Imposter syndrome happens to us all. Here’s what it feels like, where it comes from, and how to overcome it:
Imposter syndrome is made up of feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and anxiety, which can lead to feeling like a fraud. You may feel like you’ve only gotten to where you are due to pure luck or a fluke, not because of your hard work or qualifications.
Imposter syndrome can stem from many things, such as setting unrealistic expectations due to perfectionism, comparing yourself to others in your field, or your anxiety telling you that your gaps of knowledge will expose you as unqualified in your field.
These feelings may be especially common when learning or starting something new, whether grad school or a coding bootcamp, or a new role at work as a junior or senior. Web Developers and those learning to code may experience imposter syndrome more than usual, since the tech industry is in a constant state of flux and innovation.
No matter what field you’re in, imposter syndrome is normal - but it’s important not to let it take over. So, how can you beat imposter syndrome? While it's impossible to fully get rid of, it is possible to process and cope with in a healthy way. Here are some tips:
Acknowledge The Feelings
An important first step is to acknowledge your emotions and remember that while you may feel alone, you're far from it. “Imposter syndrome exists in all industries at all skill levels,” says Owen Craig, a Web Developer and Juno College Instructor.
Feelings of not being good enough are not evidence of a deficiency on your part. Acknowledging that those feelings are natural is the first step towards understanding that they don’t define you.
“Something that helped me was to realize that everyone suffers from imposter syndrome,” says Owen. “Your mentor? They suffer from it. That developer you follow on Twitter and look up to? They suffer from it. Your teachers? They suffer from it, too.”
Try to be aware of when you feel imposter syndrome, and what feelings you associate with it. Are there patterns to when these feelings seep in? If it helps, try writing out these feelings as full sentences. For example:
- I'm scared of looking weak if I ask for help (pride)
- My colleague started at the same time as me and is already better than I am (jealousy)
- I've never done this before - I'm going to mess up and get fired (fear)
Make a point to remember that while your feelings of imposter syndrome come from a valid place of wanting to be the best you can be, these feelings of inadequacy are not the truth. Now, think of how to approach these feelings from a place of truth. Next to your feelings, write out these truths. For example:
- Asking questions will show my eagerness to learn, and will teach me new things
- Everyone learns differently and has different strengths
- This is a new experience, so it's okay if I don't get it right this time around - I'll learn for next time
While this exercise may not feel natural at first, it can help train your brain to both identify your feelings and rethink them so that they are framed more rationally.
Value What You Know And Stay Curious
Industries are always changing - especially tech. This means that part of being a developer is being a lifelong learner. While this is a big draw for many, it can also feel overwhelming. Asaf Gerchak, a Web Developer and Instructor at Juno College, explains an all-too-familiar anxiety loop:
“Anxiety takes everything we're capable of and reduces and devalues it, based on the logic that ‘If an imposter like me can do those things, they must be very simple and irrelevant.’ Then it turns around and uses that as evidence that we're imposters, because look how simple and irrelevant all our skills are. It's circular and unfair to ourselves, but it's also pernicious and hard to stop."
Imposter syndrome always looks at what you don't know (or don't know yet), and never gives equal weight to what you do know, what you have learned, and how far you've come to know all the things you have learned and can do.
How can you break this loop?
“For me, the place to push back on the cycle is to try to not let myself devalue the things I'm capable of