One Cool Trick I Used to Beat Impostor Syndrome

caution: pair programming in progress
“I have no idea what I’m doing, but everyone else does. I’m not a real programmer.”

If I had a dollar every time I thought that, I’d have maybe $20. But if I had a dollar every time I thought some of these other things …

“What a stupid mistake that was. I’ve wasted so much time.”
“I can’t believe this took me an hour. [A way more experienced programmer I know] did this in 5 minutes.”
“I shouldn’t even post this solution on Github, it’s not good enough.”

I’d look like a cab driver that moonlights as a stripper — that’s how many singles I’d have.

basically this

All those negative thoughts above, all the doubt and discouragement that comes from doing something hard and frustrating, there’s a name for it: Impostor Syndrome.

One of the first people I ever heard use the word was @NerdNeha when she gave a presentation to my class in my coding bootcamp. At the time I didn’t really get it, but 9 months later, I definitely do. Even though I’ve learned so much about iOS development and have an app in the App Store, compared to rock star devs in the tech community, it’s easy to feel small.

It’s easy to feel even smaller when you get asked some obscure iOS question on your first interview and fail miserably. Or when you realize just how much knowledge is out there, and how little you know in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s where you’re thinking I decided to just work harder, right? I went Super Saiyan on the studying and built a thousand apps, and that’s how I beat Impostor Syndrome!

Not really.

All it took to help shake my Impostor Syndrome was mentoring someone else.

I came across a thread on Reddit by a young guy trying to build his first iOS app. He didn’t have much programming experience or any formal training and had hit a wall. Where to even start? His idea didn’t have very many features, but without knowing the fundamentals or having resources, he was feeling overwhelmed.

I actually built something pretty similar to what he wanted a few months ago. So I reached out to him and pointed him in the right direction. Before long he PMed me. Then he called me. We discussed how networking works, what it means to pass data, and a few other things.

Even though it was only 20 minutes out of my day, he was very, very grateful. I could hear him starting to feel encouraged about continuing with the project. And I remembered how I felt when I was just starting to learn to program and how confusing everything was. I could barely grasp the concept of classes and methods then. I have come a long way.

That’s when I realized it. Comparing myself and my journey to others is a waste of time. Their background isn’t my background. Their experiences aren’t my experiences.

And when I compare me today to me yesterday, I think I’m doing pretty damn good.

The one cool trick: mentor someone. Take a few minutes to reach out and help someone who is struggling. It’s the easiest way to remember that your knowledge is useful, your experience is valuable, and that you are anything but an impostor.