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You're doing better than you think

A few weeks ago I had the honour to take part in the PixelogicDev Saturday Standup Podcast about Imposter Syndrome in Tech.

It was a privilege to be asked onto the podcast to talk about a subject that even now I have pangs of doubt that I don't feel "qualified" to be a source of information! But you know what is talking there?! Our good friend Imposter Syndrome, and having that and knowing I had it does, in fact, allow me to talk about it, as I've managed to take steps to stop feeling it.

Every time I had a new project coming up at work, my self-esteem would just vanish! *POOF*. I would spend days contemplating all the ways I could fail. I couldn't shake the worry that I was being somehow inferior or not as competent as my colleagues. "Is this the time I get found out and sacked?" I thought. "There're millions of people looking for a job right now. Someone much better than me should be doing this."

Eventually, I figured out what the problem was: imposter syndrome.

There are lots of ways feelings of incompetence can manifest in everyday life. We might ask ourselves, "Am I the right person for this?" or "How can I make it work?". If you're in creative & tech industries like me, you might look at your new project, and ask: "Does anyone out there really need this?"

In moments like this, you might think you're the only one suffering from this, which is just totally untrue! According to a paper published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, more than 70% of people in the United States have felt like a fraud at least once in their lifetime. For many people, it's an everyday battle, not just a one-off occurrence.

The good news: imposter syndrome is simply a defence mechanism against failure. Your brain tries to shield you from the unknown risks of pursuing a new goal. We don't want to stumble, so we never start; or if we are already in the thick of it, our brains are just trying to minimise the risk of failure. The truth is: you can help overcome imposter syndrome by changing the way you think about the current situation and the new challenges. In the years of doubting myself, I learned a few simple tricks which helped me regain confidence in myself. It's what I use today whenever the sense of inadequacy starts to creep in.

  • Recognise the feeling. Feeling like you're not the right person for the job, project, or relationship is very much normal. We all share this — even those leading their field. Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg once wrote in her book, "Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn't embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up.'"

  • Check your intentions. Focus on making a real impact rather than trying to impress others. Every time I create something for likes, it ends up being amiss. Instead, I keep an eye on the quality and process —I'm here to make the right product, and I can learn anything I need for that along the way.

  • Use some perspective. Don't get stuck in your head — get out and speak with others about your feelings. You'll be surprised how many people around you think you're doing fantastic and often face the same problem as you. They may even have some good advice on how to overcome it. Asking for help is not a weakness nor is asking for validation: they are signs that you care. Also, if in a work environment a nice little tidbit that helped me, If the higher-ups haven't flagged anything with you, then you're doing something right!

In the workplace, if you're not being flagged for shoddy work, then you're doing something right because at the end of the day money talks and if you're not doing stuff to earn that money something will let you know!

Think about a new challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. Because in the end, that's what it is!

You are doing fantastic! You be YOU!

Matthew Peck-Deloughry

A developer, learner, mentor and all-around nerd.