Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Anxiety is limiting my enjoyment of a wonderful career. Can you relate?
178 points by awaythrow15 on Mar 6, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 114 comments
Hey HN,

Here's the thing: I'm incredibly lucky. I'm working in a field I absolutely love (the intersection of technology and medicine), with a brilliant and compassionate group of people who I respect greatly, in an environment flowing in autonomy, doing work I find unbelievably interesting and impactful. There is nothing I would rather be doing, and (for the most part) no group of people I'd rather be doing it with. As someone who sought such a situation for a long time, that's not a statement I take lightly.

So what's the problem? Anxiety. So much anxiety. An onslaught of worry and fear, (quite literally) every minute of every day, all self-imposed and mostly centered on a fear of embarrassment. Do I know enough? Am I doing enough? What if I don't know the answer to that extremely basic question? How do I make sure that no one "finds me out"? Many imposter syndrome concerns: some of which are grounded in reality but none of which are helpful to me.

These thoughts fill up my mind in such a way that I don't have many brain cycles left for learning new ideas, solving problems or remembering details. (I have OCD, and these thoughts become obsessions that don't let up.) This creates a negative feedback loop: anxiety leads to decreased performance (in terms of learning/solving/remembering/accomplishing), which leads to anxiety about my performance, which further decreases my performance. As a result, I find myself becoming the imposter I'm trying to conceal, and am often unhappy.

Why am I writing this post? I'm seeking understanding, support, and related stories/situations. I'm not seeking a cure-all. I'm not seeking a pharmaceutical or therapeutic recommendation. Just support.

I'd love to hear from you all!

Used to be anxious, now I'm not. This stuff may or may not apply to you. Take it as one anecdotal experience.

First, are these in line?:

  * Sleep
  * Diet
  * Exercise
  * Meditation/relaxation time
Whenever I feel anxious now, I notice I've let one or more of those slide. Anxiety resolves when I fix them.

Second, I used to be anxious for the following reasons:

  * I was socially awkward with few friends.
  * I was bad at reading body language. 
  * I didn't have objective things I could point to that I had done that were unambiguously good.
  * My reasons for feeling good were all in one area.
Number 2 was a major cause of number 1. When I couldn't read people, I was always worried I'd do something wrong. This made me shy and awkward around people. This in turn made people less likely to want to hang around with me.

So I learned how to read body language. You don't have to live in fear of harsh reactions if you can read body language. You'll notice people broadcasting loudly "everything is fine, I think you're doing a good job" loud and clear. The odd occasions someone is displeased, you'll spot it a mile away. I can't emphasize this enough.

I used this to also fix any specific weaknesses that made me feel bad. So now I feel very comfortable with my life. I produced a bunch of stuff that everyone unambiguously agrees is good.

Finally, I made sure to put my efforts into a few areas. If work is going poorly this week, at least I lifted more at the gym, and vice-versa. Having your ego fulfilled from different areas prevents you from feeling bad if one goes south.

Hope that's useful.

Note: Advice of this calibre is all assuming that there's no issue that actually requires therapy/medication. I don't know much about those options. My experience was just garden variety anxiety that can affect any human being.

I know this is a bit off topic and a touch on the personal side(feel free to not answer) but I am curious how you taught yourself to read body language? Did you use books or trial and error, or??

The first step was learning to make eye contact. If you're not looking at people, you're not even getting the chance to read them. I just didn't look much at people for the first 21-22 years of my life.

I remember reading a bunch of articles about "how to make eye contact". I was on sites aimed at people with aspergers, as they're a niche most likely to actually need that kind of advice.

Then you practice. And occasionally get feedback from people. Everything will be awkward as first, but do something long enough and it becomes a habit. The feedback is important, so your new habit is actually a good one.

Then I read some books on body language, and I got this DVD by Paul Ekman about microexpressions. I've since read some stuff suggesting that may be bunk, but the DVD was still valuable because it showed me what a bunch of different expressions represented, and gave me feedback if I was correctly classifying them. (There's a big book of facial expression coding that lists expressions standard across cultures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facial_Action_Coding_System)

Then I combined the two. Talking to people, looking at them, and noticing their expressions. A bit one was looking for laugh lines by eyes. If someone is genuinely amused, their eyes will smile in a way that they won't if they're just mouthing a smile.


After that, it was just practice. Talk with people, pay attention, see if the results match what you thought. (For instance, if you thought someone enjoyed themselves, and then they want to hang out again, then you were probably right)

Over time, by paying attention, and using feedback to assess my judgments, I was able to build an intuition for reading people, one that I believe is quite accurate. People often are surprised that I know what they're thinking or when they're upset by something.

Most of the small annoyances of life melted away. A lot of interpersonal grief just evaporates if you can read the people you're dealing with, and respond appropriately. For instance, I have zero complaints about store personnel, in person. They're all wonderful! Over the phone, I can't see them, and stuff can still get frustrating.

It turns out that people usually aren't jerks. We just react in predictable ways to other people. So if you do something irritating, or ignore someone's discomfort, they'll get irritable. And then you'll get irritable.

But if you can spot the small signs, you can make adjustments, and everything goes smoothly. (To be clear, I'm talking about smoothing minor friction, not being a doormat. But minor frictions cause 80% of social grief!)


  1. Theory
  2. Trial and error
  3. Feedback
  4. Revision, repeat #2

I know this thread is long passed but I wanted to say thank you! I appreciate the depth of your response and I believe it will help others who have similar anxiety.


I would have never believed this, but after I started on a ketogenic diet I realized my stress/anxiety was greatly reduced. (Beware: antidote, n=1, etc).


I find the days I feel "too busy" (aka really just stressed) for a walk are the days I need it most. I seldom find a 45 min walk to be a waste of time in retrospect.

"* I was bad at reading body language."

This was such a huge issue for me. Being so observant, it's easy to judge someone based on body language and tone. Yes we can gain valuable information from this observation but we should not assume those observations are correct. I find it very easy to assume my assumptions are correct and this often creates situations where there are none.

Thanks for sharing.

Just curious, you mean you observe a lot of stuff, but judge it wrongly?

That's interesting. I wrote about my learning process in a comment on this thread. I always looked for real world feedback to assess my judgments, and over time was able to train my intuition to be more accurate.

I feel like I put meaning behind things I observe in people, when that meaning is not always necessarily there. I tend to see body language/tone and exaggerate their role in receiving communications. I am trying to not judge based solely on my assumptions and I think that real world feedback will absolutely help.

We have data now to support the sleep-stress relationship. Hope to publish that soon. Now sleep is the most important thing I do every day. Then exercise. Then work.

I know you said you're not seeking a therapeutic recommendation, but if you were my friend then I would buy you a beer and gently recommend seeing a therapist. I saw one for a year after I got divorced, and she was extremely helpful in teaching me how to get out of negative-feedback thought loops, which sounds like it might be useful for you, too. I was originally nervous about signing up for a lifetime of having someone be my emotional crutch. But my take on it now is: 1) Being a happy, fulfilled human is hard. 2) We are generally not good at it, and we don't have much time to get good at it. 3) If one person has a problem, ten million other people do too. 4) Many problems have genuine solutions, and those that don't almost always have approaches that are helpful.

