Impostor Syndrome

I had enrolled myself in a live project to develop a hospital management system during my first year of computer science engineering. I had to work on the patient repository module for the hospital, which would accept patient’s date of birth as an input and show his or her age in years, months and days as the output. 

I wrote a long piece of code for this with my very limited understanding of programming languages. It was essentially just a very large sequence of nested if-else statements. I tested it rigorously to include odd and even months, leap years and whatnot. It was not the smartest piece of code that I ever wrote, but it worked. Always. 

When my project lead saw my code, he asked me why I didn’t use any libraries in it. I told him “because I’m still learning and I wasn’t aware of the library you’re talking about”. My code was rejected and I was fired from the project. 

I was never able to get over it. 

I went on to do well in college — I got in the merit list and I got a job in a very good company. But I never felt confident about my code again and I switched careers to a non-tech role the first chance I got. 

Some sixteen years later, I told this story to a friend, that I got fired from the project for not using a library. He smiled at me, almost hiding his disappointment, and said “so you basically wrote a library yourself!”

I’ve suffered, literally, due to impostor syndrome in workplaces, in academics and even in personal relationships. I still struggle with it often — with a persistent fear of failure and of coming across as a ‘fake’. I would apply for jobs and not get interviews and I used to wonder “how did I get so far if I’m not even able to score an interview for this role?”

I thought I was a misfit in my business school for about half of the course and seriously considered dropping off, save for my wife who encouraged me to keep going. If it was at a workplace, I would have been gaslit to mediocrity. 

My suggestion, if you think you (too) have impostor syndrome, is that you start aiming higher. Try for a higher role, ask for a bigger raise, go for an A+. If you have it in you to get somewhere, only you can stop yourself from getting there.

And don’t let any motherfucker tell you that you didn’t use the library. You wrote the damn library.


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