It’s early Monday morning, I sit down at my desk. It’s my second week at my first development job. It’s eerily quiet as I’m the only one in my section. I turn on my computer and take a deep breath. Just then a wave of anxiousness runs over me as I think… What will happen if people here find out I can’t code? What if I really can’t code? What if it takes me a long time to get up to speed? Can I really do this? Am I really a developer? Do I really belong here? Have I worked hard enough to get here? What if make a mistake and they fire me?
No doubt if you’re a developer, you’ve dealt with imposter syndrome. There are a ton of articles out there on what it is and how to deal with it. However, the purpose of this article is to share some of the practical things I’ve done to improve my battle with Imposter Syndrome. Hopefully this article will help you if you’re struggling with the same feelings. The most important thing to remember is you are not the only one that has experienced this.
We will discuss 4 methods that have helped me. These are certainly not all the ways one can combat imposter syndrome but they are a start to help you overcome some of those feelings.
- Identify the thoughts
- Confide in others
- Plan things out
- Putting it all together
No matter when you have experienced imposter syndrome, the one thing that is common is that it hits you like a ton of bricks. You feel fine, you’re doing well, then all of sudden there’s a problem you can’t quite understand. Or there is an issue you can’t quite solve on your own. Then the negative questions start to circulate and the more you struggle, the more negative the questions in your mind become. If this is left unchecked it can severely damage your confidence. So what do you do?
What I do is start with identifying what exactly is causing the thoughts. What about the issue or problem I’m facing is making me feel this way. I’ll take a deep breath and ask my self some questions. Am I feeling this way because this is a challenge I’ve never faced before? Is it because I feel I’m going to fail? Do I think this is too hard for me to solve? Is this problem actually too difficult to solve?
Asking questions helps me get to the root cause more quickly. For example, let’s say I feeling inadequate because the issue I’m dealing with I’ve never dealt with before, so I feel I’m going to fail. I start to question that thought with more facts. Hasn’t every challenge up until this point been something I haven’t faced before? If I was able to overcome those, can’t I do the same here? There’s nothing different about this situation that I haven’t face before except the kind of problem right?
Once you start to break down the wall of negative questions with the hammer of facts, you begin to feel better and start to think of the issue you’re facing as not an end of something, but a beginning of something else.
A good way to combat imposter syndrome is to start thinking and working like a more experienced developer. The best part is, you don’t need to have a ton of experience to do it. I’ve heard from many Senior developers that the difference between an experienced developer and one that is new is planning. A more experienced developer will take time to plan things out before starting on a problem. They begin to think about all the issues that could go wrong, will go wrong, and the bugs they may experience along the way.
The less experienced developer will see the problem and start to tackle it and solve the issues as they come upon them, this usually lead to the issue taking much longer to solve and perhaps pain for the developer.
By creating a plan before you start coding you can avoid most the issues that come up. The more you plan for those issues and think about ways to combat bugs that may come up the better you’ll feel if you do encounter hard to solve issues because you’ve solved so many others before it.
This all sounds great, but how should one go about doing this? Well, what you could do is speak to your more experience co-workers. Before starting on an assignment, pair with a developer that has done it before so you can learn from their experience without any of the pain. Create plan with their help to find all of the potholes you may encounter. This not only helps you grow your skills as a developer and grow your confidence, it also helps you confide more easily in others which something else that can you help you combat imposter syndrome.
Here’s the part that can scare you. You need to talk with others about your thoughts and feelings, especially other developers on your team. This helps for a couple of reasons.
First, it takes the pressure off from having to keep these thoughts to yourself the entire time. Feeling like you could lose your job at any second if you don’t figure something out by yourself can be extremely taxing.
Second, you’ll realize you’re not alone. When you speak with other developers they will tell you that they struggled with the same feelings too and a lot still do. That’s because no matter how long you’ve been a developer you will NEVER know everything there is to know about your field. Technology moves too fast, there constantly becomes new ways to do things and new libraries and frameworks to do them in.
Third, it helps you collaborate with other developers much easier. Why can I say that? Well the moment I became vulnerable with other developers, two amazing things happened. I was able to see myself through the eyes of a more experienced developer and I was able to build trust. This alleviated the fear I had of asking other developers questions and helped me be much more open with what I needed help on. As I started to complete project after project with the help of my fellow developers my confidence grew.
Imposter syndrome can hamper you, but it doesn’t have too. If you can recognize the feelings, plan things out, and confide in others you can actually use imposter syndrome to your advantage to spur you on to keep pushing yourself forward.
You maybe new developer right out of a bootcamp looking for your first job and you’re wondering whether or not you’re good enough to get a job. Or you might have just gotten your first dev job and wondering if you’re good enough to do the job well. In any case, I’ll tell you a secret. You got this! You can do it!. Things will get better, you will find a job. You will do great, just continue pushing forward and don’t give up!
If you like this article, why not check out some of my other articles.