Imposter syndrome is a feeling in software development. Not only do beginners or mid-level developers face this problem but also experienced coders.
Did you know? That in a survey, it was discovered that employees working in top-notch companies such as Google, Amazon, eBay, Microsoft, Facebook and even Apple face imposter syndrome despite their accomplishments? Yes, it’s true.
58% of tech employees suffer from this feeling.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
These negative emotions are very common (you are not alone). It is called Imposter Syndrome: the constant feeling of not being good enough or knowing enough to do well in your job. Trust me, almost everyone has experienced these emotions at some point in their life, whether personal or professional – and not just within Software development. It’s human nature. The most successful and productive people are often very effective at minimizing the occurrences of imposter syndromes in their lives.
In this article, I will be breaking down the common root causes of these emotions and actionable steps towards overcoming imposter syndrome.
What can trigger these feelings as a developer?
Software development never stops evolving. It’s a large field and it’s only getting bigger and bigger. Not only are there more people aspiring to be developers, but the use of software is expanding, which means the demand for developers is going up. This encourages the frequent creation of new languages, frameworks, and tools. This means there’s more to learn and it’s only going to get more complex as the industry matures. This might make you feel overwhelmed occasionally.
Also, the media create unrealistic perceptions around the tech industry. Software specifically, gets a lot of attention and glory in the media. Given how often new tech startups get covered in the media and how their founders are portrayed as brilliant and uniquely creative, it’s no wonder that so many feel that they can never make it as top-tier developers. Software development also has a mythos that’s grown up around it that says only the super-smart people can grasp it. While that may have been true once, programming languages and tools have come a long way and made programming a lot easier and more approachable.
This misconception of brilliance being a prerequisite for developers, and the pressure to stay current on the latest trends, can make you focus on unimportant kinds of stuff, and fuels the feeling of inadequacy. Soon enough, you become a victim of imposter syndrome.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Before we list out a few things to overcome this problem, you need to understand first that it’s normal and you are not alone. The majority of people experience the same feeling as you do. So don’t panic and don’t let it cause you to freeze and stop working.
Every developer should learn to talk about the tools or technology they are working with, as this would educate the next person and vice versa. Below are some solutions that helped me over Imposter Syndrome and will help you deal with it also.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
The crux of imposter syndrome is that you’re comparing what you know to what you think other people know. You see everyone's success and intelligence, and then you fear that you don’t have that or know that concept or technology. The focus on your weaknesses is understandable and natural. None of them wants to be the worst developer in a company.
Most developers love to learn and there’s so much to learn in development. So it’s natural to look at what you are yet to learn, compare yourself with people who know a lot about it, and feel inferior and that you will never be an expert.
To be honest, you never will be an expert in Software development. There will always be more new languages, processes, or technologies to learn. So embrace your ignorance and use that to fuel your growth, not your self-doubt.
Keep track of your accomplishments
Reflect regularly on your successes, which will help you of how far you’ve come and how good you are. This will help balance the scales of positive vs negative self-talk that is the heart of imposter syndrome.
One good way to do that is to make a recurring calendar appointment for the end of every week to add all accomplishments from that to a “portfolio” of accomplishments. Even if something eventually failed, if you attempted something outside your comfort zone, write it down. It was a great experience.
In addition to capturing your weekly accomplishments, you should also take a few minutes to reflect on past accomplishments and add any from the previous months that you forgot. Also, don’t just write them down and read them. You need to truly reflect on what went into that accomplishments and how you felt about them.
Bonus Tip: You can actually use that portfolio to boost your résumé or LinkedIn portfolio to help you get jobs in the future.
Get feedback from your mentors and seniors
Imposter syndrome thrives when all you do is think. One of the things you need to do is get out of your head to combat the Imposter Syndrome.
Whenever you get stuck in your code or need help in understanding some algorithms or design choices, get help from your seniors. It doesn’t make you a fool. When you ask how the product works, or how their QA process works for the new project, it’s not a dumb question. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help.
Plan your career goals to reduce doubt
A lot of self-induced imposter syndrome can be due to the unknown when looking ahead. To combat this, you should get goals and plan your career path. This will provide your confidence when making career decisions and deciding what skills to learn and focus on.
Instead of looking at how you learn, you need to look at what you want to do eventually. What industry, technology, language, company do you want to work in for. Then, using that information you will find out what you need to learn.
A lot of developers suffer from imposter syndrome. You need to understand that it’s normal and you are not alone. Doubting your accomplishment and feeling like a bad programmer is completely normal. Understand that it’s impossible to know everything every time.
You don’t need to run from imposter syndrome, embrace it and just consider this as an opportunity to learn something new that aligns with your goals.
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