I’ve recently taken on a new challenge at a different company working on a brand new project. And, like it has happened to me at the beginning of my previous employment, I am starting to feel the impostor syndrome kick in.
And so I thought: “I’ve been able to overcome this before, so I need to figure out what I did back then so that I can apply it now as well.”
And that is what this post is all about: How to overcome your impostor syndrome.
If you’d like to chat about this, my DMs are open on Twitter.
💁♂️ What is Impostor Syndrome
According to Wikipedia, Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, an impostor, despite external evidence proving otherwise. And this definition seems quite adequate to describe it.
A chef who’s been invited to cook for a very important venue. A writer who was asked to write a daily section at the local newspaper. And, of course, the developer who got the job and now has to write code together with a team.
This applies to all areas of expertise overall and it is a highly widespread phenomenon.
Very often do I see tweets of people who are experiencing it and probably you’ve seen them too. Countless blog posts of people sharing their experiences and how they felt at the time. Close friends who may have opened up to you.
The truth is
Impostor Syndrome is real.
And that is a good thing! It shows that you actually care about your work, about the quality of what you are delivering. But, and I know this very well, it can be hard to cope with this feeling.
🍃 Why do you feel it
In software development, There are a couple of reasons why you might feel the way you feel:
It never stops evolving
It is a large field and it is only getting bigger. The demand for developers has never been higher, which leads to the creation of new languages, new frameworks, new positions, new tools. This means that there is more to learn each day and at a higher complexity. So it is normal to feel overwhelmed from time to time.
Unrealistic Media Perceptions
Software development has gained massive traction within media outlets. With new and ground-breaking startups being commonly covered by the press, portraying its brilliant founders and super-smart developers, giving outsiders a sense that only the most intellectually capable are able of such feats.
🥊 How to fight it
So what can you do in order to fight it? There are a few actions you can take to combat the imposter syndrome living within.
You need to realize and accept that the imposter syndrome never truly goes away. Since you are comparing what you know to what you think others know, you miss seeing the others struggling and you don’t even know what they lack knowledge on. And this is the basis of imposter syndrome, you see everyone else’s success and intelligence, and then you fear you don’t have those capabilities. Embrace the fact that there will always be more to learn. Instead of thinking of this as overwhelming, think of it as a liberating thing, you can always keep learning, growing, and evolving! This takes us to the next point.
Adopt a Growth Mindset
One’s level of intelligence is not fixed nor set by biological aspects generally. Those who think so, tend to have a need to constantly prove their abilities and intelligence, and be immediate perfectionists. Failures are often blamed on circumstances or other people. The reality is that intelligence is not fixed, but instead, it is directly related to effort challenge, as Carol Dweck says in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. Viewing obstacles as opportunities to learn and improve is the basis of the growth mindset, and will make you a better developer and person overall.
Keep track of your Achievements
Regularly reflecting on your successes can help remind you of how far you’ve come and how good you really are. A good way of doing this is to keep track once a week or once a month of all that you have accomplished during that period. And either writing it down or, better yet, building a portfolio or blog demonstrating those recently acquired skills. This way, whenever you start questioning yourself and your capabilities, you have a long track record to balance out the negative thoughts.
Encouraging a relaxed work atmosphere and collaboration can help mitigate the effects of impostor syndrome. When everyone becomes aware that their coworkers also don’t know everything, it becomes easier to accept that you too don’t know everything. It is okay to ask for help. In fact, you should encourage it!
Suffering from imposter syndrome can be debilitating, but remember, you are not alone in this. If you aim to adapt, learn new skills and technologies when you need them, you are not an impostor, you are a developer.