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Imposter Syndrome, Anxiety && Me

kaydacode profile image Kim Arnett  ・4 min read

Hey there, it's me. It's been quite a while since I've posted, so I'd like to take this opportunity to dump a lot of thoughts, struggles and vulnerability. Please be kind as this is mostly my inner voice trying to help your inner voice :).

Pregnant Engineer?

If you follow me on Twitter, then you kind of knew what was going on. If you didn't well, SURPRISE! Things started slowing down for me around month 6 of pregnancy, aka January. Here's the truth - being a pregnant developer was completely uncomfortable. I waddled to and from meetings, had to wedge my belly under my desk or type at shoulder level, had to hide the pain in my face of being jabbed in the liver.. and let me tell you about trying to code with pregnancy brain.

If you haven't heard about pregnancy brain, it's essentially a decline of cognitive ability. There are no studies supporting this phenomenon, so clearly it's just something pregnant women have conspired together about. ;) So pregnancy brain made being productive very, very hard. I was struggling to compete with myself and what I was able to produce prior to pregnancy. Although my manager and team were incredibly supportive, I couldn't shake the feeling of letting people down.. whether or not that's really what was going on.

Anxiety followed me throughout my pregnancy and got incredibly worse as my due date approached. Anxiety over missing out while I was gone, being productive and pushing forward while physically not being able to keep up. The dr's appointments, the additional tests my situation required, it was all so much on top of trying to keep up in a forever-growing field.

non stress test graph of baby's heart rate

Non-Stress Tests 2x a week for the last 12 weeks, meaning 💩 could have hit the fan at any minute, and these were supposed to help detect it. Not stressful.. what so ever. 😶

Pregnant Speaker?

Furthermore, I was accepted to speak at Codemash! Speaking at Codemash has been a goal of mine for the last few years. Going into it, I was excited to represent women in tech in a different light, and I did (and killed it btw). Checkout this front row capture and my awkward mid-sentence picture, raising the krakens from the presentation.

Kim behind the speakers podium

What I really wasn't expecting during this experience was the feeling of imposter syndrome (and anxiety) that kept haunting me. "What if I forget what I practiced?", "What if someone calls me out after mis-speaking?" (hey pregnancy brain), "What if Xcode decides it's had enough", and the worst one "Do I know enough about iOS to be up here?". Yeah - after upwards of 6 years that thought still likes to barge in my head. Laughable isn't it?

While you were out..

Being on Maternity leave has brought a lot of emotions and thoughts to the table. For one, length of time off. I'm taking advantage of a very generous policy Expedia provides for new parents, whereas it's more industry-standard to return to work after just 6 and 8 weeks! Not to get too friendly, but my pre-pregnancy clothes didn't even fit at 8 weeks. And the hormones.. how do companies expect you to not only be productive, but act normal when you're crying in the bathroom because your code gave you an error?

I digress. The downtime I've had away from code, work, an adult schedule, and everything in between has given me a lot of time to reflect on past experiences. Things that have gone well and things that haven't. I want so badly to share these thoughts with you, to blog and to help others. Truth be told, I've written about 10 blogs in the past month that I have deleted out of imposter syndrome. Thoughts of "Who wants to hear this crap" and "Who are you again?". Imposter syndrome has only ever held me back. I've done well at combating it, but it always finds a way to suck me back in. Lately, it's been tag-teaming with my anxiety to really put on a show.

Furthermore, I've had time to reflect on where I want to take things with my career. When I go back to work, I want so badly to pick up where I left off, to pick up like I haven't been out at all. I know that's not feasible. There's been a WWDC in June, that I still haven't finished watching. There will be a new Xcode and Swift and various other frameworks this Fall. There will also be all the features and work I've missed out on that I'll need to ramp up. This is really just the surface, and I'm sure there's a lot I'll need to catch up on that I'm not even aware of right now, hey there developer community!

