to make the world a better place.”


Stand strong like the Wonder Woman

When I was at my lowest, I used to do a Wonder Woman stance every day in an elevator on the way to work/school (I wonder what the security people watching the footage thought of me). I learned this technique from a great TED talk by Amy Cuddy on the power poses. Go watch it and stand strong!


Smile at Yourself in the Mirror

Look at yourself in the mirror and smile. It may be awkward at first, especially if you do not feel like smiling. But once you start smiling, it is like you encounter a smile bug. It does not go away and follows you everywhere you go, making you happier and more confident in your own abilities. You basically become an ever-smiling Super Girl.


Compose Your Achievement List (thank you for this one, Alyssa!)

Sometimes you need to be a bit of a Narcissist, celebrate and glorify the awesome things you have done in your life up to today. The A you got for that super difficult calculus or history class? Check! The competitive scholarship you were awarded? Check! The diploma you received despite having to work and take care of your kids while being a single mom? Check! The awesome algorithm you came up with at work that no one else thought of? Check! You are awesome, remember that! Do not let the Impostor Syndrome monster step on your doorstep ever again, and be CodeBrave!


[Mulan] [Wonder Woman] [Monster Inc.] [Super Girl] [Merida]

Scariest Monster in the Galaxy: Impostor Syndrome

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