Loblaw Digital
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Loblaw Digital

Imposter Syndrome Dilemma in a World of Pragmatism

Imposter syndrome. Many of us fight this quietly. I hate that feeling — the fear of coming off as someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. Not feeling as competent as others perceive you to be.

Imposter syndrome is fuelled by your inability to recognize your contributions, dwelling instead on your mistakes. Awareness of this common issue has increased recently. Software engineers are speaking more openly about this topic. This is a career path that requires you to be continually learning. The industry changes daily and you are often going to be faced with something new that you don’t know yet. So, what can be done to lessen the pressure?

Let’s tackle this issue by breaking it down. For example, what is it about peer review that I find so scary? If it stems from not wanting to be wrong, which is fair to say, then why is that? There’s this idea that someone’s code might be picked over mine, which would give the impression that I was in the wrong and have therefore failed. But if my role is to experiment and learn, then I have succeeded just by trying. Therefore, I should feel the same sense of satisfaction that comes from being right even if I am wrong. So how do we allow ourselves to feel that? This becomes an even bigger issue to tackle on large teams within an organization. Is there a safe space to make mistakes?

The Village

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

In the book “Pragmatic Programmer” they used the familiar children’s story of the stone soup to illustrate their point. Even though the villagers were tricked into bringing out ingredients from their stores, the soldiers would not act as catalysts without the villagers’ curiosity. It helped manifest the first square meal they had in a while. I believe that there is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from being part of a team of contributors that solves a problem. It is the perk of being able to put great minds under one roof.

Sometimes you just don’t know what gems you have until you put them all together. As the saying goes: It takes a village!


Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

Lately, I’ve been trying to take a more grace-given approach. Do like a pirate and ARRR (Acknowledge, Reading, Research, Reply). If your company allows you to make a Proof Of Concept (POC), you should allow yourself space for mistakes. Think of it as a playground, where the idea is to discover and grow. What would be the point of a POC if you already had the answer? So, when I start to feel like I’m failing because I’m wrong, I remind myself that I went down that path, because I didn’t have that answer. I might have chosen the wrong path, but I couldn’t know that until I explored it.

In a way, it’s like we are all software ourselves, striving to get the best solution. Sometimes there are bugs and we need to do some housekeeping. Release Engineering has taught me that we have our own CI/CD pipelines that integrate other solutions to provide great value.

We need to be okay with being uncomfortable. We need to be okay with failing. Prioritizing being a little vulnerable every day does not equal being lamebrain.

Failure shows the imperfections in humans, opening the door for Imposter Syndrome. But if you reframe your thinking and view imperfections as doorways to possibilities for growth, you can avoid the dreaded Imposter Syndrome. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail. Growth is around the corner.



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