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Have you ever had imposter syndrome as a software engineer? As a software engineer, it can be hard to feel like you’re actually good at what you do. You might also find yourself procrastinating on projects because you don’t feel like they’re your own work.
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is when people experience feelings of internal pressure and uncertainty about their capabilities, in lieu of external expectations for success. It’s the feeling that everyone else is more talented than them and there’s no way they could possibly compete. If this sounds familiar to you, then this post will give some helpful advice and ideas on how to combat these feelings!
What causes imposter syndrome?
The feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy can be caused by several different factors, including:
1.) The difficulty of the work.
When you’re learning something new, it can be very difficult and you’ll probably experience a steep learning curve. It can feel like everyone else around you is doing better and they have an easier time picking up the concepts. This is especially true if your peers are all really smart or you’re surrounded by really smart people in your classes. You can also feel like everyone has been doing programming for longer than you have, which may cause imposter syndrome as well.
2.) Our own expectations.
If you’re like me, you probably have high expectations for yourself and the work that you do. It can be hard sometimes to realize that your code isn’t perfect. In your mind, you think that your code should be perfect and there’s no way anyone else could understand it if they looked at it because it’s so clearly written. Sure, sometimes your work might not be perfect, or something might go wrong on a project (which happens to everyone!) but don’t let this discourage you from programming and keeping at it.
3.) Dunning-Kruger effect.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is when people who are less skilled evaluate their ability to be much higher than those who are more skilled. For example, someone who is unskilled in a certain activity may think they are much more skilled than they actually are. This can make it feel like everyone around you is much more talented and they all know things that you don’t. The Dunning-Kruger effect can cause imposter syndrome by causing people to overestimate how good they are at something.
4.) Stress and anxiety.
Sometimes we might start feeling really stressed or anxious about a task, especially if it’s a big project. Sometimes this stress can lead to feeling like you didn’t do a very good job or that you’re not qualified for this project.
How to deal with Imposter syndrome as a software engineer
1.) Understand and know the expectations of others.
You can’t control how other people think, but you can understand what they expect and understand your role in the class or project. If you feel like you’re being compared to others around you, try to talk to your peers and professors about this! Make sure they understand that you’re not comparing yourself to them, but sometimes it feels like other people are unconsciously or consciously comparing themselves with their peers.
2.) Don’t feel bad if you have imposter syndrome.
Inevitably, we all have imposter syndrome to some degree when we’re learning something new or working on a project. It can be discouraging if you feel like everyone else is better than you at programming and you don’t belong there, but it’s important to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and know that no one was born knowing everything. 🙂
3.) Build confidence.
If you look back at the factors that cause imposter syndrome, it’s clear that many of them are within our own expectations. A lot of it comes from our own thoughts and feelings, so one way to combat imposter syndrome is to build your confidence. A good way to build your confidence is to practice your programming skills and find ways to directly observe if you’re correctly solving the problem and keep improving on it. You might not always have time for this, but when you do, try to confidently come up with an answer and implement it. The more you do this, the more confident in your programming abilities you become. After doing this a few times, you will feel the confidence growing over time.
4.) Get feedback
Ask your peers/collegues to review your code and projects. Getting feedback is a great way to gauge how well you’re doing. Try not to be too discouraged if you’re getting negative or critical feedback. It’s important to remember that no one knows everything, so don’t take this personally. This can be especially useful if you feel like no one else will help you or try to understand what you’re working on because they know that it’s not good enough.
5.) Learn from others.
This can be really helpful in many ways. Learning from others can help you feel better about your progress because they might not have the same expectations that you do. They might also provide a better perspective into the subject matter and what to expect in a project or assignment in your software journey.
6.) Take a break!
Sometimes we’re so focused on our work and trying to finish a project that we don’t realize how stressed we’re becoming. Be sure to take a break from programming every now and then. Treat yourself to some tea or maybe watch a movie. This can be really helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the codework.
7.) Don’t compare yourself to others.
Sometimes comparing ourselves to others can be helpful, but it’s important not to compare yourself too much! You might not always be able to avoid comparing yourself with others, especially if you’re always surrounded by people in your class or group who are working on similar projects. Making comparisons can be helpful in understanding which parts of your project or assignment are better or worse than others.
For example, if you’re struggling with your project, you’ll understand that you’re not as good at coding as your peers and you might want to revamp your design. But if other people around you are struggling with the same project, then it might be a good idea to ask for help! The more time you spend comparing yourself to other people, the more stressed you’ll feel.
8.) Focus on one thing at a time.
We’ve learned that imposter syndrome can sometimes be caused by a bunch of different factors or feelings, so it can be difficult to manage all of them at the same time. One way to combat this is to focus on one thing at a time. For example, if you’re feeling stressed about an assignment, and you think it’s because you’re comparing yourself with everyone else in your class, try your best to focus on solving that problem and not thinking about other people!
Imposter syndrome can be a very difficult thing to deal with when you’re learning something new or working on projects. I’m always impressed by the amount of effort and time that people put into their projects, and it can sometimes be discouraging when you feel like you’re not doing as good as them or your expectations are too high for yourself. Make sure to focus on building your confidence and making outside feedback an important part of your project planning!
Hopefully, this will help you enjoy programming more, even when imposter syndrome is around!
Read more on programming tips for beginners here.