I know this is generally a tech related blog but today I wanted to explore a mental state that I had found myself in when getting into the tech industry. Now, this phenomenon can be experienced on many different levels and throughout many different scenarios, but I feel like it is a topic that can really take a hold of coding boot camp graduates and self-taught professionals in the tech industry. This has nothing to do with the tech community as a whole, but more to do with the individual not feeling adequate in the eyes of professionals that have graduated from University or those who have been in the field for a long time.
Que the explanation
Have you ever been in a situation where you’re terrified that you’re going to be caught out? That you’ll lose a position or a relationship because you’re not perfect at it? Or even though you have accomplished something you don’t believe that you achieved it under your own power? I know I have had these feelings many times throughout my life and recently it was brought to my attention that I have something called imposter syndrome.
The imposter phenomenon is where you think you have only achieved something by an accident, a fluke or just chance without acknowledging the work that you put in to be where you are. For example, Little Johnny has just graduated his Computer Science degree with higher than average grades and has quite a promising future ahead if he maintains his work ethic and continues to apply himself. Now our friend Little Johnny is just starting out in his first job as a developer at the company XYZ, which is an impressive accomplishment, to say the least. So Johnny boy is an outstanding employee and is eager to learn new things and is always pushing himself to get better, he is a valuable asset to the team.
At least that’s what everyone but Little Johnny sees.
As you might have guessed by the overarching theme of this post, Little Johnny struggles with the Imposter Phenomenon or imposter syndrome. To Johnny, he feels that the reason for his good grades is because the professor must have marked all of his assessments late at night when he was tired and just wanted to go to bed, and the professors liked him so they must have just given me good grades in their tired or busy states. How else would he have gotten good grades? And the job he was offered at the incredible company XYZ, that was absolutely just a fluke, he must have applied at the right time when nobody else was sending in applications. As for performance in this fluked job, Little Johnny is convinced he isn’t living up to expectations and he is going to get caught out. He will make one to many mistakes and be fired when the next junior developer applies, his boss will find out about why he got good grades and had an impressive resume. And the list of irrational arguments and fear goes on in every aspect of Little Johnny’s life.
Methods I have used to combat this phenomenon
Now that was a long and quite depressing example but I felt I needed to explain how this mental state can really affect people like yourself or others close to you. See according to multiple research articles, almost 70% of the population experience this at some point during their lives, and 50% of them also go through it regularly. So chances are that you or someone you know has been affected in some regard over the years.
But what can I do to combat these feelings of inadequacy?
I’m glad you asked, after dealing with imposter syndrome for a few years now I have only recently found ways for me to change my perspective. And that is all due to a podcast I have been following for a while called SadBoyzPod, where they talk about experiences and struggles they have had on their path through adulthood. I would really recommend checking them out if this article relates to you. One thing I have learned from Jarvis and Jordan is that keeping a conscious acknowledgment of the phenomenon in the back of your mind is a really important thing to be able to do. So when those feelings and thoughts come up you have the ability to take a step back and look at yourself from a different perspective, and that perspective shift comes the easiest to me when I understand the phenomenon I am facing. because if I understand it I can look at myself from an almost third-person perspective and try to actually look at what I have achieved.
Which brings me to the next thing that has really helped me, and that is regularly taking the time to actually stop and really look back at the last 6–12 months. This time is used to recall all of the things I have done and what has changed in me as a person over that time. Sometimes if I am having a particularly bad encounter I will go and take 10 minutes to stop and think as well as write down the things that I am afraid of and look at what the actual truth is in the situation. And what do you know, it turns out 99% of the things I was terrified of or stressed out about were irrational and just a part of this imposter phenomenon.
The last thing I will leave you with is that you don’t have to go through this alone, there are people all around you that care about you. It can be a terrifying prospect to open up and be vulnerable with other human beings because of a lot of factors, but in the end it has always been a positive thing for me. And I guess that’s one of the reasons I am writing this to all of you folks out there, I am allowing myself to be vulnerable on the internet in hopes that someone somewhere will relate and be able to find a way to work through this challenge.
So if you feel as if you are struggling with anything to do with your mental state, just know that there are people out there who know exactly how you feel. You’re not alone and there are people who love and care for you, you just need to reach out.
I know this was a long one and not overly related to tech at all but if you made it this far I just want to say thank you. I really appreciate the support I have been receiving lately and I can’t wait to see you in the next blog! Also as a small little self-advertisement for the future, I am starting a youtube channel and a podcast that discusses topics around the tech industry as well as experiences me and some very special guests have had on our own journeys. Anyways thank you for sticking around and I’ll see you next time!