What is imposter syndrome?

All developers have suffered from it. Basically, from time to time you feel like a fraud. If you have seen the movie “Catch me if you can” – 2002 starring Leonardo DiCaprio that is a pretty accurate representation of how this feeling manifests. In the movie Leo impersonates a flight pilot (among other jobs) in order to access free travel by plane from city to city and cash fake checks. He is always looking over his shoulder to see if the police have finally got to him.  

Similar to Leo despite our past accomplishments we feel that we do not deserve the job that we have and the salary that we receive. We feel like our colleagues will finally realize that we don’t know as much as them and that we do not belong there. I’m not sure why this feeling of insecurity pops up from time to time, but it does. Maybe because we are so harsh with ourselves and we amplify the smallest doubt in our mind to the level of I’ll get fired because I’m useless.

When you start doubting yourself

I’m not sure when this syndrome starts to manifest itself. I believe for me it was around the time I got my first job as a software developer. During my University years I knew exactly what my position was in the pecking order due to my grades. When you start working there is no more clear way of comparison. Maybe you could compare one’s salary. Beside the point that this is private it wouldn’t help you much either. With no clear way of comparison you start to downplay yourself for taking too long with a task or not being great at a new language or framework. 

I do not have a cure for this ailment but I do have a prevention method. Next time one of your colleagues cheers that they completed an important task go over to their desk, take a look and congratulate them for the awesome work. It’s not much, but sincere words of appreciation go a long way for their self esteem . 

Impostor syndrome never truly goes away. It sits somewhere in the back of your mind waiting for the time to impose its will on you. With time and experience you will feel more confident in your abilities and the voice in your head that you’re not good enough will be more and more distant (but it will never go away completely).

If you can sit in front of me and tell me with a straight face that you have never felt like an imposter during your job I have one of two things to say: 

a) Something is wrong with you 
b) Maybe you are not challenged by your job 

Pardon my French, but if you never doubted yourself or your abilities then I think that your ego needs an update. Extremes are never a good thing. It’s not okay to feel miserable and useless in a team but it is also not okay to feel unfailable. The truth lies in the middle. Don’t think of yourself as a second hand citizen or a software developer God.  Think of yourself as a normal person trying his best to solve the task at hand while helping his team reach their goals.  

In conclusion, everyone feels like an imposture from time to time. It’s okay and it’s natural. Just don’t let it hinder your work and as I have stated in a previous article don’t be so hard on yourself. As you learn and do more you’ll get a better grasp of the industry and before you know it you’ll start giving unsolicited advice just like me.

Have you ever felt like an imposter at your job? Please leave us a comment with your story.

2 thoughts on “What is imposter syndrome?

  1. Hi,
    Although I am not a real programmer, I use programing at a basic level at work and in some personal projects, I often feel the blog above describes the mind state I sometimes have when I work on a project. Even though my colleagues acknowledge the fact that I’m quite good at this ” programming ” stuff I fell like any 5 year old could do this if it had the proper guidance. (maybe I exaggerated a bit)
    I really like what you’re writing about and how you describe the problems and maybe even offer a solution the them.
    Anyways keep up the good work!

    Liked by 2 people

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