Focusing the imposter within
And kicking it out of your head
Chances are you, or your developer friends, have imposter syndrome. If you're not a man, chances of you having imposter syndrome is significantly higher (about 75% of professional women not sure about non-binary folks unfortunately ). Basically, IS at this point is a sign-on bonus for being in tech.
And I want to know why? Why 58% of tech employees have that little snarky voice in their heads that tell them: "you're a bit suss and everyone will eventually find out".
So buckle up kiddos let's go on a journey.
Who am I and why am I talking about it? Well, I'm a front-end developer, a person who has imposter syndrome, a woman in tech, with a computing degree and have a few years of experience. And despite all the cool things that I've done, or have been privileged enough to be a part of, my inner Karen Rita Repulsa (I named her) still has her moments. Frankly my dear, I don't (want to) give a damn.
We expect ourselves to be better. To not make as many mistakes (if any at all). To know all the stuff. This framework that came out yesterday? Yeah, you should already know it and be able to build complex applications with it.
There are so many memes that as soon as a new framework, language, tool comes out - recruiters want people with 40 years of experience in it. From what I've seen (working on projects), you need to be able to pick up new concepts quickly, but you don't have to know everything all the time.
We get stuck in a vicious cycle of never completing projects (another meme that we all have 10 projects on the go because we want to learn new things). And this makes the burnouts harsher and harder to recognise.
Burnout is not very nice, to say the least. It's toxic: you're stuck doing the same thing, you're tired, you're depressed and you feel like the infamous "Parker luck" has found you. Nothing is ok. Everything is wrong. Your mistakes are now bigger and you speak to yourself like Batman talks to Joker.
You've become your worst enemy.
And yet you're stuck in the culture: learn, build, learn build. But you have to stop. And that turns that pesky voice into Hulk. But there is no way back, you have to stop and in a few months (if you've not learned from your mistakes, because it's hard) you repeat the cycle. We are creatures of habit.
What do now
I have spoken to quite a few people about this and it becomes apparent that we can minimise the effects of inner Karen Rita Repulsas in a few ways:
- Be kind to yourself - be proud of what you have accomplished. It's hard. Sometimes recognising that "you're fucking awesome" helps. You are fucking awesome
- Recognise that you're human - like duh. I forget sometimes that everyone makes mistakes, in fact mistakes are … happy accidents and unexpected features. Reframing this will save you so much time. You can't know everything, you can't build all the time, you need to sleep.
- Timebox your learning - we all have lives. If you have a full-time job, friends, and other commitments, time is a privilege. Schedule time for self-development, and don't feel bad for not learning all the time. You wouldn't want a builder to keep building all the time.
- Speak out - be open about your feelings, you're not alone, there are people who will support you. There is great power in the community.
- Focus on the things you can control - some days are shit. And you can't always control how you feel, but what you can control: breaks, what drinks you're drinking, and your music choices. Create a fun, calming atmosphere that will make your day a little bit brighter.
- Imoster Syndrome can be your super power - Yeah, I said it. It can make you want to keep up and timebox your learning (within reason) and make you a more empathetic team-member.
We need to be open about burnout. We need to be open about our mistakes and our hobbies. We are not just tech, we are humans.
We got this