It sounds like your anxiety is having a real negative impact on your life. If you had some physical ailment (say digestive issues or headaches) that were having such a negative impact, you would go to a doctor, yeah? It's the same deal.

Take care and good luck!

I do appreciate the suggestion, and I wholeheartedly agree that therapy can be a powerful tool. As can medication! I've had mixed success with both. I wanted to take that off the table for this particular discussion, as a thread filled with "seek professional help" didn't seem like it'd be a useful one for the community (or for me).

I disagree that it's not useful to the community. Seeing a lot of people recommend therapy, and a lot of people admit to getting it, can help remove the stigma and convince people to finally get help.

Keep in mind that confiding in and talking with close friends is a good form of therapy.

I have to object to this. Friends can be an invaluable support. But they are not professionals, and I've been on both sides of friendships where trying to use a friend as a pseudo-therapist strained the relationship too much. It's also far too easy to temporarily relieve the burden of an anxious mind by talking to a friend, but most friends are not trained—and are not good at—helping someone find concrete ways to overcome their anxieties.

Talking about your troubles isn't the same thing as facing them, and good therapists are all about making you stronger and more resilient. More capable of facing your fears when you don't have someone to lean on. This is a very, very valuable thing.

I didn't mean to imply an either-or. Sometimes the stigma of a mental health professional is too great a burden.

Not as good as talking to a therapist, who is trained to help with these kinds of issues and help teach their clients the skills that can help an individual overcome these issues on their own.

Definitely seconding this advice. A good therapist can make a world of difference.

I'm going to third the advice. Sorry, I know you said you didn't want a bunch of postings saying, "find a good therapist," but you are describing a painful problem, begging for help, then prohibiting mention of the help you most need.

If instead, you told us (truthfully!) that you were committed to hunting for and working with a good therapist and, in addition, wanted suggestions regarding additional things you could do, then fine. But you aren't doing that, making it seem as though the advice you need most is what you don't want to hear but still need to hear.

Your anxiety is probably just the way your brain tends to behave if unconstrained, the way some people crave dangerous adventure, others live to be outraged by political affronts, others are obsessive collectors of memorabilia, and so on. Tune the parameters of the brain a little this way or that, and you can get just about anything.

Your case is probably best dealt with by a professional who is skilled with cognitive-behavioral therapy. There are a lot of bad therapists, so keep looking for a good one, and do the exercises to provide some counterbalance to your brain's natural tendencies.

While doing that, give your self all the advantages you can by sleeping well, eating well, exercising, and frequently asking yourself questions that tend to move your mind in useful directions ("What are some things I can handle that flummox most people? Why is it that anxiety is so common among peak performers? What if I did get kicked out of the company like, say, Steve Jobs? Would that actually mean anything?" Etc.)

I used to have severe problems with anxiety -- unable to breathe or swallow, shooting pains in my neck, face completely numb, legs twitching and kicking around uncontrollably. It was absolute torture, but luckily the attacks wouldn't last too long, 10 minutes at most.

Started when I was 16. Tried therapists. Tried SRIs, but side effects negatively affected "normal" time so I stopped taking them. Tried to figure out environmental triggers, possible food allergies, etc., but to no avail.

Had my last attack about 10 years ago, when I was 26. They started tapering off in severity from 22 onwards, and I largely attribute that to how I was dealing with the attacks.

The first thing I would do is tell myself that I was having a fight or flight response and that the unpleasant effects were the result of adrenaline pumping through my veins.

I would assure myself that I was getting enough air, so I wouldn't fall into a cycle of hyperventilation. This was always the hardest part. I had to wrestle with my breathing continuously.

Over time, I became very sensitive to changes in my breathing patterns and would start working on breath control as soon as it became irregular. This one simple trick eventually stopped my anxiety issues altogether, and now psychologists hate me!

I can look back on this now as a very long period of forced mindfulness meditation. It's probably no coincidence that I had a lot of mystical experiences during this phase.

The key thing is I wasn't doing battle with a monster. I was killing its babies. In fact, if I was a therapist, I would advise all of my patients to kill the babies. You should kill the babies too!

Kill. The. Babies.

I've struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I used to approached it with a fight or flight relationship. As I shifted my ways of identifying with it, I was able to turn that fight/hostility into a gentle dance. From there I was able to start taking the small steps that would help me have better control of it. Start now, or do I let it manifest further for my future self?

Here are some things that have helped me:

  - Meditation / mindfulness
  - Good sleep hygiene
  - Understanding and reading about the condition
There are many more, I'm sure you're aware of them.

I'd be happy to talk with you about it more. You ARE talented, don't let the mind get to you (it will try). All the best!

Meditation/mindfulness and good sleep hygiene worked wonders for me too. As a grad student, I also suffered with anxiety due to imposter syndrome. Here is my shift in perception that helped me.

Stop taking yourself too seriously. Listen to the stories you tell yourself about you. When your mind tells you that you don't know anything, or how come you didn't achieve anything "significant" if you are so talented. Will you ever say this to your friend? Or to a child? Your relationship with yourself should never be worse than what you have with an acquaintance because you don't really know yourself. I was constantly surprised by myself when I started inspecting myself.

Start taking yourself just as a streched-out child. Life is too short anyways. Find the innocence that is there in you. No matter how many times you fail or succeed, you still love you.

> Stop taking yourself too seriously. Listen to the stories you tell yourself about you. When your mind tells you that you don't know anything, or how come you didn't achieve anything "significant" if you are so talented. Will you ever say this to your friend? Or to a child? Your relationship with yourself should never be worse than what you have with an acquaintance

Just posting to say I recognise a lot of myself in this, and your post struck me as very helpful. As a result I've already decided to change the things you talk about.

Sometimes, the trick is simply becoming aware of things. After that, you can work on them. Thank you for your post :)

I'm in total agreement here. The fight or flight response to anxiety feels really hard to overcome, but it is possible using these and other approaches.

Something else that I feel like I should mention is that if you're feeling overwhelmed, scheduling an appointment with a googled therapist near you to talk about anxiety is an awesome concrete action to take. In the heat of the moment, it can feel like admitting defeat (it's not). It's kind of a way of TDD'ing your view of yourself.

Do you actually mean 'googled'? Or is that a typo and means 'good'? Just curious since it could be both.

Thanks for your thoughts! It's great to hear from others who are experiencing these feelings, and I've also found meditation and sleep to be fundamental. The fight/flight response is a cool way of characterizing the difficulty of running away from and/or resisting these feelings.

As someone who has had that flight / flight response many times as a result of anxiety I think that poster was being literal, not figurative. Also, thank you for posting this; though I've come to learn to manage my condition with sleep, exercise and mindfulness meditation it's nice to see the other thoughts on the subject and see that many others are helped by the same things I've come to over many many years working on this on my own.