Takeaways

Sharing all of this with you has a few points I want to call out

  • everyone experiences imposter syndrome, no matter how experienced you are
  • it's ok to take time for yourself or your family, the world will still be here when you get back
  • it's important to remind yourself of ^^^
  • having a mental illness can be really inhabiting. It has hindered my career more than it has helped, and if you're in the same boat, I hope you can find a way to cope or overcome.
  • if you're tired, take a break before it's too late. I've been ready to quit tech more than I'd like to admit, but having this time to focus on personal things has left me feeling recharged, refreshed, and ready to tackle what's next.
  • if you need to step away for personal reasons, you are supported more than you realize. Take the time you need for yourself, because you can't perform your best if you're not feeling your best.

Thank you for taking the time to read, or skim. I'm hoping that sharing these vulnerable thoughts will give myself permission to get back to blogging, and will hopefully help someone else in the same position.

Discussion (14)

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Vaidehi Joshi

Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to reflect on, write about, and share this. It's so important for visible folks in our industry to talk about this to normalize these experiences, and I so appreciate you doing that ❤️

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SyntaxSeed (Sherri W)

This is a topic I have soo many thoughts about!! ❤️

I've had 3 children during my career as a developer & an extended 7-year stint as a full-time mom, only working very part-time on dev projects during that time.

These problems are very real. And unfortunately the challenges compound if you have more babies. The 'pregnancy-brain' (a horrible mix of nutrient-drain, dehydration, sleep-deprivation, distraction with thoughts & worries, and the exhausting hyper-alertness you have when taking care of young children & babies) only compounds on itself over time.

And time outside of our rapidly changing industry is difficult.

The good news is that it isn't permenent. Your focus will return both with proper self-care (drink water, sleep, recuperate nutrients) and as your children grow less in need of hyper-vigilance (approx 2-3yrs old).

My focus is fully back, and I used my out of industry time to binge a ton of learning resources & tackle projects I'd never have done otherwise.

Not to mention my 3 amazing sons. Worth it x 1000!

We need to talk about this more, to normalise & raise awareness of women's issues in our industry. Creating life, has some side-effects on our professional lives - that is very OK & should come with support from our colleagues & employers.

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kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett  Author

💙💚💙💚

glad to hear pregnancy brain retreats... it’s been 2 months and I’m still struggling. Lol. Thank you for sharing 😊

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SyntaxSeed (Sherri W)

When you get back to a regular full night's sleep it makes a dramatic difference! Each baby is different in that regard though!

My kids are forbidden from waking up before 6:30am. And we established them on a super early bedtime of 7:30pm... even my 5 & 7 year olds. Mostly for my & my husband's sanity. 😂

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Sarah Chima

Hi Kim, thanks for sharing your experience. We need more blog posts like this that are real and address women issues that people hardly talk in this male dominated field.

Btw, giving a talk while pregnant is super awesome.

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Kim Arnett  Author

Thank you Sarah!

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Erika Heidi

Thank you so much for sharing this, Kim! It resonates pretty well with my personal experience; I'd say pregnancy was a professional roller-coaster for me, I actually even changed to a different role in the company I was working for, it was a turbulent period with strong emotions and confusion. I also felt kind of embarrassed to ask for time off or just to pause for some rest when I needed. I didn't want to feel like a burden to my colleagues, even though I had all the support from my manager. Now talk about coming back to work... Another roller-coaster. It took me two and a half years :)

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Kim Arnett  Author

Oh wow. Thank you for sharing Erika, we’ll make it through 🙌🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼 Somehow. 😊

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Dave

I would LOVE to have someone with your attitude to work/productivity/life balance on my team, and all I know about you is this one post...

Please try to remember to tell that to the imposter syndrome whenever it appears. Expedia are VERY lucky to have you!

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Kim Arnett  Author

Thank you Dave <3

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Simon Newby

This is an amazing thing about Czech Republic, by law you can have up to three years. If you rejoin the firm within that period then have another, another three year cycle. Admittedly you yet 2/3 your monthly salary after a certain period but its not terrible.

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nulf

Thanks for sharing you experience! Almost two years in at a company that tries to tell me I'm very well appreciated but that imposter syndrome keeps creeping back up. The realization I need to take breaks helped me a lot. Even if it is for 15 minutes to take a walk or a week of to decompress.

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Carlos Caballero

Hi Kim!

Thanks very much for sharing your experience. In my opinion, it is very useful for colleagues that are in the same situation as you.

Thanks!