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Day 4: Imposter

Level 14

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Everyone is an imposter. It’s not just the people who feel like they are an imposter, but literally everyone is an imposter. Nobody fits into every situation every time. It’s just not possible.  Even if you are a social, intellectual, spiritual, and technical chameleon, nobody can change fast enough or often enough to never have to fake it at some point.

Being an imposter isn’t bad, though.

Taking a leap into an environment that is not your norm is going to mean breaking into some group, team, or other engagement. You’re going to feel awkward. It’s going to be middle school all over again.  Or worse, high school. Everyone feels awkward. Especially that one person who is loud, obnoxious, and spends their time pointing out the faults of the other people on the team. Don’t be that person, but also don’t spend time working to align with that person. Find the person who makes people stronger. Find the person who sees a problem but then sees multiple ways to fix it. Better yet, be that person! If everyone feels awkward then make it easier to break down those barriers instead of accentuating them.

Sometimes, being an imposter happens quite by accident. You get invited to participate on a project and you have no idea why. You get invited to a social event with a group of people who you don’t know.  Take this advice: be you. During Parent-Teacher Interviews, my son’s senior year art teacher told us, “Kids can’t be successful until they find their people.” That is sage advice and it doesn’t just apply to kids. If you give up your genuine self then you will forever be an imposter. However, if you present the real you then you’ll discover how the group works, or does not work, with you as part of the team. The dissonance of pretending to be someone that you are not perpetuates that imposter syndrome and will rob you of the peace you need to be successful.

Embrace your inner imposter! It’s okay. It really is. Everyone else is doing it, or should be doing it. Break into those teams, opportunities, or groups with the real you. Then, and only then, will you find that you weren’t really an imposter after all—just a friend, teammate, or colleague in the making.

69 Comments
Level 11

We cannot deny the fact that imposters are insecure about their own identity.

I can't help but use the previous words as I find them useful; this is fun.

MVP
MVP

Good write up.  Not what I envisioned when I saw the title, but I assume that is what you were going for.  Thinking outside the box.

Too many times, people just try to fit in.  They are afraid to be themselves as they don't know how they will be perceived by others.

Then there are the times when someone pretends to know something they don't for fear to being looked upon negatively.

As you said it.  Be yourself.  If you don't know something, just ask.  Everyone had to learn at some point.  If someone doesn't like you for how you are, then they don't deserve to know you.

Level 12

Impostors are fakers. Be the real you.

Level 11

presenting yourself (or something) as anything other than yourself (or itself) leads to a lack of clarity in a working environment but somehow is considered fun in a social environment - but only as long as the imposter persona is considered humorous or non threatening. Curious rules we live by... 

Level 10

An imposter is a poser, a fake.  You always need to be on guard for these characters because they can present danger to any situation. 

Level 14

Yeah, I've never been much of a "boxes" person.  Bubble wrap on the other hand

Level 14

Right!?!  I never understood the allure of Halloween or Masquerades. I chock that up to a personality that really takes people on face value and expects people to be genuine.

Being an impostor is very much a personal decision though but it certainly isn't a natural point of progression.

Level 9
MVP
MVP

This seems to tie into "Identity" quite well.

I'm happy to be different people and really need to be to protect myself from the environment I'm in, if that means being an impostor then I'm good with that

Some environments are conducive to behaving in certain ways, you have to adjust.

However, a certain set of none negotiable core values permeate through everything - I'm never an impostor for those.

Level 15

The dissonance of pretending to be someone that you are not perpetuates that imposter syndrome and will rob you of the peace you need to be successful.

Truth! The mental, spiritual, and sometiems even physical toll on a person that spends their time pretending to be something they're not has to be some of the most negative stress you can experience.

I think everyone has been in the situation in their life, in varying degrees of course. But I have worked with some extremely unhappy coworkers in the past. So much that at times their unhappiness resolved itself into outward burts of negativity, without regard to whom that negativity touched. So much pain from hiding oneself for so long just cannot be bottled up like that I suppose.

I agree with the "Be Yourself" mantra. But I also acknowledge that for some, the sentiment is trite in comparison to being surrounded by an environment that can actually support them.

MVP
MVP

We are all imposters at times. Sometimes is it intentional - could be a bald faced lie or something as simple as trying to look different than you are to fit into a group. Sometimes is is not intentional as when we are unsure or uneasy in a situation and we just conform to what we think others want in and/or from us. Being an imposter can be a bad thing if we continue in that behavior, in fact it can actually be destructive to one's self and others. However, if we self evaluate and determine the reason that we feel the need to be an imposter then it can be a positive thing as we see weaknesses in our character and identify positive changes that we can make.

