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Tofunmi's avatar
Jul 08, 2023

Behind the Firewall

Behind the Firewall: The Emotional Odyssey of a Cybersecurity Professional, Confronting Imposter Syndrome, People Pleasing, and Friendship Turbulence

From the early days of my career, when I transitioned from an engineering background to the intriguing realm of cybersecurity, I carried with me a deep-rooted fascination for hacking scenes and crime investigation depicted in movies. The allure of this fast-paced, ever-evolving field drew me in, igniting a passion that propelled me forward. Little did I know then that this path would test not only my technical skills but also my emotional resilience. Today, I reveal the emotional odyssey of a tech enthusiast navigating the tumultuous terrain of cybersecurity, grappling with the haunting presence of imposter syndrome, the relentless desire to please others, the weight of friendship challenges resulting from a demanding schedule, and the burden of mentorship avoidance.

A Journey Inspired by Cinematic Wonders:

Growing up, I found myself captivated by movies showcasing hacking scenes and intricate crime investigations. The portrayal of cybersecurity professionals as digital heroes fighting against unseen adversaries ignited a fire within me. I yearned to be part of a world where intellect, technology, and determination converged to safeguard the digital realm. As Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” and so I embarked on a path that merged my passion and profession, ready to face the challenges that lay ahead.

Imposter Syndrome: Shadows in the Limelight:

As I ventured into the cybersecurity landscape, imposter syndrome emerged as an uninvited companion. Despite the knowledge I gained and the technical expertise I developed, a persistent voice echoed within, whispering doubts about my own abilities. I questioned whether I truly belonged in this esteemed field or if my successes were merely a stroke of luck. Imposter syndrome cast a shadow over my achievements, gnawing at my self-confidence and leaving me constantly vulnerable to self-doubt. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” I held onto these words, mustering the courage to persist and prove my worth in the face of self-doubt.

The Quest for Validation: Pleasing Others, Losing Myself:

In the pursuit of professional acceptance, I unwittingly fell into the trap of people pleasing. The desire for validation from peers, superiors, and clients became an intrinsic part of my existence. I bent over backward to meet the expectations of others, often neglecting my own needs and aspirations. The insatiable hunger to be recognized and approved by those around me overshadowed my ability to set boundaries and maintain a healthy sense of self-worth. Yet, as Oprah Winfrey wisely said, “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” I realized that to truly find fulfillment, I needed to embrace my authentic self and let go of the need for constant validation.

Navigating the Stormy Seas of Friendship:

Within the cybersecurity realm, where time is a precious commodity and vigilance is paramount, maintaining friendships becomes a complex endeavour. The demanding nature of my work, with its long hours and constant need for focus, left little room for spontaneity and social connections. Balancing the responsibilities of protecting digital realms and nurturing friendships became a delicate tightrope walk, causing strain on the very connections that brought me solace and support. As I reflect on this challenge, I am reminded of the words of Iman, who said, “In a world full of trends, I want to remain a classic.” While my schedule may be demanding, I strive to be a steadfast and loyal friend, embracing the timeless values of loyalty and authenticity. I have to say I am just at the beginning of this journey.

The Burden of Mentorship Avoidance:

Alongside the challenges I face, there exists a weighty burden of mentorship avoidance. Despite my passion and knowledge, I have often shied away from opportunities to mentor and guide aspiring individuals in the field. This avoidance stems from a fear of inadequacy and the nagging belief that I may not possess the necessary wisdom or authority to impart knowledge onto others. The imposter syndrome’s whisper becomes amplified, convincing me that I am not worthy of guiding others on their path. Yet, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” I recognize that my experiences and expertise hold value, and by embracing mentorship, I can empower and inspire others on their own cybersecurity journeys.

Anchoring Myself: A Journey Towards Self-Rediscovery:

In the depths of these challenges lie the seeds of resilience and growth. As I navigate this emotional labyrinth, I am cultivating strategies to foster personal well-being, forge authentic connections, and address my mentorship avoidance:

  1. Embracing Accomplishments: Confronting imposter syndrome, I am learning to acknowledge and celebrate my achievements. Seeking validation from trusted mentors and building a supportive network within the cybersecurity community bolsters my confidence, reinforcing the notion that my successes are not mere chance but the result of hard work and expertise.
  2. Setting Boundaries: I am reclaiming my sense of self by establishing boundaries and recognizing the importance of prioritizing my own well-being. Embracing assertiveness empowers me to strike a balance between meeting the needs of others and nurturing my own growth. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
  3. Time Management and Prioritization: In the face of a demanding schedule, I am honing my time management skills and setting realistic goals. Deliberately carving out moments for friendship and self-care allows me to find equilibrium between my professional responsibilities and the connections that breathe life into my soul. Zig Ziglar rightly said, “Success is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
  4. Seeking Support: Acknowledging the need for guidance and solace, I have embraced the power of vulnerability. Opening up to trusted friends, mentors, and professional resources provides avenues for understanding and growth. Connecting with like-minded individuals within the cybersecurity community offers a sanctuary of shared experiences and support. C.S. Lewis reminds us that “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
  5. Embracing Mentorship: Recognizing the value of mentorship, I am working to overcome my avoidance and embrace opportunities to guide and inspire others in their cybersecurity journeys. By acknowledging my expertise and sharing my experiences, I can contribute to the growth and development of aspiring professionals, offering them the support and guidance I once yearned for. Eleanor Roosevelt beautifully said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”


    As I peel back the layers of my emotional journey, I invite you to witness the challenges faced by a tech enthusiast navigating the intricate world of cybersecurity. From battling imposter syndrome, the desire to please others, and friendship turbulence to addressing the burden of mentorship avoidance, this path is far from smooth. Yet, within the depths of these struggles, I am cultivating resilience and rediscovering the essence of who I am. As I continue to evolve, I strive to strike a harmonious balance between professional excellence, nurturing authentic connections, and embracing the opportunity to mentor and guide others. May my journey serve as a testament that in the pursuit of our dreams, both personal and professional, it is essential to embrace our vulnerabilities, honor our own worth, and cultivate the genuine connections that enrich our lives. By sharing our experiences, supporting one another, and embracing the role of mentorship, we can create a thriving community that uplifts and empowers individuals in the realm of cybersecurity and beyond. In the words of Matty Mullins, “The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” Let us embark on this journey of self-discovery and growth, forging a path where personal fulfillment and professional success intertwine, creating a legacy of resilience, compassion, and unwavering authenticity.

2 Replies

  • Tofunmi, with this post, I believe you are well on your mentorship journey.  Well written and congrats on the example you are setting for all of us in the cybersecurity community.