Feel like a fraud?

Do you have impostor syndrome? Here’s how to overcome it

Gabriela Motroc
Not good enough image via Shutterstock

Technology changes fast and there’s an avalanche of things software developers must learn if they want to remain relevant and in demand.

David Barnes, IBM’s first “Technology Evangelist” said in his JAX 2016 talk that being multi-lingual is one way to make sure software developers remain in demand. Still, the pressure to learn (and be good at) a number of programming languages and tools proves to be a nightmare for perfectionists.

Tommy Refenes, a programmer and video game designer, best known for his work on Super Meat Boy, said during this year’s Game Developers Conference that “everyone feels like an impostor to some extent, it’s an issue of self-confidence and uncertainty with your own abilities.” He admitted that he has felt like an impostor since the first days of school and encouraged people to see themselves as Titans.

Do any of these signs look familiar?

Do you have trouble accepting praise as valid and you overwork? Do you feel the need to be the best and does the term “perfectionist” describe your persona? If your answer is “yes,” you probably suffer from impostor syndrome. The hallmark of this syndrome is the constant and sometimes overwhelming feeling that you are not good enough. According to  a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, up to 70 percent of people have suffered from impostor syndrome in some form in their lives. Millennials might feel this syndrome even more because they have entered the workforce during a time when technological advancements occur regularly —which makes them think they are not prepared enough.

SEE ALSO: Does pair programming lead to success or mess?

What is impostor syndrome?

This phenomenon was first identified in the late 1970s by Suzanne A. Imes and Pauline R. Clance, whose research revealed that many ambitious women believed they were over-evaluated by others. Since then, other studies have proved that both men and women can be affected by this syndrome.

Software development is no stranger to this phenomenon, especially because developers are expected to work 24/7. Pair programming can be very stressful, but the fear that your code is not clean enough or others won’t understand what you did and they will have to write it from scratch can affect developers’ self esteem.

How to deal with impostor syndrome

It’s hard not to feel unproductive when you see that new programming languages and tools spring up like mushrooms after the rain. However, one way to make sure you don’t fall prey to this syndrome is to own your achievements, let yourself feel good and proud about it and simply move on. Shakespeare wrote more than 400 years ago that “comparisons are odorous” —nowadays it’s hard not to compare yourself to others, especially since we live in a connected world in which everybody’s lives are on full display. However, it’s important to remember that comparisons will only get you down.

Next time you receive a compliment or a good review, hold onto them because they will come in handy whenever you feel lost.

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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