Why I feel like a fraud

I feel like a fraud. I’ve been at this for 16 years and I still feel like a fraud. I’m just waiting for the day they see through the façade, but they keep coming back every year.”   –Jason Young

impostor-syndromeAh yes, the awe-inspiring words of confidence from the seasoned entrepreneur. My friend Jason intended this as soothing words of solace during (one of my) periods of personal freak-out while Smart Bear was in its infancy.

I felt like a fraud every day. Here I was, selling a wobbly, buggy tool and pawning myself off as an expert in a field that didn’t exist. (My software was the first commercial tool for code review.) Every second I felt like I was putting one over on the world.

I would explain how my tool cuts code review time in half, but was that actually true or had I just repeated the argument so many times that I stopped questioning it? I would instruct customers on “best practices” for code review, but who am I to tell other people how to critique code? I would orchestrate purchases, but should I be handling large sums of money with no knowledge of accounting, cash-flow, invoicing, purchase orders, or “enterprise sales” process?

Aren’t I too young? Isn’t the tool too crappy to charge for? Aren’t I too inexperienced? Don’t I need an MBA or at least some sales training?

Is Smart Bear a “real company?” What does that even mean?

Objectively, and with hindsight, my feelings were misplaced. The tool really did save time and headache; customers said so. As much as I doubted the title “Code Review Expert,” I had developed more experience with more teams in more situations than any one person could (because everyone else was busy doing their actual jobs). And sales isn’t as mystical and unknowable as I feared.

Still, emotions don’t respond to logic. Jason was telling me that these feelings don’t go away, even when they ought.

The other thing he was saying is: You’re not alone. As it turns out, it’s not even just business founders. Mike Meyers said “I still believe that at any time the No-Talent Police will come and arrest me.” Jodie Foster said “I thought it [winning the Oscar] was a fluke. The same way as when I walked on the campus at Yale. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take the Oscar back.”

It turns out there’s a psycho-babble name for this: Impostor Syndrome. As Inc Magazine points out, studies show that “40% of successful people consider themselves frauds.” Ask any small business coach; they’ll confirm how prevalent these feelings are. It’s even common with PhD candidates.

Although not an official psychological disorder, and generally not crippling, if you have these feelings it’s useful to know that it’s common and there’s something you can do about it.

See if these sound familiar:

  • You dismiss complements, awards, and positive reinforcement as “no big deal.”
  • You are crushed by mild, constructive criticism.
  • You believe you’re not as smart/talented/capable as other people think you are.
  • You worry others will discover you’re not as smart/talented/capable as they think you are.
  • You think other people with similar jobs are more “adult” than you are, and they “have their shit together” while you flounder around.
  • You feel your successes are due more to luck than ability; with your failures it’s the other way around.
  • You find it difficult to take credit for your accomplishments.
  • You feel that you’re the living embodiment of “fake it until you make it.”

But wait, how can this be? This overwhelming lack of self-confidence is the opposite of the traditional entrepreneurial stereotype. Don’t founders forge ahead even when others say success is impossible? Doesn’t a founder invent a new product based on her confidence that others will want it? Doesn’t the very idea of starting your own company scream “I’m doing it my way, and my way is better?”

But it does make sense. Consider what it means to be a perfectionist. The perfectionist sees flaws in everyone else’s work; there’s always a way to make it better — her way. She doesn’t respond well to authority dictating how things must be; neither is she comfortable delegating to those who (by her definition) clearly don’t care as much as she does.

Sounds like the stereotypical attitude of the arrogant startup founder, but wait! At the same time, the perfectionist is never happy with her own work either, seeing (inventing?) a never-ending stream of flaws that require attention. No matter how highly others regard her work, the perfectionist insists it’s incomplete and unsatisfactory. She can’t accept the idea that others would be impressed with her accomplishments, since to her they’re mediocre works-in-progress. She worries that one day they’ll realize she’s right.

Our entrepreneurial motivation is not confidence, it’s an insatiable desire to improve. It’s not about thinking your ideas are better than everyone else’s, it’s about never accepting any idea as being best.

Can these feelings be constructive? Yes, if they’re a sign that you’re striving to learn and improve. As Andy Wibbels says:

If I don’t feel like a fraud at least once a day then I’m not reaching far enough.

