I have been a data analyst for over 2 years now but this is a question I keep asking myself every time I submit a report or complete a (personal) project which took time, effort & skill. I ask myself this question every day. Sometimes I say to myself maybe my boss likes me that’s why he doesn’t complain about my “terrible” work.
This turned out not the be the case, however, as I recently completed a data analysis project for a client on one of these popular freelancing sites in which the client lauded my work and even assured me of more projects. And if you’re familiar with these sites, clients demand and want full value for their money, they won’t spare you if your work is rubbish. But again, this question found its way to my head despite the client being clearly happy with my work. So why does this question keep popping up in my head? why do I feel I’m a fraud despite shreds of evidence of my work proving I’m not? This is feeling is what is know as imposter syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
It is simply a collection of feelings of inadequacy and/or self-doubt despite evident success showing otherwise. People who suffer from this have a sense of intellectual fraudulence that overcomes any external proof of their competence. This sort of feeling is very common among people of varying skills and professions. From my little experience as a data analyst, however, what I have found to be a major cause of my imposter syndrome is that I spend a sizable amount of time using Google & Stackoverflow (mostly when I’m using Python Programming Language for such a project) to find solutions to problems I might encounter, and mostly to copy syntax that I have established a logic for. Why not though? Why try to reinvent the wheel when more experienced programmers on this site (Stackoverflow) have solved the problems, and written whatever syntax I might be looking for?
“As one of my tutors would always say during one of my courses, knowing how to use Google is itself a skill”
One of my tutors would always say knowing how to use Google to ask the right questions is a skill. I find this to be true every day as I get better at using tools such as Python. Despite all these reasons, the imposter syndrome still persists, why? This is because imposter syndrome is not something you defeat in one day. The first step to overcoming the syndrome is to first recognize the feeling and be willing to talk about it. Getting better and extremely competent at what you do, combined with daily affirmations that you are not a fraud and deserve to be where you are is another way to overcome this syndrome. The third and very important step is to embrace failure as a means to an end. See it as an opportunity to learn. This is because the fear of failure has been found to also be a major cause of impostor syndrome. I used to want my work to be perfect and devoid of any mistakes or errors because I thought the moment any errors were found in my work meant I had been found out to be a fraud. This mindset however didn’t encourage learning because the moment a mistake was found in my work, rather than learn from it it weighed me down mentally. I still want my work to be devoid of errors and mistakes, but with a different mindset of welcoming mistakes as an entry point to learning new things or gain new knowledge.
Defeating this syndrome is very important because what it does to you is that you tend to undervalue yourself and your work. And once this happens you tend not to get rewarded for your real value because you will lack confidence when you get to the negotiation table. You will also shy away from putting yourself forward for great opportunities because you feel you’re not competent or adequate for whatever tasks the opportunity entails.