So being an imposter is a behavior, what are you doing about it?

Chris Rock did a stand up comedy routine about imposters.  It focused on the false information we present to others about ourselves, and had a wry truth about the humor.  The comments above reminded me of it, and the laughter his analysis brought forth from the audience.

His concept included the idea that when you meet someone for the first time, they're not meeting you, they're meeting your representative.  Because "you" don't normally dress that way, or talk that way, or act that way--you've changed the "you" that's being introduced so you can make a good impression.  Some of the audience was targeted for their high heels, their make-up, their hair styles, their nail color--"That's not the real "you!"  And other of the audience were targeted for their tendency to tell stories about themselves that weren't true, to paint their activities and history in a more positive light.

I tend to think of network security violations when I read "imposter" in an I.T.-related blog like this one.  But it's all the same--presenting yourself in a false light.

Level 9

This topic reminds me of, "Fake it till you make it!".  It's a way to deal with feelings of insecurity and can allow a person to strive past their comfort zone.  I think that there are people in the world that are true Impostors, with the will and intent to take advantage and hurt others, but I also think it's "normal" to feel like an impostor once in a while.  At least it's normal for those of us who aren't 100% perfect, 100% of the time.

Level 14

I'd suggest that if you are in an environment that requires to you to feign who you are every day that you should probably change that environment or acknowledge that you want to become that which you feign to be.

The latter isn't a bad thing though. If the environment is good and you are modelling productive behaviours that being an impostor is only a temporary position while you discover how to behave in the new environment.

Over this past weekend I saw Kingsman:  The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) - IMDb

In it there were several examples of the word "Imposter", and the trouble that comes when your security isn't robust, and when you assume someone has rights to be present or to access resources.

Worse, when someone misrepresents the intent and benefits and risks of a new technology, their idea and presentation has many of the characteristics of an imposter.

If you're watching the coming tech trend of installing wireless cellphones and wireless networking within the human body, this movie deals with the impact of an imposter and his ideas on that topic.  It's not a "family" oriented movie, but like Terminator, serves as a chilling warning about technology misused.

Level 21

I think it's the willingness to venture into the unknown and take on the things that may not immediately be clear that separates the good from the great.  Being willing to be am imposter and put yourself into situations where you may stand out or push your comfort levels will allow you to reach new heights and be your best.

Level 9

Very good read. This is so true of many people. They are always trying to fit in and conform to what people want or expect them to be instead of trying to be their own person. Always keep it real.

Level 10

At first I wanted to ask if I am Batman, or an imposter. But then I think when the band Kiss replaced their drummer Peter Chris, and Eric Singer then puts on the make up and persona of the original character, is Eric now an imposter? Or is he just playing a roll that was passed on.

Level 10

imposters are a threat to the security of an organization, beware of imposters

Level 10

As the ancient proverb goes: "Everyone's an impostor, but only the good ones get to be pen-testers"

Level 12

I think this one applies to, like you said, everyone. While labeling it an imposter might seem misleading, it in fact is an appropriate way to do so. We cater our behaviors and personalities to fit our situations. We are not exactly the same person at work as we are when we are alone, or at home with our families, or out with our friends.

I work in IT full time during the day, and I DJ every weekend. I have very different personalities and behaviors when I am at each of these jobs. When I am in IT mode I am quite and analytical and relaxed and calm. When I am in DJ mode I am very social and energetic and high strung.

Some might call me an imposter if they see me being a very different person between these 2 jobs, and they are right. My DJ mode would not work well at the IT job, and my IT mode would be very boring and not useful at my DJ job.

Level 11

Image result for imposter

I have always thought that way about people but I like the term hypocrite

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Above image copied from Google,

I like the idea that we are all impostors.   In life we have to find ourselves in situations where we act better or maybe more relaxed.   If I were on a interview for example I will dress more formal and be prepared to talk shop.   If I were at Thanksgiving dinner I am in sweatpants well OK I live in Florida so shorts, and relaxed watching football and hanging out with family.   We do change ourselves to fit situations.   When things go wrong at work, and we are in the hot seat working like our hairs on fire, many take on a different personality from the normal, something with a hint of stress.   I am not sure these are imposters, but i am sure if we can keep our identity and how we want to be we can weather any storm and then look in the mirror and recognize the person looking back.  Life is a funny thing, its OK to be an imposter of your own life, as long as it doesn't effect how your life impacts others. 