If you aren’t scared shitless then why bother?

Here’s what it looks like when you’re channeling these self-doubts into something constructive:

  • I doubt my title as “expert,” so every day I read, write, and immerse myself in my field.
  • I doubt the quality of my software, so I fix bugs as fast as possible, I write unit tests proactively, and I thank my customers for their patience.
  • I doubt I deserve my reputation, so I work hard to earn it.
  • I’m not as good as I want to be at speaking/ writing/ programming/ designing/ managing, but I can see myself slowly improving.
  • I’m not a “real company” yet, so I concentrate on making my customers successful, so they don’t care about corporate size or structure.

On the other hand, here’s what it looks like when these doubts are harming you:

  • I doubt my title as “expert,” so every night I worry about what will happen when I’m discovered as a fraud. I’m absent-mindedly looking for trivially-easy jobs I could take where this pressure won’t exist. (Looking for an “escape-hatch” is a well-documented behavior.)
  • I doubt the quality of my software, so I spend lots of time covering it up with graphic design and heavy sales pitches.
  • I doubt I deserve my reputation, so I live in constant fear of exposure. I can’t sleep at night and I loathe myself for lying.
  • I’m not as good as I want to be at speaking/ writing/ programming/ designing/ managing, so I go out of my way to avoid any of it, and feel like a trapped animal when I’m forced to do it.
  • I’m not a “real company” yet, so I feel guilty every time someone gives me money or believes anything I say.

If you’re letting these feelings get to you too, at least recognize it so you can deal with it logically.

And when logic fails, maybe this will help:

You believe that Mike Meyers and Jodie Foster are talented, right? You might even believe that I’m an expert in peer code review. Yet we doubt ourselves every day. And we’re wrong.

You know we’re wrong about ourselves; that means you’re wrong about yourself too.

Don’t stop striving to become better, just stop holding yourself up to an impossible standard.

Sometimes getting it off your chest is the best medicine: Leave a comment!

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  • http://www.querycell.com Sam Howley

    Another top notch post Jason, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like it was written just for them.

    Thanks.

    • http://switchstories.com Paul Montwill

      I used to feel the same but from some time I no longer feel like a fraud. I feel the opposite – I know how talented and valuable I am. I can see great fruits of my work, I agree with others pointing out my strong sides… I just haven’t reached the tipping point where I could say “I am finally using my potential”.

      I just feel like a big truck with a little load at the back. But I believe it will come…. soon.

  • http://softwareprototyping.net John Clark

    Good post. It’s funny, even from the perspective of running a blog, I often have feelings of ‘who am I to tell the masses what to do’. But then, if I don’t put my writings up there, someone else might not have the chance to gain something from them.

    In a business way, it’s that expectation and the eagerness to succeed which nags at me most. I want my customers to find the entire transaction with my company as a positive thing, but nagging doubts always remain. Insecurity about my or my company’s abilities? Lack of confidence in my ability to deliver? Fear of failure? Check!

    That said, you quoted another source:

    “If you aren’t scared shitless then why bother?”

    Which concerns me – concern, mild anxiety, a willingness to do better and to succeed and a fear of failure is one thing, being something that generates a buzz and desire to succeed, but being scared shitless in my mind would be a totally paralysing situation – and I think that quote needs to be questioned…
    .-= John Clark’s latest blog post: Distracted by Shiny Things =-.

    • http://softwareprototyping.net John Clark

      * of course, by ‘masses’ I really mean the three regular readers, excluding spiders and bots, that my blog appears to have… :-)
      .-= John Clark’s latest blog post: Distracted by Shiny Things =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      I put that quote in there because I like the general sentiment. You should not just be pushing yourself, but pushing yourself into places you’re really uncomfortable, because that’s when you’re really learning and growing.

      But I see your point too, and I agree it’s stated a bit extreme, and if taken absolutely literally it’s probably an unhealthy state to stay in.

  • AAG

    I’ve always had this type of feeling when anyone is talking about “how good” I am at X thing.

    Great Post!

  • http://cubeantics.com Robert

    I feel that way every day at work… of course, it’s probably because I’m actually stupid (and I have the grades to prove it) :P

    Seriously though, I like Andy’s quote

    If I don’t feel like a fraud at least once a day then I’m not reaching far enough.

