An Impostor's Blog

After a year and a half, I'm finally getting around to launching my new blog. That's a lot of time for a small static website. That should mean that this blog is packed full of innovative technologies, captivating designs, and polished features, right? It has to be perfect. Thankfully this is not perfect, or so I keep telling myself. Perfection is the number one reason I'm surrounded by half finished projects. Perfectionists often seem like super human people who strive for a higher quality than us mere mortals, but that's not the case. Perfection is a mask for fear, and an enemy to "done". This blog is my acceptance that imperfect and done is ultimately better than perfect and incomplete.

Sad Yoda

Going back in time almost two years ago, my reasons for launching a blog were simple; I wanted to use it as a learning experience and to share my knowledge with others. I'm a developer by day and spend a lot of my time in the back-end of code, buried in logic. I put a great deal of effort into staying within my comfort zone. For example, I typically manage to sidestep doing anything design related. I'm not very good at it so I try to avoid it at all costs, but because I never get any practice I'm not very good at it. I started this project to break the cycle. Along with weak design skills I've never been a strong writer. Both were areas that I hoped to improve, all while sharing some of my experiences and expertise in hope that someone out there in Internet land would find it helpful.

As I passed the 80% completion mark of everything I wanted to accomplish the biggest blocker quickly became perfection. I've traveled down this road many times before. It started as I began to approach what I had defined as being done. At the thought of my work leaving the comfort of my computer and being in front of my colleagues I became filled with doubt. I drastically change my expectations and exponentially increase the level of effort by adding more features, refactoring all of the things in the best (seemingly most clever), and doing another redesign. Just like that I'd gone from 80% completion back to 10%. "It's not good enough" was an easy justification for me to shelve this whole project... again.

This quest for perfection wasn't about high quality standards, pride, or attention to detail, it was about procrastination and fear. As soon as a project came close to being done and released into the wild, I started fantasizing about my potential audience and their experience. I desperately desired to seem intelligent and clever, and for my blog to emphasize those qualities. But I secretly feared that I'm not. That I've stumbled and lucked into my position in life, and that at any moment of any day everyone is going to find out that I'm woefully under qualified and completely inept. I'm a fraud. Georgia State Psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes describe this phenomenon as "Impostor Syndrome" in their paper “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.”. (It’s worth noting in the years since this paper was first published there hasn’t been any evidence to support that this phenomenon affects genders differently.)

I'm a fraud and everyone is going to find out. Like most of the biggest fears in my life this one is irrational. I have several irrational fears, like flying, heights, and alligators to name a few. I panic when my airplane takes off. I fear that it's going to crash into the side of a mountain, but have no concern hopping in my car to drive somewhere, even though statistics tells me the latter is much more likely to kill me. Yet, I will still white knuckle my arm rests on the plane as if somehow I can help hold the plane together when something bad happens. Equally ridiculous is how I can be a fraud that moments away from being discovered for a bumbling idiot, yet as an idiot I was able to deceive everyone in the first place and for so long.

Impostor syndrome is not all together uncommon, especially among high achieving people.

"The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: 'I'm a fraud! Oh God, they're on to me! I'm a fraud!" -Tina Fey

"What are you doing here? What do you think you’re doing? You’re going to be found out." - Liz Bingham (Managing partner Ernst & Young)

"You think, 'Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don't know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?" - Meryl Streep

"When you go and watch a rehearsal of something you've written and it stinks, the natural feeling is 'I stink.' I'm a fraud. I need to go and hide" - Chuck Lore (Writer of Big Bang Theory)

I have an irrational fear, what now? Fear is good for exactly two things; preventing death, and overcoming. There's no conceivable way my life's in danger from since I'm not publishing a blog about butterflies, Chaos theory be damned. So it's time to try to overcome this fear. It's keeping me from several thing that I want in life.

Here's what I'm doing about it.

Do. or Do Not. There is No Try.

Irrational fear ultimately leads to suffering. It does no good. Instead of adding to an infinite todo list of things I'll never get done, I'm going to start marking them off. Instead of letting a fear of imperfections loom over me, I'm going to embrace it and invite it in for tea. I know it's there, I know what it is, I even know that other people have the sames fear and reservations. I'm going to move forward. My best learning experiences come from some of my biggest failures, so there really isn't any reason not to "do". I'm adopting the mentality that something either isn't worth my time, or it is and it’s 100% something I’m going to do. There is no try.

Which brings me to today, the day I launch my blog, and share my fears. I'm sure I could spend another year ironing out thousands of imperfections (no really, I have a list), but that path would only end with tearing everything down because it's not perfect. I'm just going to do my best and hit publish, imperfections and all. I hope that others don't let fear stop them from accomplishing their goals. Fear is the path to the dark side... fear leads to anger... anger leads to hate... hate leads to suffering.

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