All good advice, but don't be afraid to try a medicinal remedy as well. I know people for whom Zoloft (frequently prescribed for anxiety) has worked wonders.


Meditation, CBT, a regular sleep pattern.

Hey let's face it. Why are you employed? You're employed to generate more value to a companies product. I assume you're working there for at least 3 months or so. I think the fact you're not fired at this very moment proves that you'll doing your job somewhat right.

Don't get me wrong i know your fears quite well, but the thing is sometimes you have to face realities. There is no easy way to deal with it but a thing i had to learn was that dedication an passion are far more valueable to a company than failure.

You seem to me like a guy who reflects a lot of his own actions. Think of Software Development. A bit of reflection can lead to some kick ass smart solutions but a lot of it causes performance issues. Same with your mind.

A thing which worked for me was to get intouch with my coworkers. Talk about work related issues, do code reviews and such things. That is a healthy way of validate whether or not you're performing well. You'd be surprised by the fact of how your coworkers realize your perfomance.

I can't give you any advice on how you could possibly accept that feedback, but maybe you could try if this and it will work out for you.

I'll hope this comment helps you in any way gaining more self confidence.

Rock on

I get anxious when I feel unprepared. It sounds like you feel unprepared to handle the task(s) at hand- this can be a very stressful situation. I've been there and I've supported others going through this as well.

The way I overcame it was to become prepared- I would start my day a few hours early, that kept my mind sharp and gave me plenty of time to start tackling problems ahead of everyone else. I also used my free time wisely to continue educating myself.

After 6 months of this, my comfort level improved tremendously- I went from being a complete novice that was way over his head to a very respected developer on the team. Stress absolutely kills my productivity so it was critical for me to understand the triggers that created it. Once I was confident in my skills and realized that struggling is a natural part of the learning process, my mental state improved dramatically.

I also want to mention that I have ADD. I need to force myself to focus on a single task or else I get overwhelmed. I also need to have headphones on to block our my surroundings (check out windy, sunny and thunderspace iOS apps). This give me the ability to have intense focus without all of the noise.

I am diagnosed with Pure-O OCD and can relate to the constant fear. It's terrible and difficult to explain to someone. It sucks and sometimes I had to go home from work because the ruminating overwhelmed. I've had coworkers notice that I seem very distracted and take it personally until I tell them what's going on. The fears ranged from being an imposter to various other health concerns that weren't related to work in the least.

I'm currently seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication for my OCD and have explained my conditions to my higher ups so they would have a better understanding. I also started seeing a cognitive behavioral psychiatrist who had me doing exposure therapy to reduce my fear response to triggering stimuli. I've had significant improvements since i've started treatment, and now each day doesn't feel like the end of the world, but I still have moments of deep panic from time to time that are more manageable. I know you aren't seeking medical help which I completely respect, but I hope knowing that you aren't alone helps in some way.

I also have a Pure-O diagnosis, and I totally know what you mean by having a hard time explaining it - it's such a painful conundrum. Glad that you're doing CBT - being able to catch those obsessions and let them dissipate by acknowledging them is super key to getting through it.

Glad you're seeing improvement!

1. Talk to your boss or other mentor-ish co-worker about your concerns. Make sure you specifically talk about these concerns; if it ends up being a performance meeting, they'll probably tell you you're doing great, like they probably already have.

Most people love to help when asked. Have one of those people connect you with people or resources that can fill in some knowledge, skill or experience gaps that you may identify. No one else needs to know about your concerns beyond that first person, if that's how you want it. Schedule the meeting right now.

2. Related to 1, when you're afraid of being found out for not knowing something, it's hard to ask for help. So make it a near term goal to eventually ask everyone you work with for help on something. Just something small is good enough, to get you used to doing this. You'll probably find that they don't think a thing about it, and will be glad to help. It also builds relationships. Successful people always ask for help.

3.It's hard to self-assess when you're broken. It sounds like you're temporarily broken. Temporarily. So have a discussion with your doctor, as a jumping off point. He may recommend any number of things, but he's clear-eyed at the moment and you're not. If you don't have a doctor, get one, or contact the most immediately available relevant health professional available. Do this today. Step away from the Hacker News and make an appointment with your doctor.

4. Have a nice weekend.

I have OCD tendencies and I have found it incredibly helpful to connect with others in similar situations. I feel almost exactly like you do on a regular basis. My automatic negative thoughts are a little different but the end result is the same.

If you are like me, you are an extremely considerate/observant person that puts the perceived needs of others consistently before your own.

I know it sounds stupid or crass but you just have to stop giving a fuck about what people think. You will absolutely never be able to control peoples thoughts, emotions or actions. You are where you are based on your own merits. No one gave you a handout. You stayed up late into nights, learning, coding and building.

Having OCD means that you are eccentric. We can't change that and we shouldn't have to. Sometimes we don't have filters and call things like we see them. That's ok. Often people react negatively and that's also ok. That doesn't mean they hate us forever. Non OCD people generally get over things relatively quickly. Don't worry about it.

This perspective in conjunction with counseling has helped me tremendously. I still get anxiety, sometimes really bad, but when I do, I usually know it's because I'm being dishonest with myself and feeding into negative automatic thoughts.

Much love to you, you're not alone.

I don't know what is the exact problem that I am having. What you said about being careful what others would think or do has always haunted in my head. That alienates me from other people and I know how hard it feels.when ever I have to face a new challenge I feel that I am not good enough and I even forget all the technical details of the projects I did, things I have learned. Now I am facing huge fear having to go to job interviews. I even forget words to describe what I have done in previous projects.

Once I was the brightest students in the School. But now I feel that I have no knowledge at all. I'm worried. I wish if something could rescue me.

Unfortunately, you must rescue yourself from yourself. You are not judging yourself on the same scale that you are using to judge everyone else. You are being critically harsh on yourself, holding yourself to standards that you don't expect from others. If you learned something once, you have proven something far more important than remembering the specifics of the problem. You have proven that you have the capability to think critically and solve a problem. That is far more valuable than remembering the nuances of some domain specific technologies. Stop comparing yourself to others and realize that you can be anything you want to be.

I have anxiety and I have quit 2 jobs when asked to assume tech lead role because the first 2 times I have taken on tech lead roles, I ended up in the hospital and started alienating my family due to depression, respectively.

I can handle the toughest sr. engineer assignment, but I can't handle the most basic tech lead stuff where responsibility for other people's work is involved. I have since learned to hold back my performance and excel just enough to keep my job, but not so much that I'll be considered for a "promotion" to tech lead or management.

I am just a programmer. I am content with that and aspire to be nothing more career-wise. I call myself a programmer despite the popular advice not to do so here. My life is better and I am happier that way.

I also have no aspirations to rise the corporate ladder. Pay goes up, maybe, but so do work hours and stress. Job stability goes down. Playfulness goes down. Free time goes down. Peon programming is where it's at. If I want more more, then I can freelance or start side projects and they'd likely both pay better and be a lot more fulfilling.