    I think this is especially true in programming. If you immerse yourself in familiarity, you’ll never grow as a developer.

    Thanks for the post, it was a great way to start the week.
    .-= Robert’s latest blog post: Sending Email in ASP .NET =-.

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  • shan

    thank you for writing this. makes so much sense. I’ve learnt something about myself today. thank you

  • billdotd

    This is a great post and it pretty much sums up my sense of self right now. It’s interesting because I am not an entrepreneur but an employee in a Fortune 500 company – and I feel much the same. My role in the company often gets me labeled as the “expert” or “guru” and it makes me cringe…

    It also reminds me of a comment my dad made when he was in his 50′s. He said he still didn’t feel like a “real” grown up – despite a TON of life experience.

    This one is bookmarked!

  • http://www.robcaldwell.wordpress.com Rob Caldwell

    This post makes me wonder…is there a middle ground? For me, I think that is the case. I think that I have some of the attributes and thoughts of people who sit on both sides. Or is that just a cover-up?
    Either way, good job getting me to think more about this.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Great question, and yes I think there is a middle-ground. In fact, I believe I’m there right now:

      1. On some of these points (e.g. “expert on peer code review”) I finally feel (not just “know”) that I am indeed the expert.

      2. Having gone through that cycle, I can more quickly identify when I’m unfairly feeling down on myself about things. It doesn’t change the emotion but it certainly changes what I do day-to-day. That in itself has a sort of affirmation effect that I think does sway the emotions a little.

      3. I’m more comfortable saying to myself, “You’re right, you’re not the best pianist ever, in fact not even nearly as good as the guy at the bar down the street. But then again, you don’t have to be! You just have to enjoy it for yourself.” I know that statement sounds obvious, but it’s related to all this. In short: Sometimes “being the best” isn’t important anyway! Rarely, in fact.

  • http://bizbrain.tumblr.com Elmer

    There is increasing evidence that entrepreneurship and any aggressive business behavior is driven by a shortage of the feel good brain neurotransmitter dopamine. It’s like an addiction.

    Doing these things “lights up” the brain and feels REAL good – at the time. After however, there is a hangover feeling.

    The problem is that this deficit can never be cured so there is a, realistic, feeling of disconnect between behavior and the emotional needs. Plus, the behavior just makes the craving for excitement, new deals, etc greater.

    In a way this behavior is false, since it is compulsive and impulsive and not driven by the realities of the circumstances but the brain’s cravings. This kind of behavior usually distances the actor from other people and “themselves.” Trust the contrary feelings.

    This is one of the reasons why following your “passions” may be a very bad idea.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Thanks for this interesting and I think accurate perspective.

      Also I like how you challenge “follow your passion.” It’s not that the concept is always wrong of course, but thanks for putting it into broader perspective.

  • http://misohungrynow.blogspot.com Jennie Chen

    It is so common in PhD students that there are seminars just on imposter syndrome.

    However, while one with imposter syndrome might doubt the title “expert” in themselves, it’s my belief that real experts in a field never call themselves an “expert.” Real experts are still always learning from others.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Touche! So true about self-aggrandizement.

      Still, when you’re using your clout and expertise as a reason to hire you as a consultant or speaker, or as a reason to buy software from your company, surely you’d agree that you need to puff your feathers a bit?

      But thanks for reminding us to temper that with humility.

      • http://karmajunkie.com karmajunkie

        The word “expert”, to me, is like any other nickname–its ok as long as someone else is the one giving it to you!

        Great article–when I read it, it was like a big weight being taken off my shoulders (SOMEBODY ELSE KNOWS HOW I FEEL!!!)

  • http://thinkbohemian.com Richard Schneeman

    I was just talking to my girlfriend last night about how i still feel like I’m an irresponsible 16 year old, even though I have a respectable engineering job and just bought a house. It almost seems like I accidentally got where I am in life. Maybe sitting down and appreciating where i’ve come from every once in awhile could help, but that feeling of “One Day I Can Make Something of Myself” pushes me further and harder every day…

  • brian piercy

    Man, did this EVER hit the spot.

    No wonder I feel like this.

