Victor Leung
Victor Leung
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My imposter syndrome, insecurity and depression

August 20, 2021

Imposter syndrome is common among I.T. professionals, and I am one of them. The feeling of personal inadequacy and self-doubt. Working as a software developer for the most prestigious consulting firm at EY made me feel like a phoney. My bachelor's degree did not have a computer science component. My first job was in marketing, which had little to do with information technology. Before being assigned to the banking project, I worked primarily as a frontend javascript web developer. When assigned with the fintech project, though, I became the principal android app developer. I studied Kotlin on my own and built apps using online tutorials. To be clear, I submitted thoroughly tested high-quality code. But it was a terrifying thought: what if they discovered I wasn't the most knowledgeable expert in the room? What if they discovered I'd never heard of this industry-standard library? What if they knew I wasn't aware of various design patterns? My profession requires a great deal of knowledge in cloud computing, networking, architecture, security, and so on. Being an expert in everything was practically impossible. I had to be agile since technology changes so quickly.

Despite this, I was charging my client a crazy expensive hourly rate while seeking answers to their questions. They could easily search it up on the internet. As a team director, my supervisor embodied the characteristics of a professional consultant; he dressed up to impress, using all of the buzzwords, and selling the dream. It all sounds great with digital transformation, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, but my regular job consisted of moving a pointless button-up with a few pixels. I used to feel hopeless since I couldn't even get the button to line up at the centre of the screen. With so many screen sizes, operating systems, and browsers, a simple task like this isn't so straightforward. With this in mind, I decided to pursue a part-time master's degree in computer science at CUHK from 2015 to 2017.

I could not resolve my imposter problem by getting another educational degree. When I read the academic paper, it made me feel even worse. To understand border gateway protocol (BGP), I need to delve into my weakest area in networking. I also learned how to use several layers and backpropagation in machine learning algorithms. The gradient descent math was particularly difficult due to linear algebra, matrices, and differentiation. My foundation was brittle, and I had to put in extra time and effort to catch up with the study. The material was interesting to study in the library on weekends. I learn a lot of theory, but none of it applies to my day-to-day work. While my day job was adding text, which I was already battling to present on the screen, I didn't have the opportunity to employ quantum computing for cryptography.

I met my girlfriend on a dating app while working long hours and studying part-time. Jo was her name. She was a relationship manager at the Bank of China. My work-related imposter syndrome spilt over into my personal life. I sensed my insecurity. I thought I didn't deserve this lovely lady and that she may leave me for another man one day. Jo was a better person than I was. I was always afraid of disclosing my wage since I assumed she paid higher income tax than I did. She was contented with me as her boyfriend and seemed unconcerned about this minor detail. I, on the other hand, put a lot of pressure on myself. I was always concerned that I wasn't treating her properly. Every day, I insisted on being her personal driver to take her home. I tried to impress her friends by dressing up as a decent gentleman and demonstrating my affection for her. Every day, I said beautiful things to her, telling her how much I loved her and even writing her love letters to show my affection. I tried to spend as much time with her as possible, but I had to balance my hectic schedule as a consultant with studying hard theory at night and on weekends. I couldn't allow myself to take it easy. I needed to keep myself occupied. I had to work very hard to provide a better life for my fiancée, including purchasing her the dream property in Hong Kong at an exorbitant price.

The hectic lifestyle did not appear to be more fulfilling. I, on the other hand, was more stressed. At work, I had to complete my project on time, and for study, I needed to deliver my class homework on time. I needed to be a decent boyfriend in my spare time. I was insane to apply my scrum work process to my personal life, asking my girlfriend for performance evaluation and a weekly retrospective. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to deliver. I was afraid I'd lose her. And it wasn't until later that I realized my mentality was detrimental at the time. It was, however, too late. Later on, I believed I loved her and did everything I could to make her happy. However, she was experiencing stress in the relationship as well. She thought I was attempting to possess her and keep her like my property. Of course, that wasn't the case because I was head over heels in love with her. One day, she announced that she was going on a Caribbean Cruise to the Bahamas by herself. She enjoyed wearing a bikini and exposing her body to the sun. My nervousness surfaced, and I worried that she would appear too sexy, attracting competition.

