Suppose, you are given a task that nobody else has managed to do so far. However, not only do you fail but your performance is worst than your other peers. This one event can completely transform your self-confidence. The whole phenomenon of the personality can go into negativity, to a point where the feeling of being substandard starts to sound better. This is called impostor syndrome.
If you are to determine the initial reluctance of taking on a challenge that is different from your previous experiences, then the best way to feel about it is what your gut tells you. Moreover, the ability to move forward with that challenge is also an interesting aspect to look into.
Every software engineer in the industry is facing a diversified number of tasks as the delegation of the tasks are multifaceted.
But how does this point out impostor syndrome?
A common occurrence in the software industry, the causes of impostor syndrome could be due to multiple factors. Popular ones are being overcritical, not properly able to consume the technicalities of the task, and even a point where one task is not being able to meet the requirements that shatter down the confidence.
In order to address the problem of impostor syndrome, one must find the root cause first.
Continuing with our example of the software industry, some of the most common JD's for software engineers include:
- Be exceptionally good at coding using the latest technologies.
- Be aware of the codebase architecture, technologies, programming languages, and frameworks.
- Know how to deliver quality solutions
- Understand different business logics to work with i.e. Must have worked on projects with different industries
There are other interpersonal skills that also develop with time e.g.
- Strong communication skills
- Good team player
- Open to ideas
Anyone who ticks in if not all but most of the boxes above should be the most ideal candidate.
It is the strengths that somehow turn into weaknesses in some of us. Even the most ideal candidate can become troubled.
The reason: Setting greater standards which if not met brings an internal shakedown in confidence.
This can lead to the belief that one is not just good enough because the standards set were far greater and now there is a mountain to climb.
Although climbing the mountain should be taken as a motivation, but the opposite of it is also very true. This is where impostor syndrome comes into play.
The most common sign of an impostor syndrome effect is the individual not meeting expectations of the goal that were set initially. At times, having doubt in all the hard work being put in and falling into the trap of developing fears over competence and skills i.e. not being good enough to take on a challenging task are clear signs of the impostor syndrome effect.
This overthinking causes negative impressions which can undermine your performance. The most appealing aspect is that because of working on a diversified number of projects, one does feel overwhelmed at times. This overwhelming effect can result in negative thinking for e.g., doing a project for a different kind of industry for the very first time can actually have the effect of impostor syndrome.
Despite being proficient technically, the understanding part of the industry is at times a little difficult. Moreover, the task at hand is arduous and the overall zest to feel good on taking a challenging task becomes less fun and more sporadic. This affects everything.
But while this is a mental phenomenon, there are certain things where a solution lies to these underlying issues.
One should stop assuming things will go bad, instead go back to the basics. At times going back to the drawing board and starting from scratch can change the overall perception.
Discussing the problem with those who matter will help. It will give you a feeling of inclusiveness. Talking creates a lot of difference.
Restart with small steps
Create small goals that you can achieve. It will help regain confidence in yourself. Go easy on yourself, just do the first few basic things right. Build on that momentum, record the peaks, and celebrate on the small things because that will help you stand up again.
This too shall pass
Work with the skills that you are best at and acknowledge yourself. Maybe you are not familiar with the technology but you can always trust your skills. You didn’t master to learn the computer in a single day but you eventually stood up and were able to move from something basic like Hello World to something more complex and managed to succeed at it.
Nothing's perfect, but you can make it better
It’s not about perfection, it’s more about putting in efforts to bring quality. Nothing is perfect. There is no perfect solution. Ever heard of maintenance and technical support. Yes, the quality with which the work is done shall matter. Start with the aim of let’s run this thing first, then go on and change the face of it with let’s run this thing better. Make it better every time. The better it gets, the more quality it meets. It’s not about perfection. It’s all about persistence.
Give yourself some leverage
You are destined to achieve greatness but along the way, you will make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world. Take notes from when things start going bad, start focusing primarily on the mistakes first and try to rectify them. Most of us were never that perfect when we first started coding. How many of you aced running the Hello World code really well the very first time?
Slowly begin taking responsibility again
The more you adapt to taking responsibility, the easier things will become. It will help you gain focus on the task. Further, it will help in bringing out better solutions to your work. Moreover, at times the frame of mind completely starts operating differently when responsibility comes in. You start to feel that there is a solution that fits right.
Right here, right now, we do feel burdened, reading lines of codes daily, understanding the depth of the problem in many projects, and what not. This does affect mental well-being but it doesn’t mean that one should undermine their efforts put into these lines of code. The art of fun lies in taking on different challenges rather than shying away. The mindset that we have done the best in this and we can’t make it better is overrated. It's a question of belief in your ability and understanding you can go wrong. But that doesn't mean you will be stand exposed, it would only mean that you are learning and do not hesitate to show that you can learn. One should rather be more inclined towards let’s make it better.
The question of how to deal with impostor syndrome completely depends on you and only you alone. Trust your instinct and you can certainly manage the impostor syndrome anxiety and become helpful to others too in this manner.
Are you familiar with impostor syndrome? Share your thoughts.