My job includes the privilege of traveling to conventions and tech shows, sometimes to give a speech but much more often to listen to what others have to say and then react to what I've heard - either in an essay like this one or in a talk of my own.
Among those who speak often, "Imposter syndrome" is a frequent topic of discussion.
Of course, imposter syndrome is far from unique to tech speakers, or people who speak in front of large groups in any context, for that matter. Nor does it strike people who have achieved little. In fact, I am always struck when I hear about people who are clearly acknowledge as experts in their field, but who exhibit significant doubt about their abilities.
Recently, Dame Maggie Smith (Downt'n Abbey, Harry Potter, not to mention a career spanning over 60 years.) gave an interview where she expressed deep insecurity about her work. She spoke of an inability to know, in the moment, whether her performance was any good or not.
While the subject of imposter syndrome is well-trod (I recently had the privilege to hear Jody Wolfborn (@joderita on Twitter) speak about it at DevOpsDays Ohio), one thing that struck me was whether we who deal with a lack of belief in ourselves or our abilities somehow - whether consciously or not - attribute any of our success to the fact that our own fears spurred us to greater heights.
This thought crosses my mind often. It is, for me at least, inescapable. After a talk goes well or a essay is well-received, I find myself thinking, "All that freaking out and worry must have paid off". It's the worst kind of positive feedback loop for negative behavior.
How much better would it be if I, if WE all believed in our abilities? If we practiced positive self-talk ("Come on, Leon, you've got this!")? If we listened to those who complimented and praised us? I'm not talking about hubris, of course. I don't mean we should believe our fecal matter is odorless or that everything we produce should be showered with every award the universe has to offer.
But we should believe - meaning to take as an article of faith that requires no proof, and which cannot be dis-proven by a single less-than stellar outcome - that we are capable of extraordinary things when we are willing to work for it.
My challenge to you on this day is to put some effort into believing in yourself. And then see what you're able to accomplish.