Zach’s ugly mug (his face) Zach Leatherman

Pastry Box: Impostor Syndrome

June 07, 2014

Related: Impostor Syndrome was originally posted on the Pastry Box and was a transcription of an earlier BarCamp talk.

People with Impostor Syndrome are unable to internalize their accomplishments and are convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.

Before we get too far, I should let you know up front that I am not qualified to be writing this article on Impostor Syndrome. I’m not even the most qualified person on the Pastry Box that’s written an article about Impostor Syndrome.

Any attempt to call myself a writer feels cringeworthy and would surely be contested. I’d better prepare a list of writing material in case I need to support the claim. Hopefully no one will discover that I’m not a professional writer.

Now that I think about it, I’ve written almost 120 blog posts on my personal site, of which at least one probably contains the correct use of smart quotes. A few of the posts seemed to get a fair amount of traffic and positive comments.

But maybe those were flukes.

It was a difficult decision to open my site up to comments—they’re notoriously risky. A feedback loop could expose me. Luckily the Pastry Box doesn’t have comments.

What if someone else already wrote about this topic? What if the ideas I’m writing about are derivative and unoriginal? No one will read it. There are far better writers on the dauntingly vast World Wide Web.

To be safe, I’ll stop blogging.

I’ll stick to Twitter.

Twitter is ephemeral. If I make a mistake, it’s quickly lost downstream. Not to mention the lower bar for quality compared to blog posts. One hundred and forty characters are less error prone than a thousand words of painstakingly researched technical content. Ask a mathematician (not me). The less you write, the fewer mistakes you will make.

Now that I think about it, I guess I’ve written a few tweets that weren’t immediately refuted. People even seemed to enjoy them. I’ve somehow convinced a few people to follow me. I basically got my job through Twitter.

But maybe Twitter makes it easier to fool people.

If Justin Bieber can get 52 92 Million followers, the bar must be pretty low.

My followers probably have me on Twitter probation. My next tweet probably won’t be good enough and they’ll unfollow me.

“It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” —Mark Twain

To be safe, I won’t blog or tweet.

To beat Impostor Syndrome I could stop participating, but that won’t make me happy. I need to create to feel alive. The best way to beat Impostor Syndrome is to participate. Encourage others and accept encouragement from others. Share what you know and what you don’t know!

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find out.” —Maya Angelou

Your Impostor Syndrome may not go away, but if you recognize it, you can start to deal with it.

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Zach Leatherman IndieWeb Avatar for a builder for the web and the creator/maintainer of IndieWeb Avatar for https://www.11ty.devEleventy (11ty), an award-winning open source site generator. At one point he became entirely too fixated on web fonts. He has given 81 talks in nine different countries at events like Beyond Tellerrand, Smashing Conference, Jamstack Conf, CSSConf, and The White House. Formerly part of CloudCannon, Netlify, Filament Group, NEJS CONF, and NebraskaJS. Learn more about Zach »

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