A less superhuman month

It’s been just over a month since Abadesi led me and a few coworkers through a helpful workshop deconstructing impostor syndrome — introducing us to the model used by Dr. Valerie Young, and asking us each to frame an accountability statement that we could check on in the future to see whether we’re moving forward.

I thought I’d share what I learned and how I’m doing at the one month mark.

Dr. Young’s research separates out five underlying patterns that can trigger the feelings of impostor syndrome:

  • The perfectionist sets unattainable goals for themselves, leading to inevitable failure and subsequent self-doubt.
  • The natural genius has had things “come naturally” to them and so questions their competence if ever they struggle, as they often hold a fixed mindset towards their ability.
  • The soloist treats asking for help as a sign of weakness, and can often procrastinate until forced to share at the last minute.
  • The superhuman forces themselves to work harder than everyone else around them, in order to make up for the shortcomings they perceive — this can also take the form of saying “yes” when already overloaded.
  • The expert won’t feel confident unless they feel they know everything about a particular area — the quest for which becomes a futile struggle.

For me, these all ring true to an extent, but I felt I identified most with the superhuman. I’ve definitely been called out in the past for not saying “no” enough, then working excessive hours and setting a poor example for my teams by responding to messages in the dead of the night.

My accountability statement was to then use two of the suggested tools to avoid taking on too much and thus triggering this tendency in myself: to perfect the art of the ask, and to be a work in progress.

How did it go? I’ve been trying to consciously delegate more, in particular by asking myself when I last remember delegating something, which has been helpful to build the habit. Accepting my work as a work in progress has been more difficult! I still catch myself mulling over my deliverables before passing them on. Taking a leaner view will probably help me reduce the extra hours I put in even further.

It’s also been interesting to reflect back on what I’ve written previously around calibrating my own expectations — clearly this is a tendency that I’ve grappled with before, and it’s useful to have new language to examine it with.

Ultimately, the measure that matters here is being able to internalize my successes, and as time goes on I find myself less enchanted by the “hustle” mentality. Time will tell if it ever disappears completely, but being better able to draw boundaries between my working days is a healthy place to start!

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Sean K. Gabriel

Sean K. Gabriel

Aloha (🤙。◕‿‿◕。)🤙 big on building teams & lean products. Thinking aloud with #weeknotes. More @ kaulana.com.