Okay, so I’m old. I’ll be forty in two years, and writing that is enough to put me in my place. At the same time, I’m experiencing a lot of imposter syndrome in similar ways when I’ve started my career or transitioned to new ones.
What’s going on?
Well, imposter syndrome shares a bed with doing new things. For example, this year, I published my first book, started my consultancy, and I’m launching my first online class as we speak. Each one of these things prompts feelings that I’m just a giant fraud, and everything will fall apart around me any minute.
Though I’m no stranger to this feeling, knowing about it doesn’t make it go away. It does mean I have some ways to cope with it.
One of the easier things I can do for myself is to be clear about what I want to accomplish. When I achieve that, I can remind myself that things didn’t fall apart, and I did get something done.
One key element to setting up some goals and looking to your results is that you want to keep them as small as possible. Probably even smaller than you’re thinking right now. If I were a junior developer, then maybe I’d settle for one line of code. Getting things to that done state triggers a reward mechanism in your brain.
You can take more significant steps as practiced experience replaces the doubts and fears.
Imposter syndrome causes a lot of nervous energy for me. It’s almost like a slow drip of adrenaline. I can use it to worry, read, research, and do many things that my guts tell me to do to feel better. Or I can get to work.
Just yesterday, I wound up in one of these non-productive struggles with my extra energy. I spent hours doing things that were anything but the real work I needed to do. Eventually, I figured it out, took a deep breath, and got back to business and executed my first marketing for my class.
It turns out that I can use that energy to push through some of the more significant obstacles to get to that small result quicker. Instead of putting a barrier in my way by believing I’m not good enough, I can find something to try and try it.
Enough reading, enough videos, do the thing!
I know what I’m feeling, and I know why I’m feeling it. I can, to a degree, allow those feelings to exist. I don’t feel hurried to make them go away or treat it like a problem. It’s just what I experience.
Many people I work with want the feeling to go away, which is natural because it’s an unpleasant feeling. But that puts what you feel into the position of being a problem, and that will put your mind into a frenzy of cooking up ideas to make you feel different or not be an imposter. Another way to look at it is that you are now spending twice the energy on this. First, you’re feeling it, and second, you’re working your butt off trying not to feel it.
I take the stance that this feeling is real, not a problem, nor a threat to what I’m doing. When that happens, the emotions can come and go, and my awareness of them allows me to make progress and harness the extra energy I sometimes get.
So when you feel imposter syndrome again, maybe something here will help you a little bit. After all, you’ll feel it again at some point. We all do, even after a decade.
I publish a newsletter on consulting and making the most of your development career.
My newest book Land the Job helps developers take control of their career and get the job they want in tech.
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