There’s this thing that really smart people do to themselves, where they convince themselves that they’re not as good as their peers and that their success really comes down to luck and faking it.
This feeling is called Imposter’s Syndrome. It’s particularly rampant in the geek/hacker world, where intelligence of all kind is revered, genius coding is idolized, and famous genius coders have reputations for being insult-spewing dudes who don’t suffer fools kindly (think: young Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg in the movie “The Social Network”, or Linus Torvalds’ famous rants).
Many tech professionals are working themselves into the ground, feeling that in order to keep up the facade of being smart and skilled, they need to worker longer and harder.
So, here’s an interesting insight: Even some of the most successful people suffer from Impostor’s Syndrome. Since we first reported on the rampage of Imposter Syndrome in the tech industry, we’ve noticed more brave souls going public about their own battle.
On Thursday during a Reddit AMA, another brave soul confessed: author and YouTube star John Green.
Green is the author of best-selling novels “Looking for Alaska,” “Paper Towns” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” (“The Fault” was beautifully written and filled with memorable lines like this one: “‘As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”)
Green is also known for his mega popular vlogbrothers YouTube channel with his brother Hank, and his educational video channels Crash Course,and Mental Floss. All told, the Greens have a following of 10 million people across all their channels.
This guy has Imposter’s Syndrome? Yup.
When a recent grad student asked him if he ever had writer’s block and worried that he’d never write again, Green replied:
I mean I haven’t published a novel for three and a half years, so….yeah.
I feel this way all the time. People often use the phrase “literally the worst” colloquially, but I have on countless occasions felt that I am literally the worst writer on Earth, and that I am a complete fraud. I feel like a fraud all the time, and I still don’t feel like I know how to write a novel, and at this point I doubt I ever will.
The only way through it for me is to take pleasure in the process of writing, or to find value in it. Even when I suck. Even when there’s no way anything I’m writing will ever see the light of day. The act of trying to write for an audience must feel valuable in and of itself, or else I am doomed.
As another Imposter’s Syndrome sufferer once advised: The trick to making these terrifying feelings of insecurity go away, even temporarily, is to talk about it and discover you are not alone.
Which means if we’re all really “faking” our way to success, maybe even greatness, how fake can we really be?