Assumed Audience: Anyone with Impostor Syndrome, or anyone helping someone with it. Discuss on Hacker News.

Epistemic Status: Incompetent beyond all reason.

So you think you are a fraud? You have Impostor Syndrome?

I’m going to cure you by telling you the story of my life.

No, it’s not a hit song. It’s a comedy.

Yes, I want to laugh about this. I want you to laugh about this!

Let’s start in high school.

  • I had a job at an ice cream parlor. I was fired because I couldn’t get to work on time.
  • I wrote a novel. It was terrible. I deleted it.
  • I managed to graduate from high school!
  • I got into the US Air Force Academy too! Surely that means I have some competence.
  • Oh wait, I had to drop out of USAFA after my first semester.
  • I went on a religious mission but had to go home early.
  • I managed to graduate from BYU-Idaho with an Associate’s degree.
  • Spent three years doing Folk Dance at BYU. Never made it past a beginning level team.
  • Gave a few talks a tech conferences. The talks were terrible.
  • Got engaged. Made a stupid mistake on my wedding day and was left at the altar. I deserved it.
  • I managed to graduate from BYU with an Bachelor’s degree.
  • Got a programming/sysadmin job. Left the job voluntarily after realizing that I was not a good fit. My boss even admitted that I wasn’t and that he had made a mistake hiring me.
  • Got married to a different woman than my previous engagement. And stayed married! In fact, my wife still seems to like me!
  • Became a basketball referee. I was barely good enough, but I also made coaches so mad that at least one of my parters called a technical on a coach to defend me.
  • Tried to become a religious teacher, something that normal members of the Church usually do easily. Was told to give up in a roundabout way.
  • Got another programming job. Got fired for “performance.” I think the reason wasn’t good, but I also have a hard time building a theory of mind, which means I can’t read code written by others. So I probably deserved it enough.
  • Started a Master’s degree program. Had to quit.
  • Tried to become a school bus driver. Hit the mirror of a parked pickup truck on my first day. Quit because I knew I needed more practice before working and couldn’t get it.

As you can see, I apparently can finish school, but not always!

Other than that, I’ve been able to get married (after one failed attempt), and I thought that I could program to some degree because of the success of my bc.

But then, I was fired from my second programming job.

I tried working on a project I’ve had many ideas for.

In March 2022, I was having trouble with read/write locks with both glibc and musl. I double-checked my code and didn’t find anything wrong.

Unfortunately, someone else spotted the problem: in my platform abstraction code, I had accidentally called the unlock function when I should have called the lock function.

I had stupidly reported bugs in glibc and musl when the problem was in my code, and my double-checking had failed to find it because I was too tired.
On top of that, I recently made several mistakes packaging software for Gentoo, also because I was too tired.

I am building a FOSS business, but due to the failure of someone much smarter than me to build a business based on FOSS, I have been questioning whether I can.

I also want to be a professional software developer. I had someone tell me that I can’t as long as I write in C.

I have mostly agreed with that position, but I thought it was enough to have a plan to mitigate that. This person does not think so, and after all of my mistakes, I think I agree, at least for me personally.

But I’m a pure C programmer. I can’t program in anything else.

Yes, that’s a failure on my part.

It’s kind of funny, really.

Anyway, because of that, I’ve decided to put all unfinished programming projects on hold for the foreseeable future.

Except for my current obligations with my bc and any packages I maintain in various distributions, including Gentoo and including the package I just barely added.

Don’t worry; I will keep those obligations indefinitely.

So this means I’ve now failed in two of the three things I’ve originally succeeded in.

The last is relationships/marriage.

Uh oh.

In each of the three things I succeeded in, I then subsequently received at least two failures and had to bow out.

For school, it was dropping out of USAFA and dropping out of my Master’s.

For programming, it was leaving my two programming jobs. And these recent failures.

In the last, I’ve had one failure (my failed engagement). I sure hope I don’t experience a second big failure.

My wife loves me without reservation and supports me through everything. Despite that love, I struggle to feel like our marriage is good for her.

Why? Because my mindset is bad; my illogical self-worth is entirely tied to my results.

And I don’t feel like I am giving her results.

She is the breadwinner.

As noted above, I fail at keeping jobs, but her job loves her, and she is advancing in her career.

She is also the cook because I fail at that too.

A fire in the kitchen is not off the table! Pun intended.

She also effectively does the cleaning because I cannot do it as well as her.

She’ll even clean up after me when I try because I’m so bad at it.

You know what’s so bad it’s funny? This is all true despite my best efforts!

It’s not like I’m just chilling watching TV or YouTube all day everyday. I’m not. The reason I was so tired when I made the programming mistakes above is because the only time I have to program is basically after my wife is in bed. I spend the rest of the day doing things around the house for her, despite the fact that she often has to fix my work.

Nevertheless, I will continue to put much effort into doing things around the house for my wife. And try to act as though I don’t feel like I am a burden.

Yes, that’s right: I have Impostor Syndrome in my marriage!

It’s stupid, laughably stupid, but my illogical, pessimistic brain has a fear of my marriage suffering exactly what is described in “Story of My Life” and falling apart.

Why is it stupid? Because my wife has NEVER shown any sign of not loving me unconditionally or getting sick of me.

On top of that, despite my incompetence, I keep trying. I have made mistakes, but we have catalogued them, and I have improved. Or at least she has said so.

Ah, you thought that this post would end on a negative note? Nope! I’m still married, and I’m still trying!

I’ll keep trying, I’ll keep improving, I’ll remain faithful, I’ll do everything I can to keep my marriage from deteriorating, and my logical brain will always be sure that my wife will always love me, despite my incompetence.

But despite that confidence in my marriage, I still suck at everything else.

So whenever you start thinking that you’re a fraud, remember me; I doubt you’re as incompetent as I am.