How to get past this impostor syndrome - if that is what it is!


#1

Well were to start, I’m 28, 4 years since my graduation I manage to nab my first software development role as a Trainee Software Developer helping a relatively small team of software developers replace a large amount of legacy code and work on new apps.

Anyway, long story short, I’ve been at this job for just over six months now. I have certainly made some leaps and bounds during my time here but I cannot shrug the feeling that I am not grasping it and/or my code isn’t as ‘elegant’ as my peers. I find myself making a number of ‘school boy errors’ and no matter how much I convince myself not to - take everything to heart.

I became a parent during my time at Uni and consider myself confident and determined when it comes to overcoming particular obstacles but lately I am literally burnt out and lacking the drive, questioning myself consistently!

Another developer was taken on at the same time as me and he just seems to storm through each task and I cant help but compare myself with him. He picks up the terminology and business logic a lot quicker than I do and I’m beginning to think “is it me?”.

I can code, I know I can certainly code but I cannot help but think whether I am good enough. I dread the day that I may be let go and think that if I beat my employer to the punchline quitting would be better than being let go. I think this even though I’ve not really had any particularly harsh scoldings or pep talks on particular errors I have made. The introduction to design patterns was somewhat overwhelming but I feel like I scraped through coding to particular patterns.

I’ve certainly read and tried to take on board what people say about it gets easier but right now I really feel like throwing in the towel its getting me down that much! My wife reassures me and is really supportive but right now I feel like such a let down, shes put her career on hold so I could have the opportunity to be the bread winner and right now I feel like I’m in a lose/lose situation. I feel like i’m on thin ice at the moment and its about to break. The level of anxiety I feel about this job role is unbelievable and right now I really do feel like taking the easy way out I get that worked up, the business logic and terminology adds to the crisis.

Dont get me wrong there are the good days, but the good:bad ratio is pretty unbalanced at the moment.

As a developer with only my academics under my belt and no other commercial experience im presuming this is somewhat normal? Are there any of you coding folk out there that have taken a walk in my shoes.


#2

You should get used to it.

I’ve been in this industry for 12 years and I feel like an impostor every damn day.


#3

I think your solution lies in your question. Look at your coworker: instead of worrying about whether he’s good or bad, he focuses on the problem and powers through it. In my experience, imposter syndrome rears its ugly head when we start to focus on something other than the problem at hand.

Are you afraid you’re not good at coding? Focus on the problem. Come up with elegant, efficient solutions. Focus on writing fast, clean, well-documented code.

Are you afraid you might get fired? Focus on the problem. Become known for solving problems well, and for having a good knowledge of your company’s codebase. You’ll be seen as a good employee and someone who is invaluable to the company.

Are you afraid you can’t the terminology? Focus on the problem. Try to cut through the terminology and get to the heart of the matter. Try to figure what it is that your bosses and clients actually want. What is the problem they really need solving? Then go ahead and focus on solving that.

At the end of the day, you don’t have any real control on how fast your coworkers work, or what your bosses think of you. All you have control over is how you do your work and how you present yourself. Focus on those two things and do them the best you can. Don’t let other people take advantage or overlook you, but don’t worry too much about what they think or do either.


#4

A mere six months of experience in professional programming is enough to leave anyone feeling lost and confused. As you become a more competent and confident coder, through the experience you’re getting on the job, I suspect the feeling of being an “impostor” will fade.

If it doesn’t, and especially if people familiar with your work tell you that you are competent and worthy of your job, but you continue to feel like an impostor, I would seek professional advice from a psychologist or psychiatrist. Your satisfaction with work will not be what it could be if you were confident about your competence, which can potentially have far reaching, negative consequences for your mental health.

Good luck!


#5

I’m in the same situation; been coding the same amount of time. It’s tough. Has the other person had the same amount of experience? Perhaps they just have an affinity for it. Though easier said than done, I would say instead of comparing yourself to them, observe them in their processes and techniques for accomplishing what you deem superior work, maybe become good friends and pick their brain. As for quality, there’s no substitute for experience. I’m already looking back at code of written and thinking how rubbish it is, but a lot, okay maybe some of the time it worked as anticipated. Sure there’s something to be said for concise, maintainable code, but ultimately if it works, it works. The most poorly written program probably isn’t going to cause a noticeable difference in performance relative to a well written program. I’m sure that’s not always the case, but you get my point.

You’re not going to get fired. I try to convince myself of this daily. Programming is tough and people know that whether they want to admit it or not. Not only that, but companies want to keep people; people sometimes look at retention rates. It also costs money and time to replace people. As long as you get along with everyone and act like you give a shit, I’d say you’re golden.


#6

Cheers for that, I have days where i really do end on a high but other days I feel like ive pretty much been dead weight. It really is reassuring knowing that it is certainly not only me that is undergoing this suffering out there haha. But on a more serious note, thank you.


#7

Hey Hotpocket, I wanted to apologize for my crass reply the other day of “Get used to it.” I was having a really bad day and shouldn’t have been so dismissive of you.

What I try to tell myself when I feel like an impostor are things like:

  • There are all different skill levels. For every programmer that’s better than me, I’ve worked with ones not as good.
  • You might be doing better than you think.
  • They hired you, so you impressed them enough to pass the interview.

I try to keep these things in mind. It’s easier said than done, I know. I still feel like a fraud - all the time. But every once in a while I’ll finish some code, or fix a tough bug, and think, maybe I’m not as bad as I make myself out to be.

I hope this reply is more constructive than my last one.