It’s identity crisis, not impostor syndrome

Posted July 1, 2015 in Thoughts

Let’s be done with impostor syndrome.

I think we’ve gotten to a point where non-impostors, myself included, are using impostor syndrome as a way to describe ever-human insecurity. It’s not productive anymore, and belittles the experience of those who really are dealing with it.

If I was a fake, I wouldn’t be able to make websites. But I do make websites, and I’m paid to make them and teach people to make them. That’s not to say I don’t feel like a fake every five minutes, but a lot of cooler and smarter people than me have admitted to feeling the same.

I think there’s another word for what we web people are calling impostor syndrome: identity crisis.

The web is in its awkward twenties.

And so are many, many of the people working on it. Fortunately or unfortunately, with your twenties comes the inevitable, quarter-life identity crisis. I’m living it, and it’s not that fun.

A definition for you:

[Identity crisis is] a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.
– a la Google

Translation: DESIGNERS SHOULD CODE. This is how I read it at first, but as I think about it, this problem isn’t specific to the expectations of designers at all. When it comes to the web, it’s everywhere.

What am I?

Can I call myself a front-end developer if I work in serious Sass and markup all day, but have never encountered a use case for === or %?

Can I put PHP on my resume if I’m a competent WordPress developer but have never had to write a class?

Can someone call themselves “full-stack” if they know HTML and CSS and can whip up a decent Rails app, but have never heard of a shard?

Best practices and the most sought after design/development technologies change almost daily. It’s impossible to keep up. We learn what we need when we need it, and there will always be something you haven’t heard of or don’t know how to do. And when we run into that, our qualifications are called into question, and thus our identity.

Solution? Standardization-ish.

How cool would it be to have a Myers Briggs-esque test for web workers and hiring managers; standardized job titles that are kind of like personality types (and can be accompanied by cute illustrations). Our roles aren’t black and white, but I think there could be a lexicon we can stick to and mutually agree upon.

More soon.