  • http://www.chrobotics.com Caleb Chamberlain

    Describes me perfectly – I’ve felt like an “imposter” both as a graduate student and an entrepreneur. Good to know I’m not the only one…

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  • Matthew Kosterman

    Interesting reflections. I’m no therapist either, but many of the behaviors described could also be attributed to or manifestations of the affliction of co-dependence.

    As an entrepreneur and a co-dependent, I speak from experience. ;-)

  • http://www.helenthornber.com Helen Thornber

    I can really identify those feelings… two years ago I was in a company achieving far beyond the expectations of anyone my age. I got a senior job at 23 that previously the youngest person in an equivalent role had been 27 and he was constantly referred to as one of the stars of the company (one of the largest employers in the UK). I constantly hit targets and worked my socks off. My colleagues respected me and my opinion. Yet I constantly questioned myself because I didn’t have any formal education in business or management. I was waiting to be ‘found out’ even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

    Unfortunately there was a huge management change and restructure. I was severely bullied and ended up taking the “escape-hatch” to a less demanding job. With my self-esteem and confidence in tatters the constructive traits became destructive.

    Over a year on and I’m starting to recover from after effects the bullying but now I find myself in a job that isn’t challenging me as much as it should be. I’m the only person doing my job in the organisation so I lack competition. The levels of responsibility are relatively low. Yet even in this case I feel like a fraud.

    Having experienced both sides I think feeling like a fraud can be a positive and motivating thing when you are experiencing success and want to continue to challenge yourself and grow. I look forward to the day I’m back in a role, or indeed working for myself, and feel like a proper fraud once again!
    .-= Helen Thornber’s latest blog post: Nothing to report =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Thanks for sharing all these details. Fortunately it sounds like you’re coming out the other end of this with a renewed sense of yourself and what you want in life. Next time around you’ll certainly be aware of all this from the start, and you’ll make the best choice for yourself.

  • Alan Christensen

    Very thought provoking post! I think we all have doubts in one or another throughout our life. I think the major component that is missing in this whole discussion is fear! Fear of the unknow, fear of failure etc. Once we overcome our fears, in vaious forms, we can push through and move forward!

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  • http://www.volpet.com Giammarco Schisani

    Really an interesting topic, Jason. It’s nice to discover that feeling like a fraud might actually be normal.

    Startup founders are very often “out there” alone. There’s is always people that negatively criticise your work, and then there is also yourself, criticizing and doubting yourself.

    It’s important to recognize that this type of feeling is actually normal. I guess feeling “fraud” could be something that distinguishes a good entrepreneur from the rest. The one feeling fraud, will constantly try ensuring that his business really adds value.
    .-= Giammarco Schisani’s latest blog post: How to compare two tables =-.

  • http://sophiashouse.wordpress.com/ Anonymous

    Great article Jason. I’m a coach and I work with many entrepreneurs and other professionals who get tripped up and held back by the Imposter Syndrome. I look at Imposter Syndrome not as a stand-alone pattern, but as one expression of a fearful, anxious inner critic voice which shows up in many areas of our lives.

    Here are some tools that I’ve found are really helpful in reducing the negative impact of this voice.

    1. Getting to Know Your Inner Critic: Spend a little time getting to know your inner critic. When does it show up? What does it say? What are its frequently used lines? Also notice if its voice mimics an influential person from some point in your life.
    2. Creating a Character: Its a fun and useful exercise to give your internal critic a name and create a character that captures its spirit. For example, “Perfectionista” (the voice of perfectionism), or the Wicked Witch, or the skeptical professor… This trains us to put more distance between ourselves and that voice.
    3. Simply recognizing Your Critic When It Shows Up. As so many comments have pointed out, just seeing this pattern makes a tremendous difference. Instead of identifying with your inner critic’s narrative, observe it, and label it for what it is. If you’ve named your inner critic voice, you can say, “Okay, the wicked witch (or whatever your critic’s name is) is showing up here and saying…”
    4. Compassionately seeing the inner critic’s misguided intentions. Usually the inner critic voice, as its core, is coming from an attempt to keep ourselves safe from any risk, criticism, embarrassment or vulnerability. It is attuned to risk but not to reward. When the inner critic comes up, we can acknowledge its intent to keep us safe, and say, in some form, “Thanks so much, but I don’t need you right now.”
    5. Laugh! If your inner critic is like most, it is adorably panicky, unbelievably repetitive, persistent, and often irrational. What would it be like to take all its chatter lightly? Note it, laugh it off, refocus on your vision, and move on. Notice what is hilarious and absurd about your inner critic.
    .-= ‘s latest blog post: Four Questions. Is It That Simple? =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      This is terrific, thanks!

