Imposter Syndrome & How To Earn It Backwards

Imposter Syndrome & How To Earn It Backwards

The idea to Earn It Backwards was something I found on a Youtube comment while I was trying to understand Imposter Syndrome. Over time, this idea shaped my entire life.

No time? Listen to it instead

For over five years now, I’ve followed a philosophy I once read in a Youtube comment. It’s called Earn It Backwards. If you’ve gone through the homepage, the gist if relatively straightforward but if you haven’t had the chance yet, Earn It Backwards helps with a specific type of Imposter Syndrome experience. It’s when you feel you’re undeserving of all the good you have in your life.

The Context

In 2015, I got a considerable payout from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for some stickers I designed.

As time passed, I started to feel undeserving of it all and how life was changing. I came across the idea of Imposter Syndrome and realised what I felt was a sign of this, and all my life, I had felt the same thing repeatedly.

Anything good that happened was always nitpicked, questioned, and in the end, I pinned it to luck. Now luck is always a factor, but considering your entire life, a series of lucky feats does not do much good to your self-esteem.

While watching videos about Imposter Syndrome, I came across this comment where a person said that their teacher advised them to “Earn It Backwards”.

If you feel you don’t deserve something, envision what kind of a person does, and then work your way towards becoming that person. In effect, you’re earning whatever you feel you don’t deserve in a backwards fashion: day-by-day.

How It Affected My Life

Now, I don’t know what their teacher meant exactly because they hadn’t elaborated on it.


However, I had to start somewhere, so the first thing I began was picking better habits. I changed what I ate, I started reading again, then exercise entered, and all of that culminated into what I call the Three Things Rule or Good Day Rule now.

You do three good things every day. One to get your body moving, one to get your mind working, one to get your heart beating. Everything else is extra credit.

You can read more about it in the post dedicated to it.


Also, I realised that a person who deserves any good in their life should have a robust moral code that they abide by while changing their opinions when new information or perspective enters the picture.

My simple code became to show up for people I cared about and show up in general for things I cared about. If I could lend a hand, I would never say No. I also started to read more philosophy to understand which schools of thought would help me live my life. I’ve realised I’m a combination of individualist, absurdist, existentialist, stoic, and humanist ideals.

Some of those schools disagree with each other on certain things. Hence me being a combination of some things I borrow from each. Of course, that would change as we go further and read more.


When you’re talking about earning, you need to talk about investing. I see investment in two ways.

One is in human capital: upskilling, education, and so on. Then, there’s a monetary investment, which is using your money to make more money. I want some financial independence, so while I’m not working towards it specifically, I have the Financial Independence Retiring Early (FIRE) idea in my head when I make decisions.

I never shy away from buying books, courses or spending on any education. At the same time, I try my best to invest now, as well. The thing is, ideals only go as far; you need one foot in reality to make a good life so that you are of some use to those around you.

Wrapping It Up

Earning It Backwards was given to me as a phrase. I didn’t know what it meant just what it indicated. It indicated me to be better than I was when I felt undeserving of what I had.

I think I’ve come a long way from that person, but I have a long way to go too. I’m only beginning to scratch the surface. However, I think I can now make Earning It Backwards a process or at least, try my best to sum it into an equation of sorts.

Everyone feels Imposter Syndrome at some point in their lives. That’s a very natural feeling. If you think you don’t deserve what you have, that’s because your self-image that comes from what you do on a general day is out of sync with what your life is giving you.

If your self-image is a function of what you do, then, here’s how we can define an average individual.

self-image = habits + behaviour + moral code + practicality

Now if life gives you something, say an epic relationship or a fantastic job or a considerable payout, you start to feel like your self-image is out of sync with that single achievement.

The first thing is to accept that you do deserve what you’ve received. At the same time, your entire job should become to bridge that gap in the assumed self-image and the actual self-image that you have.

Think about what kind of a person should be in that epic relationship or have that fantastic job or get that considerable payout, then work towards becoming that person by focusing on each component and experimenting with new things for each.

Build better habits, one day at a time. Read philosophy to change your behaviour, understand where you err, get feedback. Change your thought-process by actually introspecting for once and seeing why you do what you do. Then, do better. Become more practical and use the gifts you’ve received to make life better for yourself and those around you. Don’t spend it all on ice cream.

Before you know it, you’ll have not only made your life a thousand times better, but also gone past your Imposter Syndrome.

The Nudge

Often, you’ll feel undeserving of some significant achievement or something that life gives you. It’s a classic case of Imposter Syndrome. In my opinion, that exists because there is now a gap between the self-image you have for yourself and the perceived image in your head for someone who deserves the thing, whatever it is. In that case, all you have to do is earn it backwards. Become the person who deserves it according to you. Build your definition, then work towards becoming that person. Over time, the feeling of undeserving will fade away.

Original Featured Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash.

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