I had REALLY bad with anxiety, panic attacks and was suffering some depression too.

Without a doubt this book is the best help i have ever had!

Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear by Dr. Claire Weekes

i can absolutely relate.

i have OCD, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and generalized anxiety disorder. i love writing software, but i struggle every. single. day. i totally understand the negative feedback loop. i worry that my performance will suffer, it DOES suffer because i worry so much about it, etc etc. and then there are days like today where i come in to work in the middle of a manic episode and have a million ideas that i can't extract from my brain because it's racing too fast. under less distressed circumstances, i could write something more eloquent for you, but getting just a few sentences out is a victory at the moment. suffice to say: you are not alone.

I am in the same position. I am CTO of a startup in London. On paper, everything is wonderful. These past few months the company has quadrupled in size. We're in swanky offices. My commute is short - from the apartment that I own with my girlfriend who I love.

Anxiety is a constant demon hanging over me. I fell it every day. Not only that but feelings of deep self-loathing. Sometimes it paralyses me. I can't work for days on end, I can't face my colleagues. I go to the office, but am unproductive to the point of being entirely non-productive.

I make it up on other days, when I'm 'up'. But recently the periods of 'down' have been longer, harder, and seem unescapable. My up self is finding it harder to compensate.

I have to force myself to do the things I enjoy in my spare time. These days all I want to do when I get home is lose myself in pointless internet browsing. Imgur is a favourite - I'll swipe for hours through that dross.

I don't know where to go really. I've been in an ongoing battle with my mind since a severe bout of depression a few years ago. That unlocked a lot of stuff, and these days it's never as bad, but I'm aware of the fight every day, and it's exhausting.

I wish there was a way out, but there isn't. I'm going to be fighting this my entire life.

Are you getting enough sleep and exercise? Meditation? The brain is a muscle like any other.

Plenty. I am on a tight sleep schedule, I sleep well mostly. I run 80-100 km a week. I don't meditate. I tried Headspace for a week, but it didn't do much for me.

Might be time to talk to a CBT specialist. Think of it like physical therapy for the brain. It actually changes connectivity patterns.


80-100 km a week is far too much. You loose all your vital energy. You are exhausted, not relaxed.

Allow me to share some perspectives from a different frontline.

I'm a physician and co-founder of an IT company. I've practiced as a neurosurgeon for almost 15 years and earned an MBA from a prestigious school. I am fortunate to be able to indulge my creative fancies building a kick ass company and caring for patients. In short, I'm living the dream I envisioned in my mind years ago - and I still sometimes feel the way you do.

The imposter syndrome is commonplace amongst successful, motivated people. I've found worrying about failing is far more damaging than the actual "failure" itself. During those times you feel the onslaught of self-doubt, please remind yourself of the times in the past you felt exactly the same way (and also be sure to complete the thought process and acknowledge how you got past that feeling.) Something tells me you suffer from the same pattern of plateauing most folks who suffer from "imposter syndrome" do.

You will have things go incredibly well w minimal effort sometimes. Other times, you will make zero progress no matter how hard you try. Rarely you'll hit a sh-tstorm so bad you just want to crawl under a rock and hide (this is what it feels like to lose a patient BTW). You must accept that the only constant here is you and that your only option is to continue to work and develop yourself. I sometimes try to motivate my co-founder and CEO by invoking the Bhagavad- Gita (or watch the Legend of Bagger Vance which is an allegorical play on the same) - do not worry about the good or bad that may come of what you do, just focus on the doing.

You're not flawed or weak and you are certainly not an imposter. You belong where you are. Don't forget to listen to that other voice inside you.


I have anxiety disorder (it comes with depression too when I'm in the "phase"). I've been dealing with it by meds. And luckily, I have an awesome family & friends support. Those combination really helps. In addition to that, enough sleep is very important.

I'm still a junior developer and yes sometimes it's a hindrance but I'm always staying positive about it. I hope you do too.


Worrying about your competence to do the job more than your peers (who seem qualified to judge) is a good indication you're up to it. [1]

Self-confidence is higher amongst the ignorant, because they do not understand the size of the problem. A well-informed person knows nothing is as simple as it seems, so it's natural to worry. [2]

What will help you relax: be upfront to your team about what you don't know, or where you need help. The best trait a team member can have is self-knowledge.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect

I personally believe in not giving a crap. This puts things into perspective and I can focus. I get a lot done this way.

Here is the bottom line... you are going to die. You are going to die, and no one will remember or care after a short time. Then, the earth is going to crash into the sun some short time later. In fact, the entire cosmos is probably going to crunch back together in a blink or two. The human condition is absolutely 100% hopeless. But here you are...here, right now. This is what really matters. So take a deep breath. Don't sweat the little stuff. And in the end it's all little stuff. Little stuff that really isn't important and shouldn't steal your focus.

There was another thread about anxiety a while back, and someone mentioned how 'A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy' by William B. Irvine had helped them (http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Good-Life-Ancient-Stoic/dp/01953...). I'm about half way through it, and have to say it was a great recommendation.

Stoic philosophy aside, sleep (cutting back on caffeine), exercise and spending time with family and friends helps me.

My solution has been a healthy dose of being outward about my awkwardness/anxiety. In a meeting two days ago, the consultant wanted to shake hands and I had to warn them about the puddle they were going to encounter in that brief handshake. Afterwards, I let them know I would gladly donate my body if they found a way to harvest energy from anxious sweat. A good (albeit sometimes awkward) laugh is still a laugh.

When I feel bad about my performance, I try to look at my past achievements. I used to just do projects and disconnect once they had completed. Now, I have a small archive of pieces of code I can look at where I feel I genuinely improved as a programmer or had an 'aha' moment.

Recall, the intersection of technology and medicine fields is not simple. Both fields are expanding and adapting on a daily basis. The amount of expertise required just to hone a single skill (potentially extinct!) is a lifetime's achievement. Do you really believe you have already peaked and this is it? Believe me, there is so much more to come! Maybe you're not the all-knowing-expert-guru, but aren't you aspiring to reach that point?

Just relax. You'll be fine. Even if they found out, and it turns out you were an impostor, do you really believe you're going to get fired? You're already trained and in the field. You're being an impostor of what you're actually doing on a daily basis? Seems ridiculous.

Coming late to this thread but I wanted to add something that has really helped me. I have had general anxiety peppered with OCD for the past 10+ years of my life, about basically everything. It affected my work, my health and my self confidence.

I started seeing a hypnotherapist/NLP therapist, and one of the most useful things he told me was to stop beating myself up about my anxiety. The whole time I was blaming myself for and being hard on myself about how I was feeling, which was only making things worse. Instead, he explained that I was behaving the only way my brain knew how to behave given the tools and experiences I had had.

It sounds a bit like blame passing but it's not - there's no blaming other people. It's just accepting that you're no less 'normal' and you're not a bad, weak person or letting anxiety get to you. The anxious behaviour is a product of your environment and experiences, and somewhere in your life you learnt to react that way (more than likely subconsciously). This helped me a lot as it took away the additional pressure I was putting on myself to 'push through like a normal person', and the additional anxiety it caused.