      It hit home when you asked whether this critic is someone from your life. Yes. Yes, it is. Great insight.

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com Mark Essel

    Is it me or is there a definite connection between cogsci/mind and startups?

    Another great post Jason, thanks for an great introspective post on why we continually tear apart the image that others perceive of us. Some of who and what we are ties into beliefs and meaning, so it’s non trivial to dig into the causes. Glad to see there’s a communal, startup self help community though ;).
    .-= Mark Essel’s latest blog post: Javascript Twitter Realtime Search Widget =-.

  • Maximilian

    Wow… that checklist is scary. Count me in on all of those. That was a serious case of “Oh thank god, I’m not the only one.”

    I’m honestly going to sleep better tonight. Thanks.

  • http://www.ppcsoft.com/blog Atle Iversen

    I think a lot of people have experienced this – if you stop thinking that “everything must be perfect” and that you need to “be the best of the best” you might accept that at least you’re not too bad…

    Well, it could be worse; you could be “unskilled and unaware of it” instead of “unskilled and aware of it” ;-)

    http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1059538
    (link to paper and follow-up in the post – recommended)
    .-= Atle Iversen’s latest blog post: Price, service, features =-.

  • http://www.voyagemontreal.info Voyage Montreal

    That post really makes you think about yourself for a minute!

    Good shot :)

  • http://www.harrisonis.com Jason

    Great post!

    I’ll be 40 in March, have 3 kids, and have been self-employed for almost 10 years, and yet I’m constantly wondering when I’m going to grow up! I look around and think everyone else has their act together and wonder when I will. I’ve even considered getting a degree as a solution to this problem. It’s clear from this post that I’m normal, won’t “solve” this with a degree, and just need to keep improving every day.

    I just need to work harder to stay on the first list.

    Thanks for a very timely post.

  • dror

    “complement” or “compliment” ?

    Back in my ISP days we were looking for a slogan, and someone suggested “We suck less.”

    The basic assumption was that all ISPs suck but we’re better than most and therefor suck less.
    While obviously factious, it represents an important way to think about this issue that avoids the “I’m a fraud” trap.

    Yes, if you’re an entrepreneur you have high expectations from yourself, and yes, you know in detail all the ways that your code is buggy, your company is badly run and you can do better.
    But, rather than compare yourself to an ideal company, compare yourself to other companies in your fields and all of a sudden things look a lot brighter. Most companies, either startups or established ones are badly run, their code is worse than yours, their QA, documentation, etc are worse than yours, and when you look at their products, you wonder how they stay in business.

    That’s not to say that you should lower your standards, it’s more that you need to be realistic and fair in evaluating yourself and your company.

  • http://www.annaliviaford.com Annalivia

    Oh my God. Yes yes yes. Also….yes.

  • http://www.eventful-occasions.net Angela

    Wow – you are so right on. Thanks so much for posting! I finally had the courage this past June to start my own business, and even though everyone around me is so complimentary I can’t tell you how often I feel like a gigantic failure. Of course, I realize this is ridiculous and keep pushing forward – working harder every day at networking, learning more about my industry, taking classes & seminars, looking for ways to continuously improve my service – all so I can prove to myself (rather than everyone else) that I actually DO know what I’m doing!

  • http://www.corporatepreneur.com Dale

    Thanks Jason, wonderful post. The funny thing was I just had a conversation with my sister about this subject. She’s a budding photographer who’s phone is ringing off the hook with customers interested in her services, but she feels exactly the same way you do. I’m hoping your post will inspire her!
    .-= Dale’s latest blog post: Learn small, profit big =-.

  • http://www.sifry.com/alerts/ David Sifry

    Great post, definitely what I needed to read today. Thanks.
    .-= David Sifry’s latest blog post: Great Kids Afternoon Project: Claymation! =-.

