The Mihir Chronicles

Beating The Big Imposter

February 10, 2023

Can curiosity help navigate imposter syndrome?

It occurred to me in 2022 that I grew up with mild imposter syndrome. It was a strange realization because I didn't think about it much. The occurrence of this idea started to compound, which led to frequent thinking of imposter syndrome.

Researchers define imposter syndrome as a feeling of fraud. This arises from a lack of confidence because individuals with imposter syndrome never feel good enough about their skills. The work feels cheated, and the feeling of getting caught never fades away. This feeling can be rooted in many factors, but importantly, it stems from having self-esteem or self-doubt.

Personally, I view this issue as rising from your upbringing. A few families support confidence while others do a poor job of building confidence for their kids. The confidence of an individual is as strong as its tribe. A tribal leader instills in its members to build self-esteem. The confidence must be balanced with humility because having overconfidence is not good either.

There are benefits to imposter syndrome. A healthy imposter syndrome can be good because it creates an environment for growth. When imposter syndrome disappears, it might mean you stopped learning. But a few are severely paralyzed by it.

For me, reading helped beat it.

I started seeing life as an opportunity to learn instead of beating myself up for not knowing enough and feeling like a fraud. I reconciled my personal issues by spending days reading books because I saw myself as a student. Reading turned out to be richer, nobler, and larger than I thought. Reading built my self-esteem and helped me avoid self-doubt.

Being a reader allows you to see yourself as a student. This is the most important step. When you are a student, acknowledge that you don’t know everything and that you’re here to learn. If you take on this mindset, imposter syndrome can’t survive in your head because it has nothing to grab onto. You’re not trying to fake a persona or maintain a certain image—instead, you’re motivated by curiosity. Treat your work as one big experiment—an opportunity to learn. Because in the end, that is what it is—life being one big experiment and curiosity being the key ingredient.

You can substitute reading with anything.

You can write. You don’t have to wait for adults to tell you how to write things; you can write anything. Start typing.

You can build. You don’t have to wait for adults to tell you how to make things; you can build anything. Start building.

You can paint. You don’t have to wait for someone to tell you how to paint; you can pick up the paintbrush and paint your first stroke. Start painting.

The act of doing causes imagination to flourish. All you have to do is put in the work. Work day by day over many years to build self-trust. CS Lewis had a saying that modern people doubt themselves too little and doubt what they do too much. The secret of the world is that learning is naturally the consequence of doing. This is the core truth of how the world operates.

You must enter the arena, throw punches at the big imposter until you knock the imposter down. And then enter the arena again, and again, and again. Over time, the practice of fighting the big imposter becomes natural. It never disappears, but with more practice, you'll know how to face imposter syndrome.

Don't let imposter syndrome bankrupt you from doing. If in doubt, take the first step because doubt kills more dreams than failures.

Knowledge is power. Learn new things to boost experience and build self-esteem. The universe rewards the brave. This will allow you to shrink down your big imposter into a small imposter.