She thought I was insane when I insisted that she could not wear a bikini on the sun deck. We got into a dispute over this insignificant matter, and she ended up breaking up with me. How she chose to end the relationship was obstructive to me. Block all forms of communication, including phone calls, WhatsApp, WeChat, and everything else. That lightning-fast action drove me insane! My day job caused me so much stress, and now I had to cope with my emotions from her. I thought I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. I was at the rage with bitterness. I couldn't understand why she was so cruel to me. The one I loved the most was the one who hurt me the most. I was at a crossroads in my life.

As the expression goes, time cures all wounds; calm returns after a storm. I finally got over it after a lot of self-reflection. I wasn't studying health psychology at the time. I was burned out at work, putting too much pressure on myself to study and being the perfect partner out of fear. I didn't believe I deserved all of the nice things I had, and my insecurity destroyed them all. My thinking pushed me to be both a high achiever and a psychopath.

As an insecure man, blocking me from communication was the worst thing Jo could do to me. That realization did not occur to me at the moment. I took some time to ponder and rest. I was once again active on dating apps. I found a new girlfriend and decided to move on from my previous relationship. It worked for a while, but history would repeat itself if I didn't address the main problem. I had moved on and became a consultant at a software monitoring firm with a higher income. I also studied part-time for another master of business administration (MBA) due to my imposter feeling at work. I felt compelled to get these credentials to justify my high charge rate to the client. It did not, however, resolve the issue. I was seated in the enterprise client office, surrounded by technical queries regarding the software that I had no idea how to respond to. I made a handful of errors that made me sound more like a fool than a pro.

Meanwhile, my weekend study material wasn't easy either. I didn't have any accounting foundations. Thus it took me a while to catch up to the advanced topic in finance. With all of this stress piling up, I could not find enough time with my new girlfriend, Jessica. She was not happy with me. She decided to end our relationship. She realized we weren't a good match for whatever reasons. She didn’t know that I was putting in a lot of effort to create our relationship, and I believed that sustaining a relationship required the same amount of effort. But, like my ex-girlfriend Jo, she opted to ban me, cutting off all communication channels. Another bout of sadness struck me. I didn't realize it at the time, and I didn't seek medical care. Fortunately, I was a voracious reader. Without a girlfriend to keep me company, I was able to read one book per day. I was so depressed that I read many self-help books to distract myself from thinking about her. Self-help books like Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules of Life helped me get through the worst darkest days of life. Following that, I had a deep self-reflection on the meaning of life and love.

People on the outside struggled to understand my depression; it had nothing to do with tangible things like how much money I made, but more with a sensation that I couldn't see any hope for the future. It was a time in my life when I felt unmotivated to achieve anything since nothing seemed worthwhile. I cried all day and night with pain and regret. This emotion I couldn't adequately express here. Later on, I attempted to rehabilitate by engaging in a regular workout and running to keep myself occupied. In addition, I need to change my environment by changing employment and moving house. In my house, there were many happy memories that I had to let go of. I left my consulting job and went on to work as a technical lead for Hong Kong's largest retail bank. Instead of wasting time on dating, I wanted to concentrate on my profession.

However, the idea did not work out since I was simply a regular guy who felt lonely from time to time. I had the good fortune to meet some lovely females, but I wasn't quite ready to begin a new relationship. More significantly, I need to address the source of my problem, which is imposter syndrome at work and relationship instability. Those were the obstacles I had to conquer to prevent another catastrophe from befalling me. As an engineering manager for the bank, I still suffer from imposter syndrome today. As I study more, I realize how much I still don't know. The bright side is that it serves as a reminder to continue learning as much as possible. Nonetheless, rather than drive myself insane again, I'm going to embrace the learning experience. In terms of insecurity in relationships, I'm writing down my vulnerability in the hopes of becoming happier, less worried, less depressed, and physically healthier as a result of spending time writing about myself. I'm hoping that by sharing my tale, others who are going through similar things can find relief. I'm sharing my story in the hopes that you won't make the same mistake I did.

About Victor Leung

Software development professional with expertise in application architecture, cloud solutions deployment, and financial products development. Possess a Master's degree in Computer Science and an MBA in Finance. Highly skilled in AWS (Certified Solutions Architect, Developer and SysOps Administrator), GCP (Professional Cloud Architect), Microsoft Azure, Kubernetes(CKA, CKAD, CKS, KCNA), and Scrum(PSM, PSPO) methodologies.

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