  • http://scratchback.org Nicholas Baroni

    chocked full of great quotes. as lonely and personally challenging the road of entrepreneurship can be, articles like this really help bring things into perspective. nice post.

  • http://blackbeltguide.com/ Marc Winitz

    Regarding your first few paragraphs, I’d just say you were a good sales guy. Were you a fraud? Unless you willfully mislead others, which I doubt you did, it seems like you needed to do what had to be done to get yourself/company to the next level. I think technical entrepreneurs struggle with this more than they need to. Nothing is perfect and quite frankly perfect is over rated. Just ask Microsoft, they aren’t and they are ridiculously successful. I also think the term “expert” is now woefully misused. Most real experts don’t use the term to describe themselves, and those that do likely aren’t. And more importantly, you don’t have to be an expert to do something that provides value to someone else.

    One more thing – I came across your blog about 5-6 weeks ago and it is outstanding. I come back to yours time and again during the creation of a new blog and it has been immeasurably helpful to me, so thank you. I agree with how you measure quality – comments to the posts – and your blog shows this due to the quality of what you are producing. I view you as an expert.
    .-= Marc Winitz’s latest blog post: Welcome to My Digital Dojo =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Thanks for the kind words!

      I understand what you’re saying about being a good salesperson — not lying of course but taking the usual liberties in exaggerating the good side and selling the future. That part about it didn’t bother me.

      It wasn’t the product so much as it was myself. That is, it’s one thing to focus on the good stuff, but it’s another to have a deep-seated feeling that you’re not good enough as a person, that you have no business even attempting this, etc..

      I agree with you of course that it’s illogical, but such are the ways of emotions I’ve found. Agreed also on the abuse of the word “expert.” Shame…

      • http://blackbeltguide.com/ Marc Winitz

        Yes I know. Perhaps a better way of saying this is that other than your mom and your significant other, most people, certainly potential customers you are just starting to communicate, won’t give a rat’s a** about you, your product or your expertise. That’s tough, but it’s also fine because that is life. So the important takeaway here is that the playing field you are up against (just like all other entrepreneurs) is a level one. So decide (as you did) to not worry about it and get done what needs to get done. The process of feelings you described is evolutionary but as I am sure you will tell others as you have gone before, most people feel this way. If you don’t tell yourself your good enough, no one else will notice or care. So once again it’s all on you – the life of an entrepreneur!
        .-= Marc Winitz’s latest blog post: Welcome to My Digital Dojo =-.

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  • http://qtp.blogspot.com Sachin

    ha ha I can’t believe that its all me

  • http://twitter.com/chriswaldron Chris Waldron

    Another important factor to discuss is how your first employees view you. As a founder people look to you for the vision. How you portray yourself to others can attract people to your vision and make it easier to build the company with them.

    Taking a company from idea to product/market fit is tough. It’s even tougher adding 10 employees if you don’t have a good balance of confidence and humility.
    .-= Chris Waldron’s latest blog post: chriswaldron: @chriscantore saw the official lineup. All those but jay-z =-.

  • http://tabbles.net Andrea D’Intino

    Simply amazing.

    Socrates: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”
    Steve Jobs: “Stay hungry, stay foolish”

    tweeting it right now…

  • http://murkygrey.com Avi

    Good to know there’s a name for it, thanks for the post.

    Now, I wonder if real impostors suffer from impostor syndrome, as in: “I’m not a real con artist! Ponzy, Abagnale, Madoff, now those guys were for real, but me? I’m just a fraud…”

  • Teresa

    Fun and enjoyable post! I still cringe when customers say I am the “expert” but I guess an expert is someone who knows more and the little more I know seems like a lot? I also thought I could never do sales but I learned there are different styles of selling. It’s not as impossible as I imagined.

  • Axeman

    Wow this post has sent chills down my spine. This couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. I guess that little voice inside you can either make you or break you. You just have to learn to embrace it!

  • Sherille

    Thanks for this post, Jason! It really hit home. I’m bookmarking it so that I can read it the next time I have a low (I mean no) self-confidence moment.

  • http://www.pointbrakedesign.com Ann

    Wow. Yeah, you’re definitely not alone. Keep up the great work.

