Have you ever felt doubt or inadequacy in your skills and capabilities as a programmer? If so you may be experiencing imposter syndrome. The effects of imposter syndrome can lead to thoughts of feeling like a fraud and questioning our ability to complete a project or do your job.
Experiencing programmer imposter syndrome can mean feeling incapable of writing code to get the job done or worrying about what you don’t know. You may feel one day you’ll be “caught” and all your shortcomings will be exposed.
Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon in human psychology and can be experienced by anyone regarding any skill.
If you’ve had any of these feelings or similar it can be comforting to know that imposter syndrome is very common and most, if not all of us, will experience it at some stage. It can reveal itself no matter how long you’ve been programming for. Imposter syndrome also just doesn’t go away one day to never come back. In fact it’s likely something that will show up periodically throughout your career.
How can you combat these emotions of self-doubt and inadequacy that programmer imposter syndrome creates? One bold way to do so is to tackle it like a one-on-one battle.
These suggestions are for programmers who want to combat the feeling of imposter syndrome by acknowledging their fears and tackling them head on!
Each point has been designed to hopefully increase confidence in your abilities through actionable items. Reflection of these items may also expose areas that you may consider strengthening to in turn diminish those feelings of self-doubt you face about your current capabilities.
The worst that can happen is you become aware of an area you are lacking and can work on improving that aspect. In other words, this might allow you to realise any points of weaknesses you may want to consider working on.
Hence why these are being referred to as powerful ways to combat programmer imposter syndrome. If you do reveal any lacking areas don’t be discouraged, remember we all have them!
1. Showcase your projects
This involves creating a place to showcase your projects and accomplishments, and remembering to reflect on these every so often.
This can be done by creating a portfolio of your development work. It can be in the form of a website that lists any projects or accomplishments you want to highlight. A GitHub profile that you regularly commit your work to is another way to record your work development. To go even simpler than this, you could have a dedicated location on your computer where you place all your development projects. Just keep your projects in one location that you will remember.
It doesn’t matter how big or small the projects you’ve done are, it’s all about having a go-to place to remind yourself of your past and future efforts!
For newbies who might not have gotten started on projects yet, you can begin small and track any code you’ve written. For example, exercises and challenges you’ve completed as part of a tutorial or a course you’re taking. If you don’t have anything to showcase yet, this is a good time to realise that having projects is a great way to test and showcase your skills. So don’t delay and get stuck into working on projects when you can!
By doing this, you’ll be constantly reminded of the work you’ve done which should help reduce those feelings of programmer imposter syndrome. If you can see you have a track record of development work in the past, why wouldn’t you be able to continue in the future? It’s all about reminding yourself that you have, and will continue to have the abilities to produce work as a programmer.
2. Prove you can learn and adapt
A major reason why feelings of programmer imposter syndrome may arise can be worrying over what you don’t know.
Software development is a fast moving industry and requires programmers to constantly remain up to date on the latest technologies, frameworks, programming languages and so on. The reality of this is programmers need the ability to upskill and learn new things at any point in time.
As a result of having to constantly learn and adapt, programmers may often feel stuck in that ‘newbie’ state where you don’t fully have a grasp of the tools and skills you need to carry out a task. This in turn may lead to those feelings of imposter syndrome.
The suggestion here is to accept the fact that your ability to adapt is part of being a programmer and also to embrace the challenge of constant learning. Prove to yourself that when required you can pick up whatever skill you need to tackle new projects.
One way is to consider picking up a new programming language. Pick a language that interests you and work on a project that will teach key concepts of the language. Or you can take a language you know already and work on something that requires you to use a framework or library you’re unfamiliar with.
Taking action to purposely learn new things is a great way to remind yourself that you can indeed adapt when needed.
3. Start a dev blog / YouTube channel
Perhaps the boldest suggestion on this list, but could also be the most impactful action you can take to combat imposter syndrome in the long term.
