The Imposter Syndrome

I noticed the first signs of the impostor syndrome towards the end of the ninth grade. It was the end of the academic year, and I had ranked #1 in class like every year before that. Yet this year was different. At fourteen, I was learning that everything happened for a reason, but I couldn’t find the reason I did better than other bright, hardworking students of class IX B, FAPS, Bangalore. The question was important; the answer was not so much. Things continued to work as expected.

In those simple days, life’s goals were well defined. All my father expected was to see his daughter rank #1 in class. Unfortunately, pretty soon, my father’s hopes were no longer as clearly defined, and neither were my goals. I meandered through the acceptable, safe journey (CS engineering, software developer, MBA), and like every freshly minted MBA graduate, I figured that one must work backwards from ambitious goals, often set way out into the future. These goals were inevitably based on peer-influenced fancy, trendy or financially attractive ideas.

This style of goal setting fell apart pretty soon. It did not offer any guiding light in the dark hours of disillusionment (with venture capital in India) or when waking up to keyword arbitrage every day (for e-commerce marketing). So, I took some time off to do simple things again: I built websites, learnt new programming languages, wrote iOS apps, re-learnt the joys of writing software to solve problems, ran longer distances, and learnt to play squash.

For two years, I imagined that as long as I was doing what I loved, I’d get somewhere, right? Wrong. Doing what you love will not get you far unless you are good at it.

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