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How to overcome Imposter Syndrome – Tester’s edition

Working in an ever-growing industry of technology one cannot stay up to date with every single technology, application or coding skills at all times. Have you ever thought that you are not great at a certain task, or confused on how to complete your work, or have asked way too many questions to another colleague on how to complete your work? This is something we can all relate to, and this is the famous word you hear – theimposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome is something that is very likely to kick in in various stages of your career for various different reasons too. “Imposter syndrome (IS) is a behavioral health phenomenon described as self-doubt of intellect, skills, or accomplishments among high-achieving individuals”

Harvard Business Review defines ” imposter syndrome as a feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt that can affect anyone regardless of their level of success or skill. It can manifest as a fear of being exposed as a fraud, a belief that success is due to luck, or a sense of not belonging to a particular field. People with imposter syndrome tend to discount their abilities, downplay their accomplishments, and overemphasize their mistakes.”

It becomes very difficult at times to manage time between learning and working within your teams – it is a situation where it is up to you how you overcome it, or work with it. The big question that arises here is how happy are you in your current role and how confident are you ? Do not worry at all if you are reading this and thinking you are going through it, there are ways to work around it, and this blog will help you conquer it. 

Am I going through an imposter syndrome patch?

Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome:

  1. Are you an individual who has a fear of being discovered?
  2. Self-doubting your skills and questioning being part of a team 
  3. Stress related to work where an employee thinks that they are expected to work more than needed. 
  4. Some people might judge themselves and don’t come to terms that they did actually put in the effort to achieve gold. 
  5. One going through Depression, frustration, anxiety, lack of self-confidence, and a few to name
  6. Do I feel that the opportunities I’ve had so far are due to luck?
  7. When I have new challenges, do I doubt my ability to meet them?
  8. Am I unmotivated about new opportunities?
  9. Do I think things that have gone well in the past are going to go wrong now?
  10. Do I worry that people will find out that I an a fraud?
  11. Do I compare myself to other people?
  12. Am I not satisfied with the things I do?
  13. Do I think that I don’t deserve the success that I’ve had?
imposter syndrome patch

Why does this happen?

There are several reasons, as explained in the syndromes above on why Imposter syndrome affects individuals, however some other examples within an organization that can cause this include the following;

  • Transition/change – A new role, change of role, or being a new parent can increase this feeling as it pushes one out of their comfort zones
  • Traditional gender norms- In the tech world, it has been seen that more men than women are holding senior roles. Though, this is slightly changing now, still there are times when a woman’s success is compared with the impact on her family while men do not go through this. Thus, societal pressure also impacts gender as more is expected from one. 
  • Intersectionality and systemic bias- Intersectional factors have led to individuals facing more imposter syndrome symptoms

Perfectionism, Pleasing, procrastination, and Paralysis

The 4 P’s are something that has and can cause self-doubt leading to imposter syndrome. Lets understand what they really are and how their impact leads to imposter syndrome:

As a human being when we are in a new role, we want to be a perfectionist to either showcase our potential or just worry about getting a bad feedback. This can lead to worrying over small details and being very thorough, where one might not need to spend extra time.

Procrastination and Paralysis are where we think too much or plan too much before actually experiencing our next project/task/meeting. This then becomes an approach to many tasks and leads to not achieving much and spending too much time thinking.

People pleasing is one where one is aiming their best to make sure they please their team members all the time. This is not really a positive quality to have at all times as one may be a great communicator, empathetic, and diplomatic at work, however, this trait can cause destruction by leading to burnout. 

How to work with Imposter Syndrome?


work with Imposter Syndrome

First of all you should understand that IT IS OK. Everyone goes through different stages in their careers and someone might be a fast learner and someone might take a little bit of time to get to it. What one needs to do is be honest about their skillset and let the team know so, if there is some support available, it can be provided. Remember always to have open and clear conversations about how you feel.

You can also speak to like-minded individuals. See if there are like-minded individuals who work with you or even in other teams and talk to them or raise it on a central forum. One thing to bear in mind is that other individuals may also be going through what you are going through so, talking to them could help as someone might have overcome it and provide constructive feedback on how to turn the syndrome around!

Another way to overcome your thoughts that while through imposter syndrome is by keeping yourself busy; perhaps do a new course at work that could help you grow, do some mindfulness sessions(yoga, meditation); perhaps join a STEM group at work or play sports with your colleagues/friends – these are great ways to relax your mind and not overthink. Try to learn what triggers you and then see what solutions could protect you. 

Your managers and leaders should also be trained to make the team members feel comfortable, for instance, by celebrating the achievements of their team members, taking the team out for lunch, and making sure the team feels happy in general. Small successes lead to big successes, and to be empathetic as a leader for your team members and those who work with you is a great positive step in your leadership style. 

Something more to bear in mind is that leaders/managers/higher management can also have imposter syndrome, however, if the work provides a positive supportive environment, individuals can feel comfortable.

Record your wins always regardless of the size, big or small as they count a lot as your experience as well as serve as great feedback for you too. Yes, there are times one doubts themselves, but do not forget all the good work one puts in which weighs more than anything else.

Finally, one can focus on thinking about how they provide value to their work and team rather than thinking about how they are being perceived. Focus on what you have to do and help team members as this small contribution can bring more confidence in individuals. 

Self belief, experiences, and praise are things that drive one away from this syndrome. 

A software tester’s experience 

Sometimes, it is not YOU. What I mean by this is that the environment that you are working in and the people you work with can cause you to think that you are lacking skills or not understanding the work. I have experienced this with some managers who are micromanaging and it has made me feel low as well as underskilled. 

Other than that, sometimes you are pressured for a task which you may have understood little or not at all, which can also make one feel confused and under-experienced or doubting themselves. You have to remember that sometimes you can solve this situation by being upfront and honest that you do not have the needed skill or it’s not possible at the moment, for you. It can create a discussion or an argument, however, you have to remember you spoke up and said the truth and it needs to be respected. 

Another example is when you are not celebrated for the work you are putting in – your team is providing excellent feedback on it, but the management does not see it enough to celebrate it. This easily can delve one into thinking they are not that good yet or feel puzzled.

Sometimes when working with many software testers, I have witnessed favoritism which is not fair. The other testers get put forward for projects that others may feel they should go for and get to do the “fun” activities whereas other testers just sit back and continue with their day to day tasks. If there are various testers in the team, aim to balance it out so all testers feel valued and celebrate all. Not all will showcase big achievements, so celebrate the small wins too. 

Conclusion

Imposter syndrome starts from various situations and reasons – burnout, thinking of how others perceive you and your work, favoritism at work, micromanagement, etc. It should be a task for all companies to make sure mindfulness sessions are provided to all employees and make sure that this is practiced throughout. Every company prefers retaining as many employees as possible, so why not work on supporting them all? 

I came across 6 powerful Mantras which will help:

It is normal to feel insecure in a team environment.

Perfection does not exist.

Mistakes are part of your journey to success.

Criticism does not equate to failure, it helps one get better.

It’s best to give your best shot than not to try at all

You have been hired for a great reason, don’t self-doubt.

Do not aim for perfection as that does not exist, really, as all one can do is their best in their role. 

Adding the time factor to the task at hand puts a nice boundary around it, and you’re less likely to head into burnout territory. 

Remember, imposter syndrome is a very normal situation to be in, what’s difficult is the way to work around it. The tips provided in this blog can definitely be a starting point for all reading this.


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