This story was originally posted to my Medium account, but I decided to delete that and host my own blog instead. Read more about why I migrated my blog.

“Is this who I really am? Who am I, really?” — these are questions I asked myself early on in my career as a web developer. I’m not sure if it derived from being an angsty teenager with low self-esteem, or because I didn’t have a role model or mentor whom I could ask if this was a normal phase in their career while I was growing up. Or maybe it was because I found myself in situations that seemed too good to be true, and felt like I didn’t deserve it.

In any case, I harbored a lot of self-doubt about my aptitude in the “real world” (which undermined my ability to negotiate for better salaries) and it took me years to shake off that feeling. Now I’m at a point where I can barely remember feeling that way. In hindsight, that may be because I have more than a decade of work experience under my belt which makes me feel more confident, but when I was younger, I felt like even my peers were better than me.

If I could go back in time, the one piece of wisdom I would’ve given myself to get over impostor syndrome is that in the real world, most people don’t know what they’re doing either so don’t give them too much credit. A lot of times, they’re figuring it out as they go along, but some people are just better at hiding their insecurities and are better with dealing with them. Now, I’m not talking about actual technical knowledge (because let’s face it, either you know it or you don’t) but I’m talking about solving problems in general — including things that are technical in nature.

Sometimes people seem larger than life

My former boss once said that he didn’t think of himself as knowing more or as being better than any of his direct reports, but that he expected each of us to have a different skill that we can bring to the table to make the team better as a whole. That resonated with me because at the time, I was still unsure of my skills and I assumed that he was somehow a better thinker than I was. But after he’d said that, I realized he just had more experience at that job than I did, but I also had my own thoughts and opinions that were sometimes just as valid as his or anyone else’s. Instead of presuming his ideas were superior, I had objective discussions as to why x would be better than y and it made me think more critically about what I was doing. I started seeing the world in a different way and through those lenses, I was never afraid to hire someone “better” and smarter than me but welcomed and respected it, and now I see equal value in what seasoned execs can bring to the table as well as fresh interns.

I’m not any more confident in decisions that I make now than I was 10 years ago — I’m just more confident in articulating my doubts and being able to take feedback. I am definitely still intimidated by other things for other reasons, but maybe in a few years, I’ll have figured it out and gotten over it; then I’ll write another post.

Do you want to read more posts like this one? If you want to get updates about my Work Life-related topics, subscribe specifically for that via email or RSS feed.