Imposter Syndrome: The Silent Dream Killer
In a world where devs are increasingly self-taught, it may be easy to negatively compare yourself to those colleagues who have a BS or MS in Computer Science. But don't.
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Article originally published June 2017
A lot of you are brilliant, and you don’t know it. It saddens me to see such wasted potential in those that think they are not good enough but in fact are amazing and often 10 times better than those that think highly of themselves. These people, not all of them, but some, I feel suffer from imposter syndrome.
I will do my best to explain my experiences with this mental state of mind and how I’m currently battling with it. Once you understand what imposter syndrome means, and read a real-life example, I hope you get some mental clarity.
Always Planning: Procrastination
Once you see what I’m talking about you will understand the importance of taking action instead of planning. This is the only cure for “imposter syndrome.” Allow me to explain.
What Exactly Is Imposter Syndrome?
By its very definition, it is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”
Let me start with my personal experience. I know I’m good at what I do. But oftentimes, I get the fear that I’m not as good as the teacher or that I should not do it because it’s already been done. I believe this has been established since I have been on my own. I know I am good enough, and I know I can get it done. But the feeling that I don’t deserve what I have persists.
Imposter Syndrome: The Roots I’m Seeing
Learning in isolation and being self-taught leaves you (typically) to hold yourself accountable. Whereas in college and other team-based learning environments, you have a team or classmates to compare and be held accountable against. The lack of accountability while learning (no bad grades here) sets an unvalidated tone in our society. You didn’t go to school, why should you be trusted? Other forms of validation are also, in my opinion, critical to our success, but understanding which ones to seek makes the difference.
It is important to understand that not being validated is something a lot of people fear in their careers. Being validated means you have the skills or you are “valued” for your achievements. The misconceptions of what validation truly is versus what it is believed to be is the number one thing that holds people back from excelling in their careers and life in general.
Getting the Right Validation
What Is the Wrong Kind of Validation to Seek?
The desire to please everyone. Negative, unconstructive opinions and thoughts of you mean absolutely nothing. Get that into your head. It isn't worth accepting if someone doesn’t provide feedback that helps you grow. Do not take invalidation from negative peers, take validation from your work and know you did your best and always working towards improving.
The piece of paper. – The internet has changed the way we learn by several orders of magnitude. It has lifted us to new heights and has made us excel in research and innovation. This has left some developers who are self-taught without the ability to land high-paying gigs in the corporate world. The need for a bachelor’s degree continues, when, in all reality, the real-world experience that we have implemented by far exceeds the value of the 4-year computer science degree. Real-world experience always triumphs over unused knowledge. Don’t get me wrong – having a degree is fantastic! But it shouldn’t be a huge variable in today’s world.
Please don’t let not having a degree bother you. If you are self-taught, you have a lot of skills that many others don’t. It takes self-discipline to sit down and do research in order to learn a new craft. You have to take pride in that. Never undervalue the education you are presented with, even if it’s an education you gave yourself at your own pace.
Where Should You Find Validation?
The answer should be your work. Your work is your validation. At the end of the day, when you lay your head down, your projects, your art, whatever it is you have tossed out into the world is your validation. It shows, “Hey I can do this. I did this. Look here it is.” Hopefully, people will see what you can do and hopefully want to work with you or encourage you in a positive and motivating way.
Improve Daily – Remind Yourself Who You Are!
You have to tell yourself nearly every day that you are good enough. That you have the ability to succeed as long as you put time and energy into your goals. That you will succeed and that there is only one person who could stop you. Yourself.
Keep this in mind: I have to hold myself accountable for all my work. Only I can change my direction. Each day I wait is a day I get behind. I will move forward. I will succeed, and I will establish myself in the areas of my expertise. I will grow every day. I will do something unique to find new people and opportunities. I will not fail. I will never give up. I will always do my best to complete what I put my blood, sweat, and tears into. I will not be scared to hear the word ‘No’ and I will not be afraid to overcome it either.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
One word, execute. I have noticed that the imposter syndrome kicks in when I have the most downtime. I don’t think I’m good enough. I question life choices. If I’m executing, doing something productive, like writing this blog, then I’m doing something to put something out into the world which serves as my validation. Some people will read this, some will share. Others may not even get past the first sentence. But it is okay. The ones that reach the end are all that matter.
Execution comes in many forms. For example, email 25 people in your downtime.
You have built your own success - remember that.
Published at DZone with permission of Jody Fitzpatrick. See the original article here.
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