Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
...A subject that has been talked about endlessly for decades so why cover this subject? Because it still exists and it always will. It can be absolutely crippling, washing away your entire identity and confidence and the irony is that there is usually very little basis for us feeling this way. Did you talk your way into med school and now you have to perform surgery? Did you sneak into an airport as a pilot and now you have to land the plane? These would qualify as amazing reasons to feel this way (and please give me a wink in either situation so I can run in the other direction). Oddly though these feelings creep into very well-adjusted people who have been trained in and practiced their current or desired role and it feels exponentially so in the tech industry. We have let this consume us long enough so let's look at some quick and effective ways to fight it.
Why Is This Happening To Me?
To fix this problem we first must understand it. Why do we see ourselves as frauds when we have worked so hard to learn and understand something? There are so many threads and posts and tweets and blogs talking about the myriad of things that we, as developers, must know and learn and do. It can be entirely intimidating. Not only that but even in entry-level positions, the list of technologies and languages and experience needed can be daunting, to say the least. How is one supposed to take in all of this information and not feel pressure? It can feel as if it is never enough as if you are never enough. Our bodies are made to keep us from danger, to make us feel comfortable. What is uncomfortable? Not knowing, learning new things, the possibility of doing something wrong, of being judged. So here we are, unsure, uncomfortable, and afraid to act, but why? Has someone truly embarrassed us? Did we receive some criticism and took it the wrong way? Have we tried and failed and felt terrible about it? We've seen others who have been through these things who smile, shrug, and move on. Why? How? They believe in themselves and they know that these situations, regardless of how they may have made them feel at the time, were temporary and are all learning opportunities.
Building, Belief, Community
"Believe in yourself!" Sounds cute, it makes for a fun t-shirt or maybe one of those inspirational office pictures that we all roll our eyes at.
Yet, we have all known people who seem to simply declare themselves whatever they want to be, like children. That is what we should all do. The keyword is "do". So you are taking classes, you have graduated, you are self-taught and you have completed projects and have work to show. Yet you say things like "I am working towards..." or "I am learning..." or "I am applying to be..." The fact is that you ARE, you've DONE IT. Do you have decades of experience? No, but you've built a website, multiple maybe. Were they school projects or YouTube walkthroughs? Do they just live in your GitHub or your desktop? Sure, and that's absolutely fine. You, my friend, are a developer. Act like it, say it, add that title to your LinkedIn or other social media. You may not have a lot of experience but every day that you code and build you are gaining experience and adding to your toolkit. So we have covered the belief part, now comes the building.
Build, build, build. Maybe employment is the goal, maybe you want to freelance, but behind the scenes, regardless of if you have formal schooling or if you are self-taught, you have to build. Building projects will build your confidence and teach you skills. Things that you had a hard time grasping become second nature through practice and learning. More importantly, building projects help put you into various situations where you will need to rely on your resources to create a working project. Maybe these are skills that you know or some that you have to learn. How do you learn these things? Google. Everybody Googles code questions during their day regardless of their skill level. This is actually a skill that you will refine with time.
Another great way to get past this is to reach out to others. In my last blog I spoke about how lost I felt until I spoke to my classmates and instructors. The realization that you are not alone in these feelings can be enough but at least it is a start. For all of the insanity that can be thrown around on social media, you can also find a community of real people who deal with these issues every day. Maybe you can find a mentor who can help you along the way or maybe you find a shoulder to cry on or bounce ideas off of, in any effect, don't allow yourself to be alone, after all, it takes a village.
"I have been devoured by impostor syndrome and you give me 3 easy steps"?
Impostor syndrome can ruin us, it can devour us and take over our thoughts and lives. Why let it continue with a long, drawn-out battle? It has taken enough from us. The things we have covered are things that we need to do on a consistent basis, and they have helped me and I know they will help you. Maybe now you bust into a room with a huge amount of courage and confidence. Maybe you feel a little better for a while and keep working on yourself. Both are fine. At the very least give yourself a little credit for all of the hard work that you have done, give yourself a little credit even if you are thinking about making a change. At least you have gotten that far. It all has to start somewhere and the bad parts can come to an end. Let us take a quick look at the word impostor for a second.
Definition of impostor : one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception
False, deception, these are all illusions, things that are not real. Let us focus on what is real, what we have done, what we have and will continue to accomplish. Let us keep impostors where they belong, not among us but in Among Us.