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Simon Pfeiffer for Codesphere Inc.

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How to overcome Imposter Syndrome in Tech

Have you ever wondered why someone thinks so highly of you? Have you questioned why they’ve given you such a cool and important project to own at work?

The majority of us have probably experienced Imposter Syndrome during some stage of our lives. No matter if you’re just starting out in your career, if you’re a perfectionist, or a high performer with many years experience, millions of people suffer with imposter syndrome.

So, what is imposter syndrome, exactly?

A belief that you are not intelligent, creative or generally deserving of the success you are experiencing, even though there is plenty of evidence of your achievements.

People who experience imposter syndrome are basically experiencing the feeling of being a fraud who is undeserving, which brings feelings of anxiety and stress as you feel like you’re misleading your colleagues and employees.

Imposter syndrome is prevalent within the tech industry, with about 58% of tech employees stating that they currently experience some form of the condition within their careers. It’s especially common in software engineers, developers, and designers. It’s usually worse in people who are new within the tech industry, are part of an underrepresented group, or have come from different professional backgrounds.

Some of these thoughts are normal to have while experiencing imposter syndrome:

  • “What am I doing here? I’m not a developer, I am fooling myself and other people”
  • “My team is much smarter than I am, I don’t deserve to be here”
  • “When people realise I’m not as intelligent as I make out, I’ll be fired”

The thought processes above make people believe that they are not worthy enough, that their achievements aren’t good enough, and that they’re fooling people into thinking they’re someone that they’re not.

You will most likely become very worried about your position and performance which can lead to high amounts of stress and even burnout from working too much, seemingly to catch up with your peers - perpetuating the notion that you need to work twice as hard to keep up, just to prove your worthiness.

The result of imposter syndrome is a working life dominated by anxiety, exhaustion, uncertainty, confusion and fear.

The vicious cycle

The tech industry is rife with imposter syndrome, the majority of designers and programmers suffer with it at one, or several points, in their career. You may assume that success will eradicate the syndrome and finally make you feel more worthy, however the more successful someone becomes, the more likely it is that they will feel like they’re fooling everyone. Rather than enjoying that success and recognising that their success came from themselves, and not because someone higher up made a mistake about you.

One of the biggest problems with this syndrome is that a lot of people get stuck in a cycle. Believing that you’re not good enough leads to perfectionism, meaning that even the most menial tasks will take you much longer to complete, as you become obsessed that everything has to be perfect before submission.

People who suffer with Imposter Syndrome may also find that they will over prepare for projects and meetings, you may find that you begin suffering with stage fright - not being able to present your work any more as you put too much pressure on yourself to perform perfectly, even on the spot.

How to begin to overcome Imposter Syndrome

Even though the effects of Imposter Syndrome are clearly bad for mental health, confidence and sense of self, once you start to recognise the symptoms we’ve discussed above, there are ways you can begin to overcome it, and regain your self belief.

The three steps that will help:

  1. Find a mentor
  2. Remember your past experiences and training
  3. Keep track of your accomplishments

Let’s take a look at these in a little more detail.

1. Mentors

Finding a mentor within your professional environment will give you an outside perspective on what people really think of you and your work. You’ll find yourself feeling less alone in your negative self-view as you have someone specifically to talk through how you are feeling.

As well as getting an outside perspective and building your confidence, a mentor will also be able to identify knowledge gaps that you might have and suggest training and learnings that you should work on to keep you constantly improving.

2. Past experiences

Reflecting on your past experiences and remembering the training you’ve been through will give you a much better perspective on how far you’ve come. Remembering how inexperienced you were at the beginning of your journey, compared to how much experience you’ve gained now should give you a sense of achievement, not fear.

Knowing that you still have a lot to learn is a great thing - but don’t forget how much you’ve already learned and be proud of that fact. You don’t need to be an expert in your field before you experience success.

3. Your accomplishments

One piece of advice I’ve received that has worked wonders is to keep track of your accomplishments. Keep a document where you add praise you receive for the work you’ve done.
When you’re not feeling worthy enough or your confidence has taken a hit you can open that document and remind yourself of all the great stuff you’ve achieved, and how much people have appreciated your hard work.

To wrap up

Remember - sometimes you can have a bad day, sometimes you will struggle to figure out a problem, and sometimes it will take you a little longer to figure out a solution to a project you’re working on.

Once you recognise you’re suffering from Imposter Syndrome, take some of the advice we’ve spoken about here and put it into action. Constantly remind yourself of your achievements, and always listen to people's positive opinions of you and your work.

We’re all human beings, and nobody should expect perfection from you all the time - not even you.

Have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? What are your top tips for other coders? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy coding from your good friends at Codesphere, the next-generation cloud provider.

Top comments (1)

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard 🇫🇷🇩🇪🇬🇧🇪🇸🇨🇴

I agree with your three suggestions - find a mentor, remember your past, and keep track of your progress.

What I added in my own article is that this is a psychological issue that can be addressed via psychological tools, for example opening to others or looking in others how unhelpful the syndrome is