  • Dan

    Heartening post. I wonder if it takes the cred. of being a successful entrepreneur not to fear posting something like this will ruin your reputation.

  • http://www.onearmedgraphics.com Robbie MacGillivray

    The fact that you are willing to communicate an honest concept to an audience, yet remain ready to adapt to criticism (even if internal) makes you very much anti-fraudulent.

    I think you are walking the right path if you can carry your life experiences with the respect they deserve, remain open to new ones, communicate from an unselfish basis and listen to a new point of view without resistance, present your knowledge with humility, humbleness and without ego.

    I’m not saying it’s an easy path, and we should all find our own way, but it sure is fun when our paths intersect :)

  • http://adhack.com James

    Great post and great comments to augment the post.

    1 nit to pick without becoming simply the critic. ‘Flounder’ is a fish. ‘Founder’ is, ironically, to struggle.
    .-= James’s latest blog post: Making of An Elder Culture =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Really? Webster’s dictionary lists the fish as the 2nd definition of Flounder and the way I used it as the 1st definition. It has your definition of founder too, but flounder isn’t wrong.

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  • http://slash7.com Amy

    Hi Jason,

    Great essay! I was just talking about this topic today with a new friend over brunch. (She sent me the link before I found it myself, and I’m a regular reader :)

    One thought I’d like to contribute from the self-improvement side of things — there’s a couple great books by Steve Stosny, the better-produced of which is about resentment in relationships, but worth reading for everyone in my opinion. But the core of his argument is the same in both books:

    Bad feelings are meant to motivate positive action. When you feel bad, your psychological & neurochemical systems are trying to tell you: get closer, improve something, connect with somebody who’s good for you, reach out, and appreciate what & who is around you.

    When I read this justification of his, I nearly shat a brick. That explains so much about human behavior, at such a low level of operation.

    Of course, the reaction many people have to bad feelings — including that they’re imposters — is to avoid them.

    You intuitively profiled both the “it’s a message to do something positive” interpretation of the bad imposter feeling, and the sadly more tyipcal “omgz run away” misinterpretation with your examples.

    I thought you might like to hear about “the logic” underlying it. :)
    .-= Amy’s latest blog post: Pimp your JS Workflow & more =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      That’s fascinating; thanks for taking the time to share it. Whether or not bad feelings are “built” that way, that’s the right way to use them.

  • http://www.lyon-depannage-informatique.fr depannage informatique lyon

    really nice post jason
    .-= depannage informatique lyon’s latest blog post: PC =-.

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  • Lidia

    I just wanna say I do think you’re an expert in peer code review Jason, though I know you’ll keep on doubting that:), and Mike Meyers is even cooler when doubting he’s cool. Thanks for a good post.

  • Jocelyn

    Thank you for the post. It is typically when I am stretching myself that I feel like this. You captured it perfectly.

    Nothing like a little fear as a motivator.

  • Brian

    Thank you for this thought provoking post. It’s great to know that I’m not alone and there is even a label for the “someday I’ll grow up and get by shit together” thoughts and feelings. From now on I’ll be hearing those negative thoughts in a Wicked Witch voice.

  • http://www.greyduck.com John Smart

    For me, it was the opposite… I was a new consultant asking for help on writing a proposal and my manager didn’t have anything constructive for me and kind of shrugged, and I thought “$&@* you have no idea what you’re doing either!” It was possibly the most liberating moment of my business career.

  • Anonymous

    I was just googling and found this. You should post it or link it to an “empty nest” or mothering website. I absolutely love it, and it pertains to stay at home moms more than anyone I would think. I had three boys that adored me and thought I was perfect. They are grown now and while they still adore me, I can only think….. oh god, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Should I burn the steamy love letters to their dad when we were both 18? Should I confess to off-color or flirtatious emails to guy friends? Should I throw out journals that I kept? I wonder how many newly “rertired” people look back and suddenly think that they are fraud and it is too late to do it again. I sort of want a re-do, but I’m guessing I would feel the same way, no matter what I re-did. I look at my husband constantly and ask “Are we fuck ups?”…..Did you fuck up? Did I? I sort of can’t believe no one did.

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  • http://www.thoughtsonsoftware.net Lou

    Awesome awesome awesome. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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