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5 STEPS to overcoming IMPOSTOR SYNDROME as a NOOBIE

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Have you ever felt like a fraud? Like your lying to yourself and everyone about your programming abilities? Do you often question whether you can even call yourself a true programmer? Then you may have a case of IMPOSTOR SYNDROME my friend. Don’t worry it’s very common, especially for beginners. I can say with near certainty, that every beginner has faced this mental battle! Hell, even some experienced programmers may still occasionally be afflicted with this condition. But this article aims to help you overcome your anxieties.

worker with doubts - Designed by FreepikWhat is IMPOSTOR SYNDROME anyway? 

Call it what you will, impostor syndrome, feeling like a fraud, a fake, a phony, whatever. It’s all pretty self-explanatory. You essentially feel like you are pretending to be something your not. Even though that is NOT TRUE!

It’s a crappy feeling, which can make you feel anxious about being “exposed”. As well as slowing your growth as a programmer. And it’s that last point, which is the big issue, hence why I made it bold.

The mindset of an impostor comes from self-doubt, which inherently makes us scared to put ourselves out there. Or for lack of a better word, TRY.

To protect ourselves from the idea of being discovered a fraud, we wrap ourselves in bubble wrap. Until such a time as we feel it’s safe to emerge. As a result, we may pass on opportunities or fail to push ourselves because we don’t feel worthy.

You may find yourself in a situation where you are more than job ready and even have a nice little portfolio. Yet because of impostor syndrome, you’re still taking courses to expand your knowledge.

It’s a challenge we all face 

I think it’s good to know you are not alone. For one, I have experienced this and still do!

But in facing this problem I have deciphered a few conclusions on how to overcome it. Plus a realization that you may find interesting.

Before divulging the steps you need to take, Let me to share my realization.

Impostor Syndrome can actually a GOOD thing!

Really? A good thing? That doesn’t sound right. Bare with me a moment while I explain with a little hypothetical.

Consider someone on the opposite side of the spectrum, someone who’s overconfident, with too much self-belief. What’s the danger here?…The danger is their ego goes unchecked. No one likes an egomaniac anyway, but it can be slippery slope the moment you start believing you’re “the best”.

While it is good to exude confidence to impose your will, the danger is you may start slacking. If you feel like you know everything already, you are less inclined to hit the books and continue learning. And in my opinion, the moment you stop learning is the moment you start dying as a programmer. Extreme, I know. But that’s just what I believe.

However, I am sure from this example you can see that overconfidence can put you at risk of resting on your laurels.

By contrast, feeling like an impostor can drive us to learn and continue improving ourselves. We just have to make sure we take the opportunities to implement those improvements when they arise.

Impostor syndrome is very handy when it comes to keeping your feet to the fire. Versus an egomaniac, who assumes they know it all until one day it slaps them in the face!

Now let’s explore the steps to help you overcome this feeling.

STEP 1/ Compare yourself to yourself, NOT OTHERS

business people finishing a market race -Designed by FreepikMajority of the time we feel inadequate as beginners because we are comparing ourselves to professionals who have been living and breathing code for years. Obviously compared to them your going to seem like a NOOB.

Although this feeling isn’t just reserved for beginners. I have spoken to other programmers, currently working as developers, who have said they still feel like noobs; compared to the people they work with. This shows that impostor syndrome can hit at any level.

As a rule of thumb, there will always be someone with more experience, more knowledge, and who have achieved more. There are some real all-star players in this world, and while yes, of course, I believe you can be one of them! You may find more value in comparing yourself today to who you were yesterday.

Doing this you are less likely to feel like a noob or fraud. Plus, it’s a great way to motivate yourself and build confidence by seeing how much you have grown.

It’s hard not to compare ourselves. In some ways comparing is a good thing because it breeds competition, which pushes us to become a better version of ourselves.

However, to negate impostor syndrome you should use that person as a target, something to aspire to. Think of them as the finishing line to your race, rather than the guy next to you on the starting line.

STEP 2/ Learn to VALIDATE YOURSELF

In my opinion, having the ability validate yourself is a key component in overcoming this plight. That said, it’s definitely not an easy thing achieve. Naturally, we validate ourselves through the approval of others, whether that’s our peers, colleagues, or employers.

The problem is sometimes even receiving a stamp of approval from others is still not enough. Case and point, when you start a new job. Your new employers obviously feel you are capable of doing the job, yet despite that, you can still have your doubts.

Understandably there is an air of uncertainty because of it a new situation. However, even though you have the knowledge to meet the challenge. And that knowledge has even been vetted by your employers. You can still struggle to shake that impostor feeling.

People around you may sing your praises, but until you can learn to sing your own, impostor syndrome may stick around longer than you would like.