Level 18

For me (and, I suspect, many of us) there's so much emotion tied up in this word. But the good news is that there's also a lot of insight and advice for those of us who struggle with the perception that we don't measure up in some way, and that this not-measuring-up-ness somehow makes us intrinsically a liar about who we are or what we can do.

I had the privilege of seeing Jody Wolfborn speak on this very topic at DevOpsDays Ohio, and I feel like anything I had to say would be a pale comparison to what she taught the audience that day:

Jody Wolfborn You Don't Belong Here: Dealing with Impostor Syndrome - YouTube

Level 13

The worst type of imposter is a Medal of Honor recipient.

Nearly 40 million men and women have fought in America's wars since the start of the Civil War -- including more than 16 million in World War II and nearly 9 million in Vietnam -- but only 3,410 have been recipients of the Medal of Honor, 574 of them posthumously.

The medal has its own lore. You don't "win" it, like an Olympic gold medal, because nobody sets out to win a Medal of Honor. When the president pins it on your chest, you become a "recipient." And it is not just for you.

Ok that is my two cents of rant.  Imposters are frauds. Period.

Good comparison, Leon!

I've had various leaders come through and ask my team to provide "confidential" notes about our own strengths and weaknesses, specifically searching for imposters.  There'd be different "action plans" if you wrote:

  • "I am the SME for technology X, and I know it thoroughly.  Come to me with any questions."

versus

  • "I am responsible for technology X, but have had no training, and am uncomfortable working with it.  I reference existing configurations and adjust them to the need, instead of deploying new configurations to achieve new solutions.  Please arrange for me to receive training, and please understand I require peer review of my actions with technology X before my changes to it are submitted and applied."
Level 12

I once had an IT director that was very good at weeding out the IT imposters during job interviews.

He had a system of technical questions designed to weed out the book smart IT people and the real-world IT people.

Best team I ever worked on.

In another life I worked in a custom photofinishing lab.  The boss was color blind and unashamed to admit it.

Part of his interview process was to identify applicants who were color blind.  Being color blind did not prevent them from being hired; they were given positions where color blindness would be less likely to put them in harm's way, with responsibilities to allow them to contribute while keeping them from having to make judgment calls about whether a photograph was too red/blue/green/cyan/magenta/yellow.

There were no imposters there as a result of it.  Like you noted, this was one of the best places I've ever worked.

MVP
MVP

To be an imposter requires confidence, or at least the ability to project confidence.

An imposter who comes with malicious intent is often called a 'con artist' which is shorthand for Confidence Artist or Trickster. When you gain somebodies confidence in you, you gain their trust. Use this for good, not evil!

Level 9

Fitting in means finding yourself and being comfortable with who you are.  You'll never be an imposter as long as you have an open mind and listen as well as voice your own opinion.

I think it's actually *exceedingly* important to be able to be an imposter, not just because I happen to embrace it myself. In a lot of ways, that represents a certain freedom from oneself. Whether it's playing tabletop or going to a comic-con, lots of folks not only make this their lifestyle but thrive on it *in a work environment*. I don't necessarily see it being the same as being "fake", as some of the negative connotation of the phrase seems to have implied. The more I think about this, the more I think that this is simply natural. We are social creatures at a minimum, and to express...disagreement with people being social creatures is mostly blaming people for what is easily instinctual.

That being said, this is not the same as being manipulative.

I think it represents a specific type of social acuity/awareness. It's something we're born with (and studies support that). Kids start smiling at two months so by then on they already know how to be an imposter.

Level 9

Good post. I really enjoyed the read. Thank you!

Level 9

Thank you for the link, I really liked the video!

Level 14

Imposter brings visions of bad things... a natural reaction.

On the plus side, I have always felt that if I act as an imposter (say... trying to catch some bad actors).... that's ok. Or more likely it's the adult version of let's pretend... can and is healthy in a lot of ways.

Great topic/word and write up!

Level 14

Imposters.  I learned at an early age to be comfortable with who I am.  I have never tried to run with the "in" crowd.  If you like me for who I am, great.  If not, great.  If you are comfortable with who you are, then you can't be accused of being an imposter.

