A Daily Impostor

Impostor syndrome has been a common buzzword in software development for the past year or two. It’s an interesting concept and I think everyone experiences it to a certain degree.

There are two parts to the definition. One, as an individual in the workplace you don’t internalize your own accomplishments. This means a person thinks less of themselves and downplays their achievements and value in the workplace. Two, the individual feels they are an incapable fraud and this fraud will eventually be discovered. These feelings lead to a lot of anxiety and self doubt.

Software seems to be an interesting industry where the impostor syndrome is quite common. I definitely feel this way and it has impacted my career negatively. How you boost your own self confidence is somewhat subjective, and while I’ve gotten better, I feel I have a long way to go.

I recently came across an article that gave me a different perspective on a few levels. The article was more about work life balance but it made a few interesting points about how managing work life balance helped the author with his own impostor syndrome.

The issue for me is that if I don’t set these boundaries, if I allow myself to continue working and exploring and solving problems at all hours, my own Impostor Syndrome only gets worse. I want to know everything and I cannot, and because I cannot I start to think less of myself.

This is a great take on things. I feel the same way on a lot of levels, I know there are things I should be learning, tools I should be experimenting with and trends I should be following. It’s nearly impossible to keep up and knowing that can lead to feelings of inadequacy that only increase symptoms of impostor syndrome.

The second paragraph goes on to discuss social media and the developer community

Twitter and other social media are the worst things when it comes to having this problem. People who are clearly brilliant programmers, people who I admire for their work, would proudly declare that they’d just spent all day coding and were feeling really accomplished and I could only sit back and despair about why I couldn’t do that. Why can’t I put that kind of effort in? Stupid brain! Why won’t you let me be as productive as they are?! I can be just as good as they are, if only you’d get outta my way!

This was a trap I found myself falling into a year ago when I was really getting into React development. I discovered twitter was a great place for news and updates and there were all these amazing developers out there sharing their work. But comparing yourself to others is a surefire way to get serious impostor syndrome. We are all different in our own strengths and abilities so there’s no reason to for direct comparisons.

The article is about being a 9 to 5 developer but I think it has lessons for anyone working in any profession. We must balance our work and life in order to be effective in both our personal worlds and our professional worlds.