It's also worth mentioning that sometimes anxiety can be caused by something else medical, e.g. thyroid problems, so it might be worth thinking about that too.

Good luck!

At work, we all actually joke openly about this and I think it helps to know that everybody feels that insecurity to some degree or other.

All week long you'll hear self-deprecating remarks like:

"Oops, I suppose that bug exposes me as the mediocre hack that I am, haha"

"...but unfortunately I forgot to uncomment that section, because I am a complete idiot..."

In a way it helps keep your confidence up, because you're modeling the behavior of confident people. (Joking openly about one's own shortcomings)

I like this. Sounds like you work with a handful of people with managable egos who don't feel threatened by one anothers' skill / competence. I personally would count myself lucky to have this environment as this is the exception to the rule for most workplaces.

Very much so, so much so we built technologies to help measure and manage the physiology of anxiety/stress. I found that my physiology is much more manageable when I sleep well and exercise. From the perspective of the body, the autonomic nervous system is stress/anxiety, sleep/relaxation, and exercise. They are all the same bodily, interconnected system. Meditation and naps and mindfulness exercises work. So does simple, calming breathing exercise. All are a skill like anything else.

I know I'll never change how I respond to social settings and large crowds, and both are intimately involved in my job as a founder, but the physiological and contextual data has helped me to realize that the effects are manageable. Those effects are often common and one reason alcohol is likely such a popular sedative. But alcohol affects how well I sleep and so I gave it up. Nothing is more important in my life now than getting a good night's sleep.

I'm a neuroscientist by training and was not taught much of anything about the physiology of fight-or-flight versus rest-and-relax during my Ph.D. It's an entire area of medicine untouched by modern science. If you saw the equivalent of a therapist in 1880, opium and cocaine were the Prozac and Ritalin of their time.

One thing I notice is that I can be basically ok one day, and the next day I suddenly have been feeling terrible all week. I have a pretty selective memory about how I felt yesterday--if today is bad, I feel like yesterday was too, even if it wasn't. When I think about that deliberately and carefully, I can sometimes tell whether the correct response is to hang on another day or hour until I feel better, or try to modify my situation.

You might also consider 'firing yourself' for a couple minutes a day. Just take a couple minutes and imagine that you've lost your job. Even walk out of the building. Nothing in there is your responsibility anymore. Observe how that makes you feel. See if you can use those feelings to identify your next move--my suspicion is that you won't actually want to quit, but you could very well discover one particular responsibility or situation that is causing a disproportionate amount of your stress.

Finally, it's ok when you feel paralyzed and can't do anything to make your situation better. Try not to beat yourself up more; instead, just notice everything you can about the situation and your feelings. There will be another time when you feel like you can do something, and the observations you make will guide you then.

I think I might know who you are. If I am right, you have a reason to be anxious. You are in a field filled with everyday geniuses left, right, and center. You can't even play in this sandbox unless your IQ is sky high.

But even fields full of geniuses need all types. Go to Youtube and rewatch the old black and white movie "Edison the Man" with Spencer Tracey. You will notice Edison getting some major good breaks from happy accidents involving his goofy cousin in charge of dealing with the press, and his slow-thinking but dedicated worker who shows him mistakes made in the lab. What I mean is, even if you are the slowest one on your team you may be like Hellman's mayo - maybe you bring out the best in other team mates.

Don't try to second guess fate. You are working in such a cutting edge area a goofy accident, mistake, or dumb remark may be just what is needed for your company to thrive. Maybe you are the secret sauce.

If you wake up and choose to play the innovation game another day, and keep going, you are "in the club". In the club of people who are trying to solve problems and build new things. It's the trying to improve this monkey world that is admirable. In the end we all die anyway. I commend your efforts to try. Keep going.

Any situation where work is more or less killing you is a good situation to not have to deal with it.

I can't speak to your case specifically, though it is basically impossible to hold up the world. Doing the best you can do is good, and if people are saying you are doing a good job (or not saying you aren't), that's a good thing.

It's important to take enough time to recharge and do other things than let work scenarios dominate, especially as some parties will extract all of your energy and never be satisfied there.

Dropping your guard can be a fine strategy, namely that it's easier to deal with politics or tech issues when you don't have things to defend. Because the right decisions are usually obvious and don't need defense.

There is an increasing trend in today's tech to be silent when someone agrees with something, I don't 100% understand it, but I wouldn't interpret that to mean something isn't right... it can often mean no one thought anything was wrong.

In any case, all software is barely held together. Any problems you have, the whole world is having in exactly the same way. It's a miracle any of that works, so don't sweat it too much and just try hard and it'll be ok.

I've struggled for the longest time with Impostor Syndrome. It is jarring to observe that the conditions for thriving are there but the mind keeps whispering that you are not good enough to achieve it.

The first impulse is to try to cheer yourself up by "thinking positive" reminding yourself of your achievements and attempting to bolster your self-esteem. You are setting up a trap for yourself in which small disappointments shatter your fragile self-image. You enter a vicious cycle of rebuilding/breaking your self-esteem that has a huge toll on your mental capacity, as you have already observed.

In the end, the only way out is to stop thinking about oneself. You understand that your self-image is illusory, then there is no self-image to damage. You are entitled to nothing except to experience life. Your true being becomes defined by something more essential than your work, your performance, your personal relationships and such.

Curiously, once you let go you will observe your capacity for enjoyment and performance greatly increases. You work because it brings pleasure and satisfaction, not because it brings admiration or success. Let go of expectations and plans and you will observe that things work out on their own.

Of course this does not happen overnight, everyone's path is different so it's difficult to say what will work out for you other than to be patient and accept your anxiety as part of a process of growth.

In my case keeping track of my mood and my habits helped tremendously:


In my experience, the best thing you can do for anxiety is to give yourself permission to have some guilt free fun once in a while. If you're constantly keeping your mind churning on work/career related stuff, you'll burn yourself out. I recommend taking a weekend to just do fun things and set aside everything else for a couple days. That always helps me come back refreshed and clear-minded.

Sorry you're going through this. It's a rough ride, and recognizing the loop doesn't make it any easier to break.

You mention not wanting a "cure all" but just support. I'd like to offer you my hypothesis that this is part of your problem. You should be looking for a cure, not a palliative. And there is a cure, but it is a difficult one (and not without its rewards).

What's the cure? Others have mentioned meditation, and I second that. Meditation acts as a kind of "off" button for incessant thoughts that trigger each other. By letting concrete reality totally consume your awareness for even one instant, you squeeze out the self-reflective consciousness that is a key part of that loop, and weaken it. (Your body is a key part of this loop at two points: first as a source of "concrete reality" sensations, and second as a kind of residue of emotional reaction.)

Success on this path requires the ability to sit still and not get up even if you think of something better to do, or because you are bored, or because your butt hurts, or because you're anxious.

