Dealing with imposter syndrome as a developer
Imposter Syndrome is a common feeling in software development. It’s not only beginners or mid-level developers that face this problem but also people who are experienced coders. In a Blind Survey, it was discovered that employees working in top-notch companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple also face imposter syndrome despite their accomplishments. 58% of tech employees suffer from this feeling.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
According to Caltech Counseling Center, 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’re not alone). It’s called imposter syndrome: the constant feeling of not being good enough or knowing enough to do your job well. 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 syndrome in their lives.
In this blog post, I’ll 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. Not only are there more people aspiring to be developers, but the use of software is expanding, which means the demand for devs 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 creates 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 people feel that they can never make it as a top-tier developer. 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 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’re not alone. 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 will help you to deal with imposter syndrome.
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 else’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 us 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’ll never be an expert.
To be honest, you never really will be an expert in software development. There will always be more to learn. There will always be new languages, or 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
Regular reflection on your successes can help remind 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 month to add all accomplishments from that month to a “portfolio” of accomplishments. Even if something eventually failed, if you attempted something outside your comfort zone, write it down. It was a growth experience.
In addition to capturing your monthly 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 accomplishment and how you felt about it.
This practice comes with a bonus too. You can use that portfolio to boost your résumé or LinkedIn profile to help you get future jobs.
Get feedback from seniors and your manager
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 imposter syndrome. Your manager is the person who has control over your job and getting their input on how you’re doing is essential for getting a realistic view of your skills and effectiveness.
Whenever you get stuck in your code or need help in understanding some algorithm or design choice, 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 set goals and plan your career path. This will provide you 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 you want to work in or for. Then, using that information you 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.