How to Defeat Imposter Syndrome For Good and Move On as a Confident Developer
I don't have a Computer Science degree. I'm bad at math. I dropped out of a coding bootcamp. And I don't have an eye for design.
All the makings of an imposter developer; acting knowledgeable, but deep down in over my head among these other trained, experienced, or salaried developers.
But those days are now over. While there may be some truth to your fears, you are creating limitations on your potential as a developer and your confidence to succeed as a programmer.
So let's discuss how to finally break free from this imposter syndrome, this limitation we put on ourselves and finally move on as confident web developers.
Here are the 4 truths that took me (and continue to take me) from Imposter to Confident Developer, regardless of the situation I'm in:
4 powerful truths to defeat imposter syndrome once and for all
1. I learned to focus on my past journey as a developer and not the present of others
This is huge. Stay with me.
We often spend our days learning online from other developers who are really good. And we want to be good. But compared to them, we stink.
Whenever you get this thought, don't allow imposter syndrome to get a hold of you. Instead, do this: Redirect your focus from how good those other developers are at present (and how much worse we are), and think back to how far you've come.
Think: "X number of months or years ago, I didn't even know HTML. I couldn't style web pages, I had a harder time thinking logically, and ….. on and on. Go ask your non-developer friend what the index of an array is and smile when their face goes blank. Why? Because you've been there.
But now you're here. See.
Develop confidence in how far you've come and how much you currently know, instead of how much other developers out there know at present.
5 Growth-Stunting Habits to Avoid as You Learn to Code
2. I realized I can confidently rely on reading documentation more than memory
I have a horrible memory (in my opinion).
This plagued me because other developers could remember syntax well, type things out by memory, and I struggled remembering the arguments.
So I had to go to the documentation.
Well….what in the world is wrong with that!!?
Developers should be "documentation specialists!"
Sure having a good memory helps you work quicker, but referring to a language's or framework's documenation is a noble act.
And, it doesn't look amateur. Looking everything up on Stack Overflow may come off amateur at times, but referring to documentation doesn't.
So when I need to pull a PHP array_filter function, and I recall vaguely that there is an argument ($flag) by which I can refer to the Key and not the Value, I simply go the docs and look it up.
I know the coding concept. I know the fundamentals. But I need to exact syntax to meet my situation. A good thing, right? Not a foothold for imposter syndrome.
And if you are an employer that penalizes candidates for having to reference the documentation, shame on you (while all your employees are Googling everything). Referencing syntax in documentation still requires that they have good understanding of the language (and programming), regardless. No? Ask your mom to look up array_filter and explain it to you!
3. I stopped acting like an "expert" and started asking questions like a child
This is another strange thing that new developers subconsciously pick up.
Once they learn a little HTML/CSS/JS they feel like they can't ask questions anymore because that will make them look "unskilled" or that they aren't "getting it."
I remember being quick to attempt answering everyone's questions but holding back on asking my own "dumb" questions.
This goes back to #1 above. It seems everyone else is getting it but us. So we have that imposter syndrome telling us to act like we get it too and not show any signs that we don't.
This is a huge time waster and growth-stunter (and creates an environment for imposter syndrome to thrive).
Ditch that entire facade, and ask stupid questions when you have them. Ask!
I guarantee you will not only learn and grow faster as a developer, but there will be a huge burden lifted from your shoulders.
And in general people like eager/passionate/inquisitive people more than they do know-it-alls'.
4. I realized the goal is not the fast track to knowing everything, but actually enjoying the coding journey little by little
This again goes back to #1, and it's this: "Other developers seem to know so much, I need to catch up to them as fast as possible."
So we buy course after course, subscription after subscription, jumping from one language or framework or library to the next.
That was me, too. But I realized that it was much like American retirement….you "drift" through life until you finally reach that age, and then you can finally live. What a joke!
If you are a new developer, you will not catch up with experienced developers quickly. Face it. Then embrace it.
It takes a while to become seasoned. Thus you have two options: 1. You can keep grinding until you can finally "live" when you get there (which you will not), or you can 2. Face the fact that you are still a junior developer and enjoy the coding journey that you are on.
You will probably never feel that you are good and there will always be developers better than you.
But be the best you as a developer.
So practice these things to defeat Imposter Syndrome for good:
- Focus on how far you've come, not on the present state of others.
- Ditch the fact that you have to have all the syntax and logic in your head to produce out of thin air, but instead be glad that you regularly reference the documentation. It's a noble act. Be confident in your, "I don't know, but let me look it up," answer.
- Realize that you will grow much faster if you ask questions like a child. Swap the "experienced developer" facade for an "eager to learn" disposition.
- Come to the realization that becoming a really good coder takes time and you won't become one overnight. Stop cramming and learn to enjoy the coding journey itself.
How are you coping with imposter syndrome? Do you still struggle with it? If not, what tactics did you use to beat it? Let's discuss below.
Additional Related Resource
The Imposter's Handbook by Rob Conery
How I Learned to Code and became a Full Time Freelance in One Year – FREE Ebook
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