You know we have all hurt ourselves thinking one or another way. In my case I couldn't tolerate doubts regarding why people behaved in some way, that I arrived at really awkward conclusions. Maybe those conclusions were not real but they had real effects. Because what other people thinks does not exist. The only thing that exists is how the thoughts you attribute to them makesvyou feel. And hey it turned that my ability to thinking in terms of relations and patterns applied to computers instead of people was an advantage. Do you really need to learn body language? In my opinion the more you know about human nature the worse that knowledge can play. You've got fear, ok. Then don't feel guilty for it. Make friends with him and arrive at some agreement. Do not try to deny it, because it's going to get worse. When people tell you not to think too much, can make you feel guilty. There are some techniques for that. While you do not know them just be sure that bad feelings go as they come.

> [paraphrasing] "What if I [am not good enough]? (And someone discovers this?)"

Then you learn a bunch of stuff from being out of your depth, get a bunch of money for your trouble, and - depending on the internal political strength of the person who finds out - find another job. It's not the end of the world.

The worries you talk about, however, are things that a lot of people have to varying degrees. To learn is to feel somewhat out of one's depth; to be confused. If you already knew all the answers, I find it hard to imagine that the work would be particularly interesting. Taken as the general case, to know enough is to be done with learning and thus to stagnate. They are worries that you'd still have if you were exactly where you were going to get the most advantage.

You don't know enough to immediately solve your challenges - that's why they're challenges rather than typing exercises. Chances are that no-one else there, at least no-one who isn't wasting their potential, does either.

I'm in sales and I probably have more anxiety than you.

The best way to deal with anxiety is to realize what's going on right now is not really that much of a big deal in the long term. If you can adopt an attitude of not caring as much, you'll find work is easier or at least for me it has been when I changed my mentality.

I'm feeling the same (on a new job since december last year), but knowing that many others went through the same, or feel still this way kind of helps, that I'm not at least isolated. It's topic openly discussed, talked and there are people that can help you (haven't used them yet, I always try to do things by my way first, then ask for help (might need to change that behaviour)).

So maybe if the company somehow has topics on this nature, internal memos/notes/guides/mentors - then this could help... If nothing else, only by knowing that you are not alone in this, and it might be something that happens.

I really don't know how to help you, since I'm feeling this way (And gosh, I came especially to this company to learn new things - and hell, I'm glad - I've learned so much and still excited... but need to get on my productivity...)

Knowing your age and stage in career would make it easier to give a helpful response. I can relate to that anxiety when I was first getting my career started, but it all lessened as I aged a bit and became more competent in my domain.

But if you aren't simply fresh out of college, and notice the same pattern in other areas of your life too, then you have something that's in your interest to address.

I know you're not seeking 'an answer' but, the best advice I can give is be motivated primarily by what you want. I remember reading an article on HN that's stuck in my mind about showing up everyday, taking what you want from your job, and then simply wait to get fired. As in, don't orient yourself around others' demands (to guarantee employment), but orient yourself around what you want to get out of it, and if you get fired then you get fired.

I don't usually have enough knowledge on most of the subjects on Hacker News to make a useful comment, but I can absolutely relate to your situation.

I'm a freelance developer with two steady retainers, I have a wonderful partner, and I play in an up-and-coming rock band; I'm doing very well, from an outside perspective. However, for the past few months, I was unable to refill my antidepressant prescription during my transition to CoveredCA (or, at least wasn't sure how to do so, derp), which led me back into a pretty bad case of my depression, anxiety, and obsessive/compulsive behavior.

When I don't take my medication, I can hardly think straight for more than a few minutes at a time before I'm thrust into a really mentally exhausting power cycle of automatic negative thoughts, which usually results in intense physical discomfort and a generally unpleasant demeanor. I get rude and withdrawn, and often binge on comfort foods and mind-numbing television to deal with the fact that I feel absolutely no pleasure in life.

Fortunately, I figured out my medication situation and I'm feeling a lot better. A little embarrassed about some of the work that I produced during that time, but that's life!

I've found that in addition to medication, CONSISTENT exercise and diet and >7 hours of sleep are necessities for me, and if you aren't doing those before the medication, you should give it a try to see if it's enough for you to function well. It's really hard to do this when you don't have a regular routine, as I've come to discover, but you just sort of have to start forcing yourself to be on a schedule of some sort, or plan for when your schedule is going to be somewhat erratic.

Also, seeing a therapist is super beneficial, and I frankly think most people would benefit from seeing one. It really helps you to realize that your "crazies" aren't that crazy, and it's okay to have irrational thoughts and acknowledge them.

I've been (still am to a degree) in a very similar position. I also self-diagnosed myself with generalized anxiety.

I've starting working at a job about a year ago, a job that theoretically would be very close to what I would be doing in my spare time. And yet, I have the same problem, something is inhibiting my ability to focus, concentrate on problem solving, to provide solutions, and I'm fairly sure that thing is anxiety. I constantly feel very tired.

I don't really know what I could do, I've noticed that the problem tends to fade after exercising thoroughly (century mountain-bike ride or similar endeavors), but I'm still struggling with it on a day-to-day basis, and constantly think of quitting.

It certainly doesn't help that I'm also attending CS university, which doesn't leave me with enough time to fix my problems.

So you're definitely not alone in this.

Short advice which will work: Watch Fight Club.

Wondering why? Here are few quotes from it: “May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

“I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let... lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

I feel you. I have a wonderful family, well paid job I enjoy and am occasionally good at, he worry it's all going to be taken away.

I think there are a few practical things to do

- benchmark yourself against objective reality - understand the problem of imposter syndrome - improve your lifestyle - take medicines

Firstly, there are ways to discover your own knowledge and abilities against external benchmarks. For example many programmin languages have koans for practising or similar.

This will give you a way to sample your self more objectively.

Imposter syndrome - everyone has it, and everyone is afraid the rug will be pulled away. Absolutely everyone.

Sleep, eat exercise right. Easy to say, hard to do but every improvement will help you

Medicate - there are drugs from SSRIs onwards. Combined with plans like above there is little reason a years course would not help you buy time to sort the rest out.

Take care. You are not alone

> I'm not seeking a pharmaceutical or therapeutic recommendation.

Is that because you're already in therapy? If so, skip the following; if not why not seek out a good therapist who can guide you in CBT, or something similar. What you're describing is common, therapists have super good tools and strategies to help you with it. Therapy is no big deal; no different from having a personal trainer at the gym!

On the point of feeling like an imposter, or feeling afraid of looking stupid: there are a handful of people who I think of who are super smart and accomplished, and yet humble and gracious, and not afraid admit to not knowing something, etc.; trying to keep them in mind and emulate them has I think helped me with some of the issues you mention.

Take care. I'm sure you'll be able to find some strategies that work for you.

