Jeremiah Rogers

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Imposter Syndrome

How I felt this morning. Shanghai, China. May, 2014.

Part of what makes this site good is the travel advice, part is the photography, but a big part is the honesty.

I woke up this morning feeling like a fraud. This site is my baby, I like to watch it grow. Over the past week it’s been growing like a weed in the sun. One of my recent essays has about 50,000 views.

The feelings that hit me are:

  • What makes me think I can write something 50,000 people would want to read?
  • What makes me think I can write something again that another 50,000 people would want to read?
  • What makes me think that my writing and photography could ever support my lifestyle?

It’s the first time this feeling has hit me strongly, but it’s called the imposter syndrome:

“The impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.” Wikipedia.

I’ve been aware of imposter syndrom since my first meeting when I started at Facebook. My boss brought it up and told me to immediately dismiss it.

Why? Beause the imposter syndrome is insidious. There’s no way to disprove it. It keeps you from shipping. It fills you with self doubt. It makes you afraid. It prevents good things from being made.

Here are my responses to my internal critics:

  • What makes me think I can write something 50,000 people would want to read? I did. The numbers don’t lie.
  • What makes me think I can write something again that another 50,000 people would want to read? I don’t need to.
  • What makes me think that my writing and photography could ever support my lifestyle? I’ll take that day at a time.
  • Why do I feel this way? There’s a solid chance that any emotions I feel are normal and experienced by everyone in the same situation.

I’m not going to live in fear that the next thing I write won’t be as good as the last. I’m not hold off on publishing things that might not be recieved well. Success and failure are remarkably unpredictable.

You might find, just as I have, that as I get better at things my taste outdoes my skills. I know that I’m not creating things to my own internal standards. This is totally normal.

Past success is a sunk cost. Published work is a sunk cost. Failed work is a sunk cost. As far as I can tell the only way to keep producing things is blind disregard for the past, an embrace of failure, and a sharp focus on continued iteration.

I know a lot of brilliant people who live in total fear of publishing their work. There are many people who are much better writers than I am who just don’t put themselves out there. Lack of fear turns out to be a competitive advantage.