Sunday, January 4, 2015

Impostor Syndrome, Part II - Coping and Strategies

Previously on "Impostor Syndrome, I Haz It", Utah disclosed uncomfortable truths about her Feeeeeeeelings. This week, Utah discusses how she is deals with those Feeeeeeeelings while also completing work.

I've been spending weeks alternately triumphing and bloodying my nose on code around a whole lot of developers whose triumphs seem more complex and nosebleeds less severe than my own. I have been developing and testing a set of strategies to help keep me from succumbing to the Impostor Syndrome. Here are some things I've tried:

1) Debbie, Queen of the Hyenas - This is a helpful thing I like to visualize. I like to think of the darkness outside my house at night. There's a certain amount of light around the house, since the lights are on, and the mean thoughts of Impostor Syndome are like hyenas, pacing back and forth around the edge of the dark, so you can just see vaguely sinister movement.

Then I think about the voice that those thoughts come in, and I think they sound like some mean lady named Debbie (I believe she may be in league with Skeletor?). Debbie is in charge of the mean voices - for she is Debbie, Queen of the Hyenas!

Debbie is mean like Skeletor

At any rate, I picture Debbie in an 80s cartoon outfit like She-ra or something, and riding the lead hyena in a pack of cartoon hyenas, on an ornate hyena saddle. I enjoy being able to just think, "Oh, shut up, Debbie" anytime she says something mean. It makes me giggle, and that disrupts the thought pattern.

2) Goals and rewards. A few years ago, I completed the National Novel Writing Month, writing over 50,000 words during the month of November, while working full time. Was I motivated to keep writing on hard days because of my deep and abiding love language, or because I had the utmost faith in my enchanting wordsmithing? No. Absolutely not. I was motivated by socks. Yes, socks. I set up reward goals, bought five pairs of socks, and gave them to someone else to administer to me upon reaching my word goal. And let me tell you, my super awesome owl socks are all the more awesome for being my 50,000 word socks.

So I'm doing the same sort of thing here. Again, there are socks, and I've added in stickers and goal sheets. It turns out this endeavor is more multi-faceted, so the goals are more complicated. Writing out the weekly goals and putting a sticker of a dinosaur saying "Good Job!" for the smaller goals is very satisfying.

3) The Cult of Done Manifesto is a really cool website about getting things done. It has some really nice succinct and germane things to say about, things like perfectionism, failure, and mistakes. Plus, there are cool pictures.

4) I host a weekly study group through Girl Develop It. This tends to be women with varying levels of experience working Being around other people around my level of learning. It's really helpful to hear how other folks grapple with some of the same things I do, especially because I see these people as confident and competent.

5) Reality Checks. I have a weekly lunch with a (kick ass) mentor where we set goals, talk about how things are going, and I can get a reality check about how Impostor Syndrome is normal, struggling is normal, needing help is normal. I have check ins built in with another mentor as well. Ooh, and you know what makes check ins even better?! Happy hour breakfast, that's what!

6) This is a blog post that I've just learned about that I like, too. It's call The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@%k. I'm kind of digging thinking about how many f@%ks I'm giving. (For the record, this article says the f-word 127 times, so if you're not a fan of cussing, this maybe isn't the blog post for you. As a counterpoint, there's a picture of a kitten walking away from an explosion, so...)

So here's what I'm doing. YMMV*, as they say in the biz, but I think a number of these can be tailored to your own interests. Don't like stickers? Can't picture Debbie? What do you like, then? What can you picture? It can be anything, and it's a work in progress.  It's experimentation. If something isn't working, try something(s) new.

Happy syndrome smashing, all you total non-impostors!

*your mileage may vary

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