Overcoming imposter syndrome
It’s easy to fall into the imposter syndrome trap:
Your coding sucks. This or that person is better than you. Who do you think you are?
When you sit in front of a screen all day, it’s easy to lose perspective. We build things up in our head. We don’t think we’re worthy.
However, you can put checks in place. They’ll help you stay on track.
Don’t let their simplicity fool you.
Check #1: What do you want?
We see other coders achieve amazing results.
They land a gig at Google. Their posts get thousands of views. They’re loving life.
Sometimes, when we’re in a funk, we look on with envy. We’d love that. The numbers and prestige.
We want the trappings of success.
But it’s important to remind yourself why you code. This is different for everyone. Is it a hobby? Is it to build something shiny? Do you want to work with clients?
We all have different measures of success and we all have different priorities.
It all comes back to the golden question:
What do you want?
Keep coming back to this question. It can guide your actions.
To help answer it, consider the following:
Try stuff. Taste stuff. Keep on daring. When you think you’ve found something, give it a spin.
Many of us will test drive a new car more than our own lives.
Check #2: How you doin’?
I’m no Joey Tribbiani.
Still, it’s a perfectly legit question — one we should ask ourselves more. How are you doing?
Compare yourself to you. How are you doing compared to last week, last month, and last year? Are you on a path that feels right?
Your trajectory is more important than your current step.
If you’re hell-bent on making money from coding, consider this. If you’ve made $1, you’ve done something 90% of people haven’t done.
This doesn’t mean you’re better than anyone else. It simply means if you’ve done it before, you can do it again. Jumping from $1 to $1,000 isn’t as big a leap as you might think.
Remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
It’s also okay to compare yourself to others. It’s human nature. There are a few caveats, though.
Number one: Only compare yourself with people you want to be. There’s a difference between envy and jealousy. Envy is a motivator. Jealousy is toxic. If you want something someone else has — a lifestyle, a personality, a cute dog — this can be a force for good.
“Jealousy is when you resent what someone else has, but you don’t necessarily want it. Jealousy is the motive of the guy that keys your brand-new car. Jealousy is a dick move.” — Jimmy Carr
Number two: Comparing your “today” with someone else’s “5 years ago” will lead to disappointment. You’ll only see the finish line. You won’t see their doubts, their late-night struggles, and everything between.
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” — Jordan Peterson
And number three: What advantages have they been given that others might not have?
Who are their parents? What do they do? Are they connected? Nurture is huge. If a young man’s dad is a software developer, it stands to reason the young man will have coded from an early age.
There are many factors we underestimate.
Check #3: What’s your edge?
Throw sh*t at the wall.
Fall in love with your craft and your edge will find you.
So too will success.
“When someone’s doing something for the money, people can sense it, like they sense a desperate lover.” — Derek Sivers
When you’re out of your game, remind yourself of your edge. Return to it time and time again. Keep improving. Keep sharpening your axe.
The score will take care of itself.
When you feel like an imposter, the way we get back in the game is the game. You may find these checks helpful:
#1: What do you want? The ladder may look shiny. Still, there’s no point climbing it if it won’t take you to where you want to go.
#2: How you doin’? Compare yourself to last year. You’ve come a long way! Remember that.
#3: What’s your edge? Keep sharpening your axe, even when you don’t want to. “Turning pro is like kicking a drug habit or stopping drinking. It’s a decision — a decision to which we must recommit every day.” — Steven Pressfield