Denzel Washington. Sheryl Sandberg. Tina Fey. These are just a few well-known people who admit to bouts of Impostor Syndrome: when you view yourself as a fraud, despite evidence of your success and achievements.

I feel this way sometimes. Maybe you do too.

Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome often hits us in moments of vulnerability; when we are pitching an idea, turning our talent into a business, or in my case, giving a talk in front of hundreds of people (Come see my talk on Impostor Syndrome at DevOps Days Austin tomorrow, May 4.)

This syndrome stems from the fact that we see others from the outside and we see ourselves from the inside (source: Book of Life). We usually aren’t privy to other people’s anxieties, regrets, and fears, yet we experience these feelings all the time. This gives us the impression that other people, especially successful people, aren’t like us.

Google “Impostor Syndrome” and you’ll find over 300,000 results. Here are some of the most entertaining, enlightening, and colorful authors on the topic.

Carl Richards - Impostor Syndrome

Source: Carl Richards, Learning to Deal with the Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome Source 1: who gave you permission?

Learning to Deal with the Impostor Syndrome by Carl Richards, the sketch guy for the New York Times, wrote his article on Impostor Syndrome from the perspective of an artist. He touches on the little voice that says, “who gave you permission to do this?” (See also Amanda Palmer’s description of the Fraud Police.) Carl also references Tara Brach, one of the great contemporary Buddhist teachers, and talks about recognizing the value in the syndrome and making peace with its presence. A great, short read.

Book of Life

Source: The Book of Life

Impostor Syndrome Source 2: those successful people are just like me?

The Book of Life put out an article and an entertaining 6 minute video on the Impostor Syndrome, with humorous commentary and illustrations. The article and video emphasize how we need to take a leap of faith that others are just like us, thereby humanizing the world around us. We are “like an actor in the role of a pilot, wearing the uniform and making sunny cabin announcements while utterly incapable of even starting the engine.” Watch the video to remember that we all have quirks, which are illustrated in creative and amusing ways.

Adam Lefkowitz's School Photo

Adam’s Second Grade Photo (how Impostor Syndrome can feel)

Impostor Syndrome Source 3: I can use this feeling to connect with others?

The final source I recommend on this topic is funny and quick: my Ignite talk on Impostor Syndrome from DevOps Days Vancouver. I shared what Impostor Syndrome means, why I decided to speak on this subject, and how embracing our fears enables us to learn from each other, as professionals in very new field like DevOps.

In fact, DevOps offers up the acronym CAMS, which refers to the core values of Culture, Automation, Measurement, and Sharing. The Sharing part is the most efficient way for us to learn, especially since technology is constantly changing. We need to put aside our insecurities and share our stories with each other. There is no room for Impostor Syndrome in DevOps. And frankly, if you are having a conversation about this cutting-edge field today, then you are probably already an expert.

My top two tips for dealing with Impostor Syndrome

Through all of this research, I discovered two great tips for dealing with Impostor Syndrome (get more from PM Bo Ren). First, simply recognize when the negative inner voices start to creep up. Second, even though we are not exposed to it, we need to remember that other people are anxious, uncertain, and have many of the same fears we do. This is why sharing a moment of vulnerability strengthens our connection with others and can ultimately help us grow personally and professionally.


You can catch Adam at DevOps Days Austin. Go watch his talk and share some stories with him.