Imposter syndrome is, unfortunately, an evergreen topic within IT circles. For whatever reason, many of us who make our living in technology—who put in long hours acquiring and then honing our skills—fall prey to the fear we might not know anything at all. I’ve written about this before, and that’s nothing compared to the luminaries who feel the crushing doubt it brings and have bravely shared their experiences with the world.
The opposite of imposter syndrome, perhaps it’s antithesis, is confidence. However, in this post, I’m suggesting confidence isn’t only the reverse of imposter syndrome: it’s also the cure.
To be clear, confidence isn’t just a matter of “getting over it/yourself;” adopting a “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude; striking a pose; or ignoring the feelings swirling around inside. Doing those things might make you feel more confident (or at least less imposter-y) for a moment, but they don’t address the underlying issues. However, something I read recently sheds light on what confidence is, and therefore how we might truly regain it.
Confidence, I’ve learned, is about harnessing the power of those who love us most, and letting this power carry us forward.
My journey to this conclusion began with the following quote:
“Confidence, by the way, is Latin for ‘having faith together.’”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z”l
According to Rabbi Sacks (and linguistics), “confidence” is LITERALLY about gathering your posse, assembling your squad, calling your crew, and leveraging the strength (of faith, as well as force) of numbers. In its simplest sense, knowing your friends have your back is enough to help us overcome our doubts.
But sometimes, it’s a more than confidence bolstered by comfort—it’s active experience. “Having faith, together” contains an implicit question: faith in what? It’s faith the people around you have skills you don’t. Everyone on your team doesn’t need to be a wiz at networking wizard, or SQL statement scholar, or an API expert as long as someone is. Confidence is having faith that no matter what problem comes at you, someone standing with you will be able to handle it, even if the someone isn’t you.
By the same token, “together” might mean “I’m gonna be calling you guys to vent every night until this project is done.” Or it might mean pajama sleepovers. Or it could be a weekly night out to blow off steam. Or it could be something more interactive—jumping on a call and hashing out specific issues. It might mean a million other ways people can gather in spaces and at times that work best as a group.
Confidence isn’t knowing you can do it yourself; confidence is knowing you have a team who will show up when you need them.
It also means trusting your friends to call it like it is (because that’s what friends do). To trust them to see you for who you are. To be honest with you about what they see. And therefore, if they say you can do something, you CAN. Not because of some magical Dumbo feather effect. But because even when YOU can’t see the way through it, they can.
Confidence, as Rabbi Sacks teaches, means “having faith together.” If you feel like an imposter, the solution isn’t to hide, but to seek: friendship, companionship, camaraderie, and the faith to seeing the work through to the end.
And, if we’re lucky, the faith to see ourselves as our friends see us.