A blog or YouTube channel is ideally something you start with the intention of continuing it in the long term. Either platform will provide a method of sharing your knowledge, document what you’re learning, provide recommendations to others and convey your opinions. These are great ways to document your developer journey and influence others.
While I still struggle with imposter syndrome, starting this blog has personally been a really effective way of allowing me to deal with it. Making a regular commitment to share my knowledge, opinions and what I’m learning with others has been a helpful way to put those feelings of doubt at bay.
So I encourage you to start either one (or both!) if it’s something you’re comfortable doing. Not only will it increase your confidence and help to combat programmer imposter syndrome, but you’ll also have a way of sharing your knowledge and experiences to the world!
4. Know your value
If you’ve been working in a job for a while, feelings of programmer imposter syndrome can appear in the form of feeling like the skills you have will only apply to your existing job. This may lead to unjustifiable conclusions that no one else will want to hire you. However, seeking to be reminded of your value in the job market can be a major boost to your confidence.
One way to overcome these feelings is to update your CV and remind yourself of how much you’ve grown in your development career. Then compare your current skills to what the market is looking for. If your initial feelings were unjustified, you’ll quickly realise there’s other options and your skills are indeed relevant to the market.
You can take things further and talk to recruiters to learn more about who is hiring for the skills you have. You don’t necessarily have to apply for the jobs, but it will be a nice confidence boost to be reassured of where you stand in the job market.
On the other hand if you do have difficulty finding relevant jobs, it may be a wake up call that you should start working on upskilling to increase your options in the job market. It’s always better to know now and have time to learn than to find out later when you’re actively looking to change jobs.
Again, programmers should always be ready to learn and adapt to the rapidly changing nature of the software industry.
5. Actively participate in a community
Communities for programmers are filled with people who can also relate to feelings of imposter syndrome. What better way to combat those feelings than to interact with others who are also going through the same emotions and journey as you!
However, don’t just join a community and lie in the shadows, actively participating is important here. This means pushing yourself to create content, either in the form of posts, tutorials or showcase of your projects. Actively getting involved and seeing how others react positively to your content can help grow self-assurance in your abilities.
Our inspirezone community is an example of a developer community that encourages active participation. Join us and let us grow together in our skills and knowledge!
Getting involved in the open source community and being an active contributor is also a powerful way to boost confidence in your skills. Open source is all about collaborating with developers of diverse skills, knowledge and experience. There are many ways anyone can contribute to open source projects and if you’re determined to, you’ll surely discover the ways you can bring value to a project.
Being part of open source is a great way to improve your proficiency as a developer while also combating imposter syndrome. For example, with open source you’ll realise many software projects are a result of several developers coming together and leveraging the skills of each other. Realising that developers rely on help from others and need each other to scale projects should help eliminate feelings of doubt about gaps in your knowledge. You’ll realise that we all need help to fill in those gaps.
So take action and explore open source projects on places like GitHub and find a project that interests you. There are countless repositories waiting for developers like you to help them in their projects! If you’re new to open source, to help you get started see our post on a beginner friendly guide to making your first open source contribution.
These are some practical and powerful ways on how you can combat programmer imposter syndrome head on if you’re faced by such emotions.
As a programmer, imposter syndrome is something we may continue to battle with throughout our career. What is important is acknowledging the feelings and learning to control it. It’s a constant battle but it will become a lot easier to win each time you’re facing it if you take some action and adapt the right mindset.
There are many ways you can remind yourself of your knowledge, value and what you can bring to the table as a developer. Take any or all points and create a plan for how you will adapt them. These won’t only be great for combating imposter syndrome but also in general are effective ways to improve your confidence and proficiency as a programmer.
Finally, remember that every developer is in the same never ending journey. Learning new skills and how to adapt is part of a developer’s life. No matter how often those feelings of imposter syndrome may come up, remember it’s a part of human nature and nearly everyone has been through it!
Is imposter syndrome something you experience regularly? How do you personally deal with it? Leave a comment below.
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