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Jeff White
Jeff White

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How Imposter Syndrome Limits Your Potential

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“Hi, I’m a Junior Software Developer…”

Recently, one of our Pathway Directors (like a career coach) at Tech Elevator told us to start referring to ourselves as Junior Software Developers. Yikes… As soon as those words left his mouth I could feel my heart rate begin to increase and my palms start to sweat. How can I refer to myself as something that I’ve only just started learning a few months ago? I feel like I need to at least graduate from the program first or, even more, obtain a job as a junior dev before I can actually use that title for myself.

I’m sure we’ve all felt it at one point or another. That feeling that we don’t belong or haven’t “earned” a particular job or achievement. I felt it as a teacher and I feel it even more strongly now. But it wasn’t until I ventured into software development that I first heard a term for this feeling. Just from listening to others talk about their careers or reading blogs it seems to be a common source of stress in the lives of developers.

Cue Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome is a tricky monster and loves to rear its ugly face in the midst of venturing into a new career, especially. It’s so easy to allow this feeling of inadequacy to creep its way into our minds and discourage us from pursuing new opportunities out of fear of seeming inexperienced. Personally, I can believe the lie that I have to know how to do something perfectly before I can claim that as a part of my identity. I’ve been a writer for quite some time now but because I’ve never published a novel I don’t refer to myself as such because I don’t want to seem like a failure. It’s a self-preservation technique. If I don’t take on “writer” or “junior software developer” as a part of who I am, then I won’t fail if I don’t become successful in those areas.

What I’m beginning to discover is by limiting the way I view myself or the way I allow others to view me, I’m actually limiting my potential. I’ve already made up my mind that this isn’t going to work out in the end so why set myself up for embarrassment? When, in reality, if I don’t end up being a software developer for the rest of my life that is completely and entirely okay! I don’t view my teaching career as a failure just because I decided to move on so why should software development be any different?

Transparency is Key.

Yesterday, we heard from a panel of Senior Developers and I was surprised to hear that many of them still struggle with feeling like they don’t belong. These were established developers with years of experience and yet they could still relate with something that I’m feeling right now. That was huge a relief! It was encouraging to hear that no one expects me to be a perfect developer in order to obtain a job. This industry is constantly changing and requires learning and relearning and even more learning!

I think we’ll all feel inadequate at one point or another but talking about it makes it all the better. Knowing that there are others around you who are experiencing the same insecurities as you gives those insecurities less power. You realize that you aren't the exception. Someone has been where you are and they overcame it, so you can too! You begin to feel the pressure slip away and notice that you’re able to breathe a little more easily. This minor adjustment can greatly improve your career outlook and how you view life in general. So, in the spirit of transparency and being open to failure, let’s try this again. Hi, my name is Jeff and I’m a Junior Software Developer.

Top comments (6)

nicolasomar profile image
Nicolás Omar González Passerino

I heard about this Syndrome time ago but never read about it or tried to understand what means. Thank you for the articule Jeff, it was realy easy to understand and what you mentioned it happens a lot. I have almost 5 years as a dev and sometimes i don´t feel adequate to say "I am Ssr or Sr dev", maybe because i have some insecurities to overcome. What you said is a good start to realize something that happens more commonly in the industry.

dabjazz profile image

The fact that today me knows something more than the yesterday me actually motivates me. Also on a completely different note I am learning core java now what should I learn after it to become a Java developer?

190245 profile image

I think you've nailed it now - transparency is the key.

If you don't tell other people that you're feeling Imposter Syndrome, they'll probably continue feeling the same way, but without knowing what to call it other than "I can't do this, it's too hard." If other people don't freely admit to feeling this way, you'll start to question yourself again.

Unfortunately, Imposter Syndrome is common in Software Development - I think it's because there's a vast amount to learn, and we demonstrate value to businesses (who pay our bills) by delivering products. As an example to the amount we could learn: can you name all programming languages that exist, even if we remove the impractical ones like WhiteSpace? I certainly can't.

Thankfully, very clever people have thought about how we can measure the value we're bringing to a business. Agile/Kanban/Waterfall all have metrics that we can measure.

Since I'm a Development Manager, I've come up with ways to counter it when employees talk to me about it (anecdotal feedback there is that the methods work well), but I also know most won't talk about it for a variety of reasons, so I try to minimise it up front too.

thyuck profile image
raldskie 🔥

Hi, my name is Gerald and I'm a Junior Software Developer 🥺😬🤟

sejutisharmin profile image
Sejuti Sharmin

Very briefly described a feeling that I, others can relate to.

eduoc profile image
Eduardo Costa

Love it! Very true!