Bullish Q&A: Imposter Syndrome? The One Secret That Will Change the Way You Look at Everyone


I am an environmental engineer and for the last couple of months, I have been having bouts of nausea when something highlights the massive gulf between my ambitions and ideals and the company’s. I am applying for jobs, using my network, applying for graduate school, and working on developing my coding and GIS skills. However, this job has completely destroyed my confidence and I feel like an impostor every time I apply somewhere. Where do I start to get my “balls” back and feel human again?


I have one secret for you that will change the way you look at everyone.

Everyone is insecure.

Or else they’re a psychopath.

Ignore the psychopaths for a moment. Everyone is insecure. At least about something. But plenty of people are just insecure in general. If people seem really confident, they’re often compensating for something, or emphasizing a strong area so you won’t notice the weak one. It’s definitely possible to be both arrogant and insecure. It’s actually very common. “Imposter Syndrome” is also endemic — especially, it seems, among women. Men and women in our culture seem to — sometimes, as a broad generality — express insecurity differently. But it’s there.

Even if a person isn’t terribly insecure, view them as though they are. After all, you can’t know. Have a little compassion for all the insecure people.

Think about this every time you apply for a job: the other applicants are insecure.

Think about this when you go to the interview: the interviewer is insecure.

Think about this when a jerk hits on you in a bar and won’t get lost: he’s insecure.

Insecurity actually explains a lot of people’s actions. When you realize that everyone is insecure, the world makes a lot more sense.

So carry that with you. And then keep doing what you’re doing. Sometimes you have to ask 100 times to get one yes, and that’s fine.

If you feel like you’re coming across poorly in interviews, pay for professional help. Your interview performance is probably more important than your actual degree in whether you get hired, so it’s worth a few hundred dollars.

Keep pushing forward. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, but it will get better. Take the long view. Keep doing the right things. Keep asking. Keep learning.

But really, try it: go out tomorrow and buy a bagel. Do normal stuff. Act as though everyone you meet is insecure. Isn’t that a different world to live in? That’s actually the way pickup artists view women. But the difference is that you’re going to use your knowledge for good and not evil.