Have you ever had these thoughts of I don’t deserve to be where I am right now? There is no way I could of gotten through this. What if I failed and everyone will find out that I failed this really badly? I don’t have any experiences, I am not going to be good at it. Yes, all these thoughts are considered a part of Imposter Syndrome. What is Imposter Syndrome you ask? It is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. It is a very common phenomenal that occurs to a lot of people in society, and especially a lot more common in the tech industry. Today we will dive deep into the topic and learn some of the ways to deal with it.
Imposter Syndrome most commonly happens to those of us who are in school, graduating from school and seeking for a job, or starting a new and more challenging position. Simply put it this way, when we are stepping out of our comfort zone, we start to feel unsafe and uncertain of what we can do, where we are heading to, and how well we will do.
Imposter Syndrome happens a lot in tech industry, take a look at the graph shown above, at least 40% of employees at tech companies are feeling the fear of others finding out you are less intelligent or incapable at your job. Imposter Syndrome is very common in tech industry because as a software engineer, we will never stop learning, there is always new technologies coming out, different ways to write codes, and different situations / bugs we will run into at times. Software Engineer is not an easy role, one requires a lot of skills to become a software engineer, skills such as: master coding (technologies, programming languages, frameworks); the understanding of how a codebase works in a company; deliver a quality codes to the codebase for a company, work collaboratively with other software engineers (verbal or written communications are required); debugging our codes / the codebase; heck sometimes we even need to know how the business side runs, how the product works in order to deliver a better product / user experience. Software Engineer is basically someone who solve problems. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do from the beginning, and it can give us doubts about how to solve these problems. And sometimes it is not just about solving problems, when we look at things in a grand scheme, every position / role, every company / codebase works differently, every software engineer has their own way of coding, and sometimes it can be overwhelming when it comes to a new position at a new company.
Now that we have looked at Imposter Syndrome and how it occurs in the tech industry as a software engineer, let us take a look at some of the ways to deal with it. Before we begin, I just want to say there is no one size fit solution to deal with Imposter Syndrome, and it really depends on the situations that caused this type of self-doubting feelings. Tip #1 is to talk kindly to ourselves, and to stop comparing to others. Sometimes when we look at others and we are like: how does he/she do this? This is really great work and I will never be able to achieve that! Thoughts like these are exactly what can cause us to doubt ourselves. We need to talk kindly to ourselves, let go of the frustration when it comes to a bug / code block. Everyone has their beginning, whether it is the first time to code, the first time being a software engineer, even the first time to encounter such bug / code block. Nobody is born with all these abilities and knowledge that they have, therefore we should not compare ourselves to someone who has more experiences / knowledge. Just remember that they also started from somewhere, and it took them x amount of time to get to where they are now. With time and effort, eventually we will get there as well.
Tip #2 is to seek out for help. Remember when I said earlier don’t compare ourselves to others with more experiences, that doesn’t mean don’t seek out for help from others with more experiences. Talk to a colleague, a manager, a mentor, a friend can really help to reduce the negative feelings about ourselves. One of the hard thing about Imposter Syndrome is that it can get into our head easily and nobody is there to talk our way out of it. We can often be very critical about ourselves and the work that we do, therefore not being very objective sometimes. By addressing the issue and talking to someone about it, we are relieving the stress, and acknowledging our shortcomings, and hoping to seek for a solution to certain “problems” / feelings.
Tip #3 is to take actions despite fears! Now that we have talked to someone about our feelings and problems, it is time to take action and make a plan to solve this issue. Whether it is something small as a bug, or learning a new codebase or programming language, we need to discuss the issue and make a plan towards achieving our goal. A lot of times talking to someone not only identifies the issue, but also this person might be able to give us some resources to solve the issue / fear that we have. In the tech industry, most likely a lot of software engineers go through a lot of these problems, therefore they might have some unique resources and perspectives on these issues and how to resolve them. With their resources and suggestions, we can start to formulate a plan to break things down, and achieve them piece by piece. This way we are not only facing our fears / doubts, we are also learning something new and achieving the better version of ourselves.
Tip #4 is to seek out for professional help! If it comes to a point where we are consecutively experiencing Imposter Syndrome for more than 2 weeks, looking for professional counseling might not be a bad idea. We should not be ashamed to look for help when it comes to our mental health, and different perspectives can often help us understand the situations, gain some insights, potentially coming up with a new solution to our problems.
As someone who recently graduated coding boot camp, and looking for a job to become a software engineer during the COVID-19 pandemic, Imposter Syndrome can be overwhelming sometimes. Therefore I decided to do some research about this topic and write an article, hoping to ease my own doubts, and help others who are in a similar situation / issue. Also feel free to connect and chat with me on LinkedIn. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!