Have I triggered your fight or flight response yet? Are you sweating? It's ok, we all are.
After writing my previous blog, I took a bit of a break from writing (as you can see). Not only because I was too busy freaking out over learning ReactJS, but because I also wasn't sure how to follow up from the attention my previous post received.
After sharing my post on my modeling and personal/tech instagram accounts (as well as my dad sharing it with every contact in his phone) I received a lot of love back from friends and colleagues on my journey, but that was all expected.
What came as a surprise was when I'd noticed an account on twitter had shared my post which ended up leading many others to sharing my post. So many people had messaged me about how they resonated with portions of my story and many were happy to know that they weren't alone in their journey or within how they felt on said journey.
Unfortunately that ended up being a blessing and a curse because when it came time for me to start writing again... I suddenly felt like Michael Jackson after Thriller popped off.
How was I supposed to write something that was just as good?
Oh no, after setting the tone with that, will people want to read whatever crap I put out next??
Am I smart and knowledgable enough to blog about technical topics? I can't teach anyone about coding!!
Am I even interesting enough for general blogging?
Well, after taking a long, late night walk to clear my mind last night, it hit me: I'm experiencing imposter syndrome again... and this time it's about my blog! Let's write about it.
Loosely speaking, it's the act of doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.
I'm sure everyone has experienced this in some degree at some point in their life, but I feel as though this mental bully does a real number on those in technical fields (especially bootcamp students). Although I've actually dealt with it a lot within modeling, I'd dismissed it as something I'd victoriously conquered when Flatiron School's first onboarding materials spoke heavily on it.
Yeah, that was not the case.
During phase one, I felt great until we started talking about the DOM and how to manipulate it. Suddenly I felt like the program was a train moving a mile a minute and I was desperately grasping to the back railing with sweaty, slippery hands, attempting not to be flung off. I saw other classmates understanding topics in the lectures and even being more advanced with their problem solving methods with their coding, while I was still trying to understand the topic from three days ago. That feeling died down a bit when I got to the coding challenge, studied the mock challenge to really get an understanding of everything, and ultimately did really well. It disappeared completely when we worked on the first group project and I was completely holding my own in the parts of the project I was working on.
That was great and all, except that exact same cycle came back for round two in the next phase. Heyyy, imposter syndrome. How you doing, girl?
Listen, it's not exactly something I think we can truly admonish from our mind's hardwiring. I do, however, think we can take measures to recognize and combat it quickly. Here's how I've been going about dealing with this nuisance:
Notice the pattern
In this particular case, I'm dealing with IS during a structured program and it happens the same way each phase since each phase is structured similarly. I already know that the first week is going to be pretty straightforward. It's usually just learning the beginnings and fundamentals of whatever new language/framework/etc we're learning and it's easy to grasp and digest. I'm also quite aware the second week is when IS busts down my door because we're getting into the more complex concepts while still being fed information at the same speed. Of course there's going to be things I don't understand immediately (my gifted kid syndrome says otherwise but that's another topic for another day). I have to remind myself that I just need to really slice up each lesson and use other sources to learn it in my free time if I'm not fully understanding from the course materials or lecture.
If you notice you're dealing with IS consistently with the aspect of your life, there's often time a pattern to the mental wall, and if you can identify that, you can combat it early.
Reward yourself for the little wins
One issue I have is if I don't immediately understand something (or if I notice others are understanding faster than I), I tend to beat myself up over it. I have to remember that doing so isn't helping me learn. In fact, it's completely blocking my ability to learn because I'm then in the mindset that I'm daft and won't ever understand what I'm trying to learn.
I've started rewarding my mini-wins. Whether that be writing a successful line of code that passes a test, or it's just a concept actually clicking in my head, I reward myself in some way, shape, or form. That's often me going out to get a coffee and pastry or something of the sort. The rewards remind me that I just need to take baby steps. The course is moving fast but that doesn't mean I can't slow things down after hours to supplement my learning. Take it easy.
Remember you're not alone
Remember how I said I was watching other student's comprehend and excel above and beyond what we were learning? Well, when I took a step back and really thought about it, that was maybe a couple students out of the 70-80 we have present during lectures. My cohort's daily stand-up/stand-down sessions have seriously helped quell my anxiety of being the only one not understanding things or feeling overwhelmed by the amount of new information we're being fed in such a short time while being expected to completely grasp it and implement it within our own code. We all say a challenge and a win from the day/previous day and many times that's a majority of us saying we don't really understand a topic completely. It really helped to remind me that this is, in fact, an accelerated course and we're all going through it. Also our hilariously meme-filled discord channel where we're all extremely transparent with our thoughts has made it clear we're all out here attempting to stay afloat in the same hole-ridden boat. Love those guys, they keep me sane and all honestly feel like fam.
For a professional over-thinker and ADHD-haver like me, IS can hit me swiftly and incognito. Using your intuition and a few helpful practices really go a long way when getting out of this mental trap. At the end of the day, whether the tips above help or not, the most important thing is slowing things down, assessing yourself, and really focusing catering your coping mechanisms to your own lifestyle. No human is the same so not every method will work for everyone. The most we can do is take it one day at a time.
That being said, I'd love to hear your experience(s) dealing with imposter syndrome and if you have a certain trick to combating it that works well for you, I'm beyond curious to hear in the comments!
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