Yes, Imposter Syndrome Is Real

Impostor syndrome affects all kinds of people from all parts of life: women, men, medical students, marketing managers, actors and executives. Created by leo J. Barnuevo on Jun 22, 2021

According to Wikipedia, impostor syndrome is

a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.

The funny thing about impostorism is that it isn’t constantly there. There are certain triggers that allow it to resurface, such as winning an award and getting a new job. And when it does resurface, productivity goes down, anxiety goes up, and words-per-minute goes down.

Impostor syndrome affects people from all walks of life, but this article will be directed towards my fellow developers.

“Hey man, you’re so humble!”,

“No I’m not, I just have imposter syndrome.”

— Not a real conversation

What causes impostor syndrome?

1. Technology evolves, fast

Technology moves at such an incredible pace, that you can be an expert in something particular now, and then become obsolete in 1 or 2 years. It’s no wonder why some of the most experienced developers feel most like a fraud.

2. Unrealistic expectations by the media

We’ve all heard stories about the young tech genius who taught himself to code when he’s 3 months old from the comfort of his mother’s womb (of course it’s a joke, but it is not too far from how the media is portraying software developers), and we have all seen shows like HBO’s Silicon Valley.

The truth is, most people did not learn to code that early in their lives, and neither are all programmers capable of building the next billion-dollar app. And that’s okay.

3. Google + Stackoverflow

Whether it is to understand a piece of code, to fix a pesky bug, or to look for solutions, we’ve all used them (because often times developer documentation is just not enough!). It makes you wonder if you can even do your job without them at all. If you can’t do your job without them, aren’t you just a professional Google/Stack Overflow user instead of a real developer?

What is the solution?

1. Acceptance

The first step is to acknowledge the problem. Accept that the imposter syndrome is there to stay. I would love to think that I have a pretty good handle on the issue by now, but the fact is that it never truly goes away. Instead of trying to push it away or find a permanent cure to it, you should try to be aware of your triggers (things that trigger your imposter syndrome), and reflect on those triggers instead. Why does getting that new job makes me feel like a fraud? Why do I feel undeserving of that award that I won?

And even if I did not find a clear answer to some of those questions, the attempt on its own has allowed me to feel more empowered, and in control of the issue.

2. Celebrate small successes

Give credit where credit’s due, even if it’s to yourself. You found the solution. You developed that app. You fixed that bug. Of course, other developers could’ve also did the same, but the fact is you’re the one who did it!

Life goes so fast, that most of us don’t really know how we ended up where we are. Look back at your achievements, however big or small, positive or negative, own it, and be proud of it.

Personally, I maintain a Trello board to remind myself of the things that I did, and each time I get the feeling that Mr. Imposter is coming out, I open up that Trello board and stare at it until he goes away. You could even use it as a part of your resume!

3. A helping hand

As it turns out, you and I are also part of the solution. If you are a senior developer, it is important for you to tell your juniors that it is okay to be overwhelmed. Keep in mind that the developer learning curve is exponential, and something trivial to you can be really difficult for a junior. Reassure them that everything is difficult until it becomes easy, and always offer your support.

If you’re a junior yourself, it doesn’t hurt to find someone who is more experienced than you to talk to. Developers might look like robots, but they are not, they have feelings too. Aren’t we all juniors to somebody?

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