I've just started writing a book on GitHub that intends to offer a bunch of systematic, practical approaches to anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders, as well as a sort of "general take" on how to skillfully live as a human being (under a variety of circumstances). I've literally just started throwing the notes together, but if you're curious to see it evolve from step 1, it's here: https://github.com/brynbellomy/datwantendo

EDIT: so far, it draws from Aikido, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, the psychology of video games and virtual experiences — new additions will continue to be as diverse in origin (hopefully).

I can understand how you feel way too well. I have gone through periods of anxiety so crippling that I can't even leave the house. Most of the time, the anxiety is manageable... But I end up feeling like I am missing out in some way. Social interaction I'd like yo be having, or ideas that I want to voice.

I think the biggest improvement I've made over the years has just been learning to understand when I am even anxious in the first place. You can get so caught up in the anxiety that you lose the ability to think critically about what is happening to you.

If you can get it under control though... Things get way better. Just know that you are not alone. :-)

Check out this article by Julie Zhuo -> https://medium.com/the-year-of-the-looking-glass/the-imposte...

It sounds like you have fallen into something that is nowadays referred to as "impostor syndrome". This is when people who are competent in their field underestimate themselves: they harbor as suspicion that they are actually not competent and think that others around them have somehow been duped, perhaps only temporarily so.

Obligatory Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome

It may help you to remember that if you actually were an idiot, you'd likely be the opposite way: irrationally confident in your abilities. :)

> Why am I writing this post? I'm seeking understanding, support, and related stories/situations. I'm not seeking a cure-all. I'm not seeking a pharmaceutical or therapeutic recommendation. Just support.

I know you didn't ask for this, but it needs to be said.

See a doctor. Get properly diagnosed. Get proper help. As someone who live with mental disorders, I can assure you, getting proper help is the best thing you can do.

> I have OCD

Is this diagnosed? I only ask because far too many people self-diagnose. You might be right, but you shouldn't self-diagnose. If you are diagnosed, follow up with your therapy, and share this information.

Get help.

Thanks for this. To clarify: I agree completely that therapy and medication can both be powerful tools. That said, I wanted (and still want) this discussion to focus more on the sharing of feelings and support between members of this community as opposed to my particular diagnosis or circumstance.

But I agree with you that seeking professional help is a good idea!

You clearly have done your homework. You know what things may help. You also got confirmation that indeed you are not alone with this kind of problems.

If you've done so much research then your problem is likely something that you've been fighting for years. Yes probably with much work you can fix it with just working on yourself. But it's like having a broken arm and telling yourself it will heal. It may. But if for some genetic or whatever other reason your brain does not produce enough dopamine, or have some other imbalance of neurotransmitters, then go to the doc, try his help, and spend all saved time on becoming even more awesome coder. If you want to, of course (But do you really? or maybe you just 'arrived' at the point you always imagined as a goal and the thing is you don't really know what you want now - that's a very real problem to have. But if you do know that what you really want is this career, then optimize for it trying not to be biased.)*

* sorry if that sounds like telling you what to do, just sharing my thoughts hoping that you may find some of them useful

I was at the point where I was getting short of breath delivering status in meetings...so I started meditating + exercising which definitely helped.

The biggest thing, however, that ended up helping was that I had to give two 5 min presentations in front of about 100 people. I practiced for a couple of hours, got super stressed out and a little nervous during the presentations, but got through it.

And now...the day to day anxiety is much less. I think my anxiety meter got reset at a much higher level so most interactions now are not a big deal. So it helped to lean in to the problem rather than try to minimize it.

Hi this happened to me, I quit my prestigious job and got a much less prestigious job that is less stress. Now I want the stress back and am almost more anxious. If you have a lot to do just try and prioritize and do what you need to do today. That is what I always told myself. I had zero brain cycles and now I have lots but it's like I have nowhere to put them and would rather be getting juiced by that other better company. I will probably ask for my old job back at some point. :-) Much love! Everything in life is temporary and your heart knows best....


I have friends and family members that suffer anxiety ranging from minor to debilitating anxiety where they feel like they cannot function. As davidkim suggests below, meditation, sleep and even exercise can help alleviate some of the symptoms but you also have to know that anxiety/OCD can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and you simply cannot wish it away. Medicine may be appropriate in your situation and so I would start with a consultation with your doctor. No one should suffer and miss out on the wonders of life.

Have you checked your cortisol levels?

TMI: I have a chronic life threatening illness.

Unlike you, I didn't realize I was anxious. Until it was gone.

I also have terrible insomnia. The root cause for me is adrenal fatigue.

I did a bunch of different things to get my cortisol, adrenal function, and insulin levels to "normal" cycle. I continue to work with my family doctor, a naturopath, and a nutritionist to find strategies that work for me. There isn't a cure-all. But stuff like anxiety, stress, insomnia are certainly managebale.

Good luck.

Meditation. Put aside the Ego. Nobody thinks more about you than yourself. Exert discipline over the things you can, let go of the things you can not (Stoicism in a nutshell).

I know you said you wanted "support," as opposed to suggestions of pills to take. However, more sufferers of anxiety need to know about this, so I'm going to say it: get a magnesium+calcium (+D) supplement. If you are magnesium deficient, taking some can change your life. For me, it eliminates the "body feel" of anxiety that I'm always a step or trigger away from a panic attack. It means that other ways of coping work so. much. better.

Find someone you trust that you can talk to, and talk it out. Preferably someone very even-keeled; it does no good if you talk to someone and they just freak out. Failing that, find a therapist, and talk it out.

Talk is humans' way of relieving anxiety. When you give voice to your fears and then find that other people think them nonsense (well, not nonsense, but fears, and not real problems to worry about), it tends to make them disappear in your own mind.

More to your question, have you looked into Internal Family Systems Therapy? I'm currently reading a book on this by Schwartz, and I'm finding it helpful.


+1 for diet, sleep, exercise, reading, and when those tools aren't available in your life, medication. A low dose can do wonders for clearing your head.

As a first line, I'd like to echo graeme. Sleep, diet, and exercise are tremendously important and you should make sure those are in good shape first.

I've found mild anxiolytics (benzodiazepines like alprazolam and clonazepam) amazingly useful as a secondary, occasional relief from anxiety that is harming performance. I wouldn't want to take these every day, but they can be very useful for mitigating acute anxiety.

I have had my share of anxiety that led to stress that led to depression that led to my selling my stake in the company for a dollar.

There is no easy cure, but there is a simple one!

First understand that shame and anxiety cannot survive sunlight, so start share your worries.

Also start doing yoga/tai chi/meditation or some similar physical and mental training.

And then practise letting go (see Leo from zenhabits book on the subject.)

It works slowly and takrs time, but it works!

I highly recommend a 10-day vipassana meditation course. It's free: http://dhamma.org

I had panic disorder and nothing helped. Sometimes I would lie awake all night panicking, without sleep, until morning. Medications or therapy didn't help. Vipassana meditation has basically "cured" it/made it completely manageable.

Also, consciousness.io helps me

>>I highly recommend a 10-day vipassana meditation course. It's free: http://dhamma.org

It's always hilarious when people recommend this to those who have not even done meditation. It's like they say they are thirsty and you say, "here, you can drink from this fire-hose!"

