This is another post about Impostor Syndrome. For the unfamiliar, Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that makes you feel like a fraud, that you do not deserve/fit the job you have and that the only way you’re keeping it is by sheer luck or blindness from your employer.
Definitions found online only attribute this feeling to high achievers, but in my point of view, this is applicable to anyone, independently of their ambitions, when faced with a demanding profession of some sort.
Software development is one of the usual suspects. You need to be competent in a multitude of areas, and, as expected, this competence is dependent on experience and evolves as technologies do, so one can feel he’s eternally running after something he will never attain, therefore falling into the depths of the self-confidence issues.
I think there are enough resources online to help people overcome the feeling of being an impostor but I’m writing this down not only to share the perspective and information I’ve collected but also to keep myself moving forward. The times I felt like an impostor were my worst times productivity wise, I just couldn’t get anything done and was constantly second guessing myself. Feeling like this usually triggered one of two possible responses. Either I was nagging people too much to validate my ideas and work or I got stuck on a task for a while.
Without a clear process on how to deal with this, I would default to easier work, in order to regain my confidence, so that I could drop the feeling for a bit, but it would eventually come back.
Why do I feel this way?
We mostly feel like impostors since we keep comparing our inner (and complete) image of ourselves with the external image of others. Usually, we’re so struck by how much people can do and know that we cannot imagine ourselves being like that and that someone must be really mistaken to have hired us in order to perform the same kind of job.
There are different nuances here at play so for a more in-depth notion of the subject, here’s a video from a youtube channel I really recommend:
A few weeks ago, this Hacker News post asked for opinions on how to deal with impostor syndrome. It was refreshing comparing what I thought were the ways to deal with it and the other points of view I was able to gather.
My way of beating imposture was to think that experience and savviness only come with time and that if I’m being honest and doing my job properly then it would eventually fade away. If it ever became bad to the point of paralysing me I would take a step back, reassure that I’m able to figure it out and give it another proper shot.
With this being said, here’s a list of things you can keep in mind when you’re on an impostor day:
No-one Is Perfect
Being perfect is very different from trying to be your very best.
One of the things which used to send me down a spiral was thinking “I should’ve done this right from the start”. Not giving yourself room to fail is like sabotaging your own success. People learn from trial and error.
When it comes to career progress, I’m predisposed to seeing the glass half empty. This helps me stay humble and focused on learning/growing.
This point of view is also, sometimes, paralysing. There are always new and interesting things to learn and they keep on coming. It is overwhelming at times, and it is at these times that we need to look at the glass half full. We need to celebrate our successes, how far we’ve come and how we’re doing things we thought unattainable some time ago.
You’re in charge of your own morale so keep yourself in check.
Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. Have hobbies, side-projects or activities that are outside of the scope of your everyday job. This doesn’t mean they should not have a carryover to your profession (if they do that’s awesome). It just means that you shouldn’t take home more of the work you already do.
Write a blog, build stuff, watch movies, read books, play games. Do something that interests you and motivates you to learn more (and subsequently, improve yourself).
I’ve found out that writing really helps me organise my thoughts and better my self-awareness. It also helps in solidifying knowledge since I’m trying to convey a message in a way that is understandable (the same principle applies to teaching).
Let time do its work
I’ve saved the best for last. Nothing really beats feeling like an impostor than growing older and wiser.
By letting time do its thing, we’re capable of having a better understanding of how our brain works against us when self-confidence is an issue. We become better at reassuring ourselves that we will be ok. This article is a great read if you’re feeling that you are falling behind your peers.
You will also acquire experience and will be able to figure out how the people you aspire to be like got to be like they are. And through work and dedication, you can keep building a better version of yourself.