home links talks

Testing Trapeze

February 2015

I’ve written an article about Imposter Syndrome for Testing Trapeze, a bi-monthly online Testing magazine that features testers from New Zealand and Australia.

To write about topics involving mental health and personal wellbeing is to experience them, to feel them, to invite back to your mind all your experiences - happy and sad - so you can channel and share them. So, I thought I’d write a little bit more, about how the experience of writing the article was.

This companion piece will make a whole lot more sense if you’ve read the article. Before you continue reading here, read it in the February Edition of Testing Trapeze

If it feels like the article meanders a bit, it’s because it is a bit meandering. What you are getting is a stream of consciousness. A rather well polished one, at that, because these thoughts have been flowing in my head for quite some time; like stones on a riverbed. I dive deeply into Imposter Syndrome, and there’s also fleeting mentions of Emotional Labour and Interactional Expertise. In the metaphor of streams and rivers, these would be the banks alongside.

We’re deep in metaphor here, which feels especially weird since in the article I call out “awkward similes to describe what it feels like”. Let’s circle back into the writing experience, and show how the metaphor stacks up.

I had a lot of drafts, plans, outlines, and fragments of writing before this article really took shape. What became the published piece, started with the section on Minimising. I wrote from the paragraph starting “Minimising is where we take an accomplishment” to “if you feel someone else” in one sitting, using a workflow where I talk into a microphone while writing. I occasionally would stop the recording, and listen back to my last minute or so of speaking, and then filter them into writing on the spot. Then I went to sleep, and came back the next day, read what I had, and added the “I’m particularly prone to”, including the provocation “not deleting paragraphs like this one”, and promptly deleted it.

Fortunately, my writing tool of choice is designed to resist deletions, and I was able to restore the paragraph from a saved draft. From there, the Catastrophising section, especially the “For instance, take the last paragraph above about minimisation” flowed. And so I had a core of two cognitive distortions; what they were, how to recognise them, a personal element and how to “combat” them.

From here, I went to the framing of Imposter Syndrome, as I’ve been talking at events around New Zealand and Australia in the past year about Imposter Syndrome; as a way to talk about anxiety and mental health in the workplace. As I mention in the article, my thoughts have moved to a new definition, and I’m really looking forward to presenting, talking and facilitating discussions about Imposter Syndrome and Personal Wellbeing this year.

Because every time I’ve talked and facilitated a discussion, I’ve experienced what becomes the conclusion to the article - the most powerful way to overcome Imposter Syndrome is to find a way to express your thoughts cleanly, and bring balance to any difference to how you feel internally and how you talk to others.

Speaking of the conclusion, that actually came about entirely because of the review and editing process that Testing Trapeze articles go through, which Katrina (the editor) talks about in a behind the scenes article on her blog. The draft submitted had a very different conclusion, and with feedback from my reviewer, I stepped back, considered another viewpoint and basically stumbled across this thought in my head of resonating language and balance.

It’s considering other viewpoints which is fairly key - and also distorted through the lens of Mind Reading. The section on Mind Reading was quite difficult to do, and involved a lot of diving back to mental health literature, time to rest and mull between sessions and talking to others surreptitiously since I wasn’t sure I was barking up the right tree. Which is exactly where the repeatable process of expanding your comfort with tackling Mind Reading comes from; the experience of thinking and writing about it.

The biggest victory for me in writing this article, is that today on the eve of the article being released, as I write this companion piece, there is no catastrophe in my mind. I feel balanced, well, and that it is a piece of myself that I share freely that is being published.