Overcoming fear and the impostor syndrome

What to do when think you are not enough or feel like giving up.

MARY ABIODUN
6 min readSep 12, 2023
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that — that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.”
— Amy Poehler

In the world of work, I have had countless discussion with a couple of people and one thing that is common is that everyone goes through a season of having the impostor syndrome.

Experienced professionals go through same when faced with new or difficult situations.

I have also had my own fair share of impostor syndrome but I will be sharing here the ways I have found to overcome it and the fear that tags along.

How to recognize impostor syndrome

The impostor syndrome can show up in the following ways:

  • pricing yourself too low when it comes to charging for work or projects
  • the thoughts or feeling that your knowledge is inadequate to get a task done; feelings of inexperience
  • fear that you might not deliver as much as is expected of you

As humans, we can admit that fear sometimes surface especially when we are trying out new things or finding our way up the ladder in a new line of career.

But we do not always have to be at the bottom of the ladder. It’s time to move up the ladder and overcome the impostor syndrome.

How to overcome the impostor syndrome

1. Be proactive and have the can-do spirit.

Once, I was in a discussion with a group of developers and UI/UX designers and they were sharing their stories of how they got their present jobs.

They all had similar stories. One had just started to learn design and after two months of learning, he applied for a design job. “That’s way too short a time for me to do that”, you would say.

But he went for the interview and did the little he could.

After the interview, he was given a take-home task to do. He didn’t know how to go about it but he went home and sat for ten (10) straight hours to get the job done while seeking help from those that could be of help and he was to deliver in six (6) days.

At the end, the prospective employers were impressed and surprised as to how he could pull such a stunt in doing what he did within the shortest possible time. That’s the can-do spirit.

This is one story out of several others.

The truth is that you cannot know all there is to know about doing a project or a job. You only get to know exactly what to do when you start.

You don’t have to know it all at the start. Just have the can-do spirit and you’re set for success.

2. Don’t ever give up unless you really have to

Now, you have the can-do spirit, the next thing is to not give up.

No excuses. Just do what you need to deliver to surmount the obstacles before you and deliver on what you have to.

If you need to schedule meetings and calls with others that can help you out, by all means, do so. Ask questions often.

Talking about the challenges you are facing until you get answers.

There are people who are willing to provide answers to your questions. All you need to do is ask. Even if they don’t have the answers, they can direct you to someone or somewhere or have a useful link for you that can help you.

Stop thinking you are bothering anybody with your questions. Don’t think no one will help you. You will find help. Just keep talking about your problems.

Even if you get a ‘no’ from one person or someone decides not to help, just move on to the next person. Until you find what you’re looking for, don’t give up!

3. Take a cue from colleagues or counterparts

Your colleagues have a lot to teach you. Communicate and collaborate with them. You will be surprised how much you can learn from them.

I remember how friends were the ones that encouraged and pushed me to apply for certain opportunities when I was reluctant and feeling that I won’t have enough time to devote to making the best out of it.

Even when I felt it was way too high above my level to do, they helped me stick with it as I saw them pushing too.

Draw motivation from the things they are also doing.

There’s a whole lot you can also do with the little you already know. Don’t be apologetic about your knowledge. Some things take time to learn so you should take pride in what you already know.

4. Push yourself beyond boundaries

It is very easy to think you cannot do some things until you try and find out how much strength you have got within you.

To eradicate the impostor syndrome, try out new things like learning a new language, participate in a 24-hour training (you think you can’t do it?), apply for that job and show that you can do the job.

It was until I was told to do a live project with tools that I had no idea about that I understood that you don’t have to know it all before you start.

You can learn to implement certain things by asking google and others who have done it before. All you need is internet access, a teachable spirit, and a receptive mind.

5. Read the inspiring stories of people

I have read an article that talks about how those you can call ‘seniors’ still look up answers from the internet on how to implement simple solutions.

This has encouraged me that you cannot know it all no matter your position or your years of experience.

At times, even those we look up to still learn how to do simple things we already know how to do. Reading about this has really encouraged me.

I have read a Medium post where the writer said that it is when you’re struggling that you are actually learning. I found it to be true as I related it with my own experience.

When you’re struggling is not the time to get frustrated and throw in the towel. It is the real learning period and you are learning more than you can ever imagine.

Conclusion

This might not be an exhaustive list of how to overcome the impostor syndrome but I believe that everyone is doing something to overcome their own imposter syndrome.

You don’t have to know it all. The little knowledge you have can open doors for you to develop yourself better if only you are willing to come out of your shell and stop feeling like an impostor.

I have written this to encourage you that you are good to go at whatever level you think you are.

Are you still thinking less of yourself?

You are good!

You have no idea how valuable you are. If you knew, you will develop more confidence in your abilities.

— Mary Abiodun

Say hello on Twitter: @maryabiodun01

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MARY ABIODUN

Techie. Writer. Mentor. Teacher. Editor. Entrepreneur. Technical Writer. Growth Marketing