Some of us in this community have a history around this particular word, and have had previous discussions about Imposter Syndrome. The hard part is getting away from the negative connotation of the word. When you look at the image below you can see it falls into what most consider the negative cluster of words. When we talk about it though it is not because it is our intent to be an Imposter, sham, or fraud. It comes from that slight nagging insecurity of someone finding out we don't know everything about X. Because we understand how much we don't know about X and take for granted the boat-load of stuff we do know. How often does that thought enter your mind that "oh that is so simple"? It is because it is hard to remember not knowing something. The imposter is seen from the inside-out. It is the concern of being discovered, irrational as it may seem at times.

As others have said before acting the part in certain situations can be very beneficial. I think that in those instances it might be better to use words like role player or actor. Imposter carriers with it a nefarious feeling, that the intent is to deceive solely for the benefit of the beguiler and to the detriment of the ones being deceived.

2017-12-04_12h55_36.jpg

Level 12

In a different context, being an 'imposter' is necessary. I am a different person in the boardroom than I am when alone with my team members.

Look at that gentleman, he is quite reserved and mature. What a good chap.

5 minutes later:

Who taped all of my drawers shut?!

Level 10

“The perfect partner is an imposter for the perfect partnership.”    

―     Khang Kijarro Nguyen

Level 9

Some days I feel like I'm an impostor, and that my boss will figure out that I don't really know what I'm doing.

Level 16

As long as you don't figure out that he doesn't know what he's doing then the cycle continues....

While Imposter is defined as a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain, I would like to think of its kinder cousin, "Fake it until you make it"

Often we can step into a new role or position and have to learn the ropes, but if we are a competent and confident technical guy or gal, we can stack overflow our way into proficiency.

We can watch our attitudes and actions until we become whom we need to be..not for fraudulent gain, but for the betterment of ourselves, our coworkers and our company.

Level 16

This is the start of one of my Favorite scenes from Sherlock Holmes's Younger Smarter Brother: Liars - YouTube

This is such a good clip from a security perspective, because Mr. Holmes [at this point] provides no other information that would allow Madeline Khan's character to gain information.

[I could not find the rest of the clip where Madeline attempts multi-factor authentication, and fails]

Level 9

"It is because we are all impostors that we endure each other"

Emile M. Cioran

Imposter & Identity go hand in hand. The online community of the past 20 years has allowed us to become imposters in our own right. For many, they project an identity of themselves that they want people to see. Their motivation could be based on insecurity, or for financial reasons, for job security, or whatever. And let's be honest, almost all of us embellish our online identity just a little.

   Being an imposter isn't always for criminal or evil gains. But when an imposter is caught the penalty and condemnation is usually harsh. Why is that? Is it because it involves a form of betrayal? Is it because the victim(s) were exposed as fools? The answer is probably a combination of these two and so much more. And its this underlying falsehood that gives imposter such a dirty name.

Level 10

One needs to be an impostor to be accepted by the other impostors in the group. We do it so long and it becomes an effortless technique or a formula we apply when required. It is a weapon,a survival mechanism to stay at the top of the process of Natural Selection.

Level 15

Exactly, be it you.

Whoever pretends to be what he is not and have what he does not have, sooner or later, will suffer innumerable disappointments. I remember bad things happen to everyone regardless of anything, but if you're always honest with yourself in the first, you'll never lose the admiration of smart people and you'll always succeed.
There is a lot in my country that I have been working on to change the image, and I know that this will serve as a reference for other people to do in theirs too, but I am no longer who I am to please.

I like to say "no one needs to listen to my discography to see if I'm good or bad."

MVP
MVP

Coming into a new role or position at a company there is commonly a small period of feeling like an imposter until you can prove yourself (especially as a consultant).

Level 11

This ties in with being insecure about working in IT. A post in yesterday's thread even mentioned Impostor Syndrome. I see myself as an impostor, since I never took classes in IT (I majored in mechanical engineering). All my friends who have IT or computer science degrees seem so far ahead of me in their fields. I always feel like I am scrambling to catch up and do not belong in the field as a result. I keep trying to 'fake it 'til I make it' but see no way to get to where I will feel I've 'made it'. That's my recipe for daily stress.

Level 10

Who really is an imposter or is it an impostor? One who imposes or one who poses to be someone he or she is not?

Level 12

Stop being an imposter. Be who you are and don't pretend to be who or what you are not. Show exactly the skills you've got and stop acting up or showing off.

About the Author
Husband and father. Live on an island, remote worker. Data Storyteller, Data Geek, bibliophile. Life is good.