The guy is at a stage where he can benefit from even just 30 minutes of meditation per week. I think it's highly irresponsible to suggest he drops everything he's doing to go to some ten day meditation retreat...

Doing a meditation retreat is actually a great way to get into meditation. I did a 5 day retreat having almost no experience beforehand, and it was a huge, huge help to me. Getting into meditation is hard, as it takes a long time to see real results, whereas with a retreat, you will definitely see results after a few days, which really helped motivate me to keep going. I'd also highly recommend the book Mindfulness In Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. Very straightforward guide to meditation for people who haven't done it before.

I did it when I had not ever really meditated before and it changed my life. It's not any more difficult if you have never meditated before.

Meditate! I still suffer with anxiety (muscle aches, shortness of breath, inability to focus on anything but how anxious I felt) and my therapist recommended meditation. I work in a cubicle city so I sneak away into one of empty conferences room and meditate for 20 min. I use the Headspace App (I have mixed but already paid for it kind of feelings toward it). Good luck!

Give yourself a big hug, forever. Never let go.

All the anxiety you describe comes from a diminished loving yourself. Have patience with yourself, be kind to yourself, don't judge yourself so harshly (re-read your post, it's a single continuous self judgement).

That anxiety is your internal compass trying to tell you you need to give yourself a big old internal hug. Never let go.

I didn't go through all the comments on the thread, but so far what I've seen is just bullshit. People around here are reading too much the DSM (or going to the wrong therapist, pick one).

You have anxiety, OP? Good! Most of us have to deal with it. No, I'm not saying "stop it and cheer up!". It's a real problem, but doesn't need to be a problem that will make your life stop.

I went to a roller-coaster of emotions in the last 2, 3 years (from valleys of depression and anxiety to peaks of extreme happiness). I went through everything you said, the impostor syndrome is the fuckin' worst shit that can happen to someone. This train still hits me, sometimes. That's not easy.

How did I overcame it? Changing my thoughts. The impostor syndrome faded away when I realized that the people around me don't know what they're doing, too! Nobody knows how everything works and I'm still looking for answers about how the world didn't meltdown yet.

See? I didn't get any better changing my mind by saying that I'm good and I know what I'm doing. I got better because now I see that everyone are lost, just like me!

Fear of embarrassment? Learn to fix quickly what you did wrong. Nobody will notice nor will care if everything is working. And when you see that other people are lost too, as I said above, you won't care if you're good or don't.

At the end of the day, it's just you that matters. You don't need to proof you're good to everyone. You know that you're good because the point you've reached in your life.

I felt that much of your narrative rings true with me as well. I found this book to be quite amazing and it gave me an interesting perspective on my thoughts: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374533555/

THIS BOOK MAY HELP: Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear by Dr. Claire Weeke



Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear by Dr. Claire Weekes


With respect, I often hear people say "I'm incredibly lucky."

When I think about the actions they have taken over time, it seems to me that they have had a history of generally good decision making.

So I just want to gently question whether your success is as much about luck as you may think.

Came across this today, it might provide some perspective: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/06/taming-mammoth-let-peoples-opi...

Train yourself to simply act more slowly. Give yourself time to reply, to think, to relax.


Everyone is anxious in stressful situations. Simply slowing everything down, within reason of course, and finding time for yourself is one way that I handle it.

Yesterday, while showering I realized that what makes me nervous is not people around me, not what they say, not what I think, but it is my hormones.

I curious as to what your diet consists of everyday?

It's your time for a kit-kat bro! :)

Have a break :P

Yes, I can completely relate. Went through the same thing in grad school for computer science.

I would argue that this is the first sign of success.

Smoke trees.

Small sample but I've found in physiological data this actually increases my baseline anxiety but takes away the ups-and-downs. More research obviously needed than this anecdote.


>I have OCD, and these thoughts become obsessions that don't let up.

A lot of people here might glance over this, but this is a pretty crucial detail. Having suffered from severe obsessive compulsive thoughts, this condition can and will completely destroy your quality of life. Earlier in life it was handwashing and lock checking. I grew out of that (thank god), but I've started to notice the same thought patterns cropping up in new places. What little CBT I made it through equipped me to recognize more obviously intrusive thoughts (contamination) but sometimes less obvious symptoms are harder to recognize but equally insidious. I don't feel as though I can recommend CBT in good conscious because I was never able to come close to completing the therapy, but it's worth mentioning.

Best of luck, OP.

Panic disorder + cyclothymia. Have had to leave jobs, in the past, because of it. So yes.

1. See a psychiatrist. There's no shame in it.

2. You're not "becoming the impostor [you're] trying to conceal." You're fighting a neurological challenge that, untreated, would overwhelm almost anyone.

3. Sleep: 8 hours, same approximate time of day, take melatonin (or, if your doctor suggests something stronger, then that) if you have insomnia.

4. Exercise and diet are important. Eat greens, work out every day (do different activities, obviously) and try to avoid too much caffeine. Best time to exercise is in the morning, for most people.

5. Try not to spend too much time in an open-plan office (this can be hard to avoid). Use breakaway offices and take walks outside if you need to. Once you establish a reputation as a strong performer (and, remember, you're probably a lot better than your impostor syndrome has you thinking you are) you can WFH approximately 1 day per week per year that you've been at a company.

5a. ETA: It's quite probable, if you work in an open-plan or cubicle office while others can see you while you work, or approach you without you seeing them, that this is making you sick. Having to manage your image and perform cognitively intense work is very damaging (it's too incoherent, and overwhelms the brain) and your body starts to release toxins after 4-6 hours under that particular form of stress. Open-plan is truly the devil.

6. Meditation / mindfulness practice after you get your other ducks in a row. (Sitting and stewing and being anxious isn't "meditating", so get your mental health on an even keel in therapy and then use meditation to further strengthen your resolve once well.)

7. Don't be ashamed of it. It's not your fault. Anxiety disorders suck. Just do the best you can and understand that even normal people have the "impostor syndrome" phase at some point-- especially early in their careers.

8. ETA: Stop focusing on how good or not-good you are, especially relative to your peers. Just focus on skill improvement. Compete against yourself, not them, and just get better every day at what you think is important. Get so busy improving that you don't have time to think about where you "are" on the skill spectrum: get a Heisenberg sort of thing going on where your position is not measurable and irrelevant because of your momentum.

I used to have this anxiety sometimes too but there's a few things that help me deal with it:

* Remember that other people have these same feelings. You're not alone and it's normal.

* Anyone who would think badly of you just for not knowing one simple thing is an asshole and was just looking for an excuse to be a dick. The problem is with them, not you.

* Nobody can know everything. Even the person you most admire and respect professionally has areas where you know more than them.

* Work hard, strive to improve your knowledge and skill set. This is all anyone can do.

Learn to let go. These are 4 of my most valued resources for learning to let go: http://tempr.org/54fa11d692db8.html

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact