Embracing Impostor Syndrome

If you’re a developer, you’ve probably experienced or still struggle with impostor syndrome: the self’s shadow hitchhiker, traveling with you throughout your career – that dark thief of confidence. Maybe it joined you on your first developer job – the nagging anxiety that all the other smart and talented developers would figure out that you actually don’t know what you’re doing. Maybe you’re like me, and ten years later it’s still there, casting its seeds of doubt wherever your mind wanders.

There are numerous posts out there that give advice on how to handle living with it professionally. I won’t link them here, Google can provide pages of musing articles, but they mostly offer the same advice on how to cope with it and overcome it. But what if you know it will never leave? Do you accept it? Yes.

What if you could take these feelings and instead of convincing yourself that you’re good enough, you acknowledge that you’ll never be good enough? What if instead of sweeping your doubt to the side, you let it ignite a fire of fuel to rocket you to the next level? Here at my desk, I embrace impostor syndrome.

To understand why I embrace impostor syndrome, we need to examine why we feel it in the first place. The immediate source is that these feelings stem from self-doubt, anxiety and confidence in our abilities. But why do we feel this way? For me, and I suspect for many other people, it’s because we want to excel and do the best work we can, or even reach a level of work we know we’re not capable of achieving yet, and that’s great.

If you care deeply about what you do and are always striving to get better at your craft, of course you won’t be good enough in your own eyes, and that inner voice will remind you: no matter how many challenges you’ve buried, this might be the time you screw up.

Let that feeling be a constant in your life and embrace it. If you’re never good enough, you’ll always be pushing yourself to get better. If you hold onto your doubt, you stay humble and are more likely to accept constructive criticism and be open to new ideas and ways of approaching your work. If you accept the anxiety, you’ll strive for perfection.

There’s always a new summit to ascend, and when your gray hitchhiker groans how this is the mountain you won’t be able to climb, you channel that doubt. You realize, as you look down, that one of the reasons you’ve climbed so far is because of this doubt, not in spite of it. You let that nagging voice wander into your mind, and you prove it wrong - forever.