How to harness imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something almost, if not, all of us will experience at some point in our lives. For some of us it may be a passing feeling, for others a daily shadow.

I started coding two years ago and have now been working for 8 months in a software development role and imposter syndrome is something that challenges me daily. I question what I know, my experience, my worth, my ability. I am the only female developer in my team and the only one to study Software Development in a non-traditional study format. All of these things play on my mind. I remind myself that I was hired, I graduated my course, I have produced some really good work, and I have received amazing feedback from my employers. Despite these positives, the feelings o imposter syndrome still come back but I am beginning to learn that this is not necessarily a bad thing.

I see imposter syndrome as a form of measurement or accountability. Feeling uncomfortable and questioning how you are progressing pushes us to keep reaching. Sometimes when we reach a point where we no longer question our progress or our ability we can get stuck. Learning to embrace the feelings of imposter syndrome can be used to your advantage. Now of course, like most things, there is a spectrum of extremes. I am only speaking from my experience and what I have learnt through friends, colleagues and my greater, professional network.

I have learnt that, although not always pleasant, when I have these doubts or question my ability I begin to reflect. Reflect on my work, my practice and my knowledge. I can then see where I need or want to progress or improve. It means I can go to my colleagues or managers better equipped knowing what I need help with or what support I would like.

I wanted to share my tips on harnessing your imposter syndrome:

  • Take a deep breath

This might seem like a trivial one but honestly it does help. When your thoughts are interfering taking one moment to stop and slow down can make all the difference.

  • Take a break

A commonly shared one but important nonetheless. Whether it is 5 minutes to make a coffee or going the gym or reading a book. A break from the screen can do wonders to reset your focus.

  • Ask for help

As cliched as this sounds but suffering in silence doesn’t do you any benefits. In order to learn we have to admit we don’t know. Asking for help might see opposing to the feelings of not being adequate but actually it can help relieve the stress. More often than not you will realise you were almost there, and talking it through with someone can really help you learn and consolidate your knowledge. Also you may be the one that someone is asking help from. Explaining something or helping someone is a really good way to reinforce what you know whilst helping someone else.

  • Join a community or group

I was fortunate, whilst studying, to be part of the Code Institute community that has a vibrant and active community of students, alumni and staff. Being part of that community has been was more supportive than I could have ever imagined and still is. Since graduating I have also joined the Codú community, which has been really supportive. I am beginning to participate more and look forward to future collaborations and interactions with other members of the community.  The great thing about these communities is there is a lot of people in similar positions as me, so asking a question that I may feel is silly, actually isn’t and there are lots of people willing to give advice and support. You are not alone, sharing experience is everything!

  • Reflect, You are doing great!

We are our own worst critic and we often see something different to others in regards to our work, achievements or progress. Take a moment to reflect at where you are, what you have learned, what you have achieved. Maybe even write it down and see the evidence. You might surprise yourself!

I work with some incredible developers, some of them have been developing almost as long as I have been alive. I am excited to learn from them and one day hope I have experience like them, but until then it is one day at a time.

***I would like to caveat that I am not saying that if you don’t feel imposter syndrome then you aren’t working hard enough or progressing. Every person is different. This article has been written from personal experience and I hope it can help someone else who feels the same.

Avatar for Anya McDonald

Written by Anya McDonald


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