Q: What do you call a fake noodle?
A: An impasta
Over the last couple days, we have heard multiple hosts and speakers talk about something called the “imposter (impasta) syndrome”. This is a phenomenon that happens to many people, especially early on in their careers. It is essentially a feeling of self-doubt in a new environment. As one of the Google employees put it during our visit, he explained his experience as looking around a room full of very smart people and wondering “Dang, how did I get here?” and “Should I really be here?”. This is a common feeling that people can have at any time, but it can be especially exacerbating in high pressure scenarios, such as the first couple weeks at a new job.
As I heard the Google employee describe his experience with the “imposter” feeling, it made me think about a time in my life when I felt a similar experience. Back in my sophomore year of high school, I tried out for a summer lacrosse team that a friend played on. The team was based in Philadelphia and had a reputation of being a very good program, however, I didn’t realize until after I made the team how good it really was. To give you an idea of what I mean, the coach of this summer team also coached the best high school lacrosse team in the country. The team was very talented, so talented that players who barely got any playing time were getting D1 scholarships for college lacrosse. Obviously, he brought a lot of these talented players to his summer team too. The rest of the team was made up of state champions, nationally ranked players, and also me. Coming from a high school that wasn’t the best at lacrosse (but also not bad), I was a little unsure if this was something I should be doing. However, this is when I made a realization that I have since used every time I have self-doubt to this day. I basically just take a step back and remind myself that, so far in my life, there hasn’t been anything I couldn’t handle. Whether this be in sports, school, or just life in general, I have been able to get through any and all of the challenges I’ve faced so far in my life, and even if it doesn’t turn out to be the best, it’ll turn out to be ok. With this logic, there shouldn’t be any future challenge I can’t handle, and looking back on all of the things I have overcome makes the upcoming challenge look a lot less significant. This is how I get over any self-doubting moments I have.
If someone I know is experiencing the “imposter syndrome”, to help them I have to understand what they respond well to. For example, some people want to talk about things and problem solve, some people feel better if you agree with them and let them rant, and some just want to be left alone. I don’t think there is one way to help someone in this situation, rather you have to tailor it based off of the person and what they are like. However, for any person in this situation, I would remind them not to sell themselves short. If they are selected for a position, they deserve to be there and they have to understand that. Also, others see something in them and believe in them or else they wouldn’t have been selected in the first place. Everything they need to succeed is there, they just have to let themselves do it. A good way to get the ball rolling is by sitting down and setting smaller goals to serve as benchmarks on the way to a bigger accomplishment. This can help them focus better, build confidence, and make the challenge seem more manageable. Also, it is beneficial to check up on them to see how they are doing with accomplishing these goals. Regularly checking in can be both supportive and encouraging for the person in the situation.