So learn to validate yourself, my friend! And if you’re wondering how you do that exactly, let me give you a little tip. You need to have self-belief, which brings me to the next step.

businessmen playing william tell - Designed by FreepikSTEP 3/ You’re underestimating yourself…you need to BELEIVE

More often than not you know more than you think you do. Majority of the time we underestimate ourselves. Not just in terms of what we already know but our ability to adapt and learn new things.

You probably feel like a fake because you either underestimated yourself, or you overestimated what’s expected of you. At some point, you’ve had to make an estimation (effectively GUESS!) as to whether you are capable of a certain role, or worthy of a title, such as “Programmer”.

Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 we guess wrong, normally underestimating ourselves. As a result, we feel insecure and doubt begins to sets in. This inevitably leads us down the path of feeling like an impostor. Unknown to us we are more than worthy, yet because the mind is such a powerful thing, we perceive otherwise.

You should feel comfortable calling yourself a Programmer or applying for the job you’ve been training so hard for. But that is not the case when your suffering from the phony’s.

My advice? Attempt to realize that you are most likely underestimating your skills and knowledge. Also work hard to instill yourself with confidence and self-belief in your abilities. That, of course, is easier said than done. Sadly self-belief isn’t something you can just buy at the local supermarket. However, try these little tips to change your perspective.

  1. Remind yourself of what you already know and what you have achieved so far. This can give you a welcome ego boost as well as validating your knowledge.
  2. See your potential. Yes, you may not know everything but dont underestimate your ability to learn! Remind yourself it’s only a matter of time until you become an expert. Every expert started as a noob.

Before you move onto the next step, if you are a newbie who feels like impostor calling themselves a Programmer, then this is for you.

In my opinion, if you can write code which prints out “Hello World” on the screen, then I consider you a Programmer. Why? Because even at this basic level you have still technically “programmed” a computer to execute a command. Sure, you may not be the worlds most advanced programmer, but your still a programmer. So remember that and keep pushing to learn more.

research concept - Designed by FreepikSTEP 4/ How you appear is RELATIVE to who’s judging 

A reason Impostor Syndrome occurs is because we are worried about what other people think. We care too much about how we are perceived, when really unless we ask, we have no way of knowing. The truth is that we are perceived RELATIVE to the person we think is judging us. What does that even mean?

A simple answer….people from different background will perceive you differently from each other. To clarify, let me give you an example.

If you have been programming for a few months and have built some fairly simple programs. Then a person with NO programming experience will likely see you as a magician. Compared to a professional programmer, who will likely view you as a novice. In fact, the individuals own opinions will also shape how they see you.

So if that is the case, I really wouldn’t worry what other people think, because, in reality, they are all thinking something different anyway. And they can’t all be right! So ignore them and value your own opinion.

What matters more is how you perceive yourself! Your own personal view will have a greater influence on how you conduct yourself then the views of other people. And as I mentioned earlier, even sometimes when we get the approval of others we still see ourselves the same way. We value our own opinion above all else.

STEP 5/ Understanding that to some degree…You NEED TO BE AN IMPOSTOR 

Before anyone jumps down my throat, I am NOT saying to lie! It goes without saying that you should never lie or make up stories. Instead, what I am trying to say is that you should emulate the person you want to be. 

Whenever I am asked if I am a professional developer, I always respond “no”, I am an aspiring developer. I would love to turn around and say “Yes, I’ve been a developer for x number of years”, but that would be an outright lie.

However, after spending the past year teaching myself how to code, while juggling full-time work and becoming a first time dad. I now have my sights firmly on securing a role in Android App Development.

I try to put myself in the mind of a developer, and every day I strive to emulate the traits they encompass. And it is this mentality, which I am suggesting you adopt (rather than lying). You need to think you are.

I am sure you’ve heard the quote “I think, therefore I am”. Well, I want to adapt it slightly to illustrate my point. “I think I am a Programmer, therefore I am a Programmer”.

I know that merely saying you’re Programmer won’t make it true. You actually do stuff, you can’t just sit on the couch calling yourself a Programmer. But by saying this to yourself you begin to change your mindset to one of a Programmer.

For Programmers, writing code is part of their life. So by associating yourself with that title, code will soon become part of yours. In a short while, your transformation will be seamless. In no time your Impostor Syndrome will fade and you will have no trouble announcing to the world that you are indeed a Programmer!

I understand if you think this sounds like BS, but I truly believe by mentally assuming the roles we want for ourselves we begin to take steps towards them. This, in particular, helped me overcome my beginner’s insecurities.

So whether you’re just starting out or looking to get a particular developer role, remember to embrace the impostor feeling. Don’t shy away from associating yourself with that persona. Some call this faking it until you make it. I just call it having a crap ton of self-belief.

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About the Author Owen

Creator of Code Dad, father and self-taught programmer. My mission is to balance life, work, family, all while learning to code, and hopefully help others who want to do the same.

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