September 3, 2015

Impostor Syndrom

sarahposter
The reasons Domingo thinks I will be successful with my startup.

I have had the desire to do my own start up since I first flew out to California all those years ago. But every time I thought about actually taking the plunge, I hesitated. I knew a couple of people who have made it big in the start-up lottery. They’re wicked smart. They work crazy hours. In a world were most start ups fail, how could I ever expect to stand on equal ground with these incredibly talented people? I often feel like a poser, a pretender who will be found out at any moment. In my mind I often compare myself to others, and find myself lacking. I have impostor syndrome. I have had it since I was first admitted to college, when I used to joke the “accept button” was a bit too close to the “reject button”.

Impostor syndrome is pretty common in the valley, especially for women. It’s a major inhibitor, and one I’ve been working to over come.

Finding My Happy Place

I used to keep a folder, dubbed my happy folder, filled with ego boosters. In the folder I kept my first ever evaluation at my first place of employment, the letter of encouragement my supervisor wrote me when I was applying to graduate school. I even kept my college transcript. (I know that’s dorky, but when you think your acceptance was a mistake, you tend to be dang proud of good grades!)

Alas, the happy folder is easy to bury under other papers. I find if I’m not thinking about the happy folder, I forget about it. And that’s the unfortunate irony. When I’m thinking about my happy folder, I usually don’t need it, and when I need it, I’m usually not thinking about it.

When I decided to pursue my own business I wanted a motivational poster for the office, something that could keep me going through the inevitable rough spots. After spending more time than I care to admit finding the perfect one online, I decided to just make my own. It would be more meaningful that way. Domingo came up with a list of reasons why he thought I would succeed with my business, and I put them to paper. It’s my happy poster, if you will.

Creating a Safety Net

My big paralyzing fear was that my start up would be a flop, I’d attempt to re-enter the job market after a several year absence with a out dated skill set and nothing to show for it. There may be no way to guarantee success, but there is a way to frame my story guaranteeing I won’t fail.

I’ve been working on my web apps for years. I already have a few thousand active monthly users for my web apps. I am already generating a small, but reliable revenue. It’s not enough for me to consider myself a success yet, but it gives me something to talk about. It also gives me a starting place to build my story. Sometimes just thinking about how I will frame my story in a job interview can fill me with confidence.

Redefining Success

On of the common traits of impostor syndrome is to compare oneself to others, usually highly successful people. My company will likely never IPO for a billion dollars, I will not become an overnight millionaire like my friends. But there are other ways to successful.

I have enough people using my apps, particularly the Readability Analyzer that they actually notice when I make a change to it. In August, a very kind user sent me an email saying she had been using it for years, and thanked me for creating it. I may not be a millionaire, but that doesn’t mean what I’m doing doesn’t have an impact.

Posted in Work Life


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