Impostor syndrome management – DIY in 7 helpful ways

What exactly is impostor syndrome?

Suppose, you are given a task that nobody else has managed to do so far. But you not only fail but perform worst than others. This one event can completely transform your self-confidence. The whole phenomenon of the personality can go into negativity, to a point where the feeling of being substandard starts to sound better. This consequence is called impostor syndrome.

The most common sign of an impostor syndrome effect?

The individual not meeting expectations of the goal that were set initially.

Scoping down further, if we are to determine the initial reluctancy of taking on a challenge by an individual to address a solution that feels a lot different from the previous work experience, it is not easy to determine on the claims made but internally how that individual feels about taking it on is a different perspective.  

Moreover, the ability to move forward with that challenge is also an interesting aspect to investigate.

Every software engineer in the industry is facing a diversified number of tasks as the delegation of the tasks are multifaceted. But how does this points out towards impostor syndrome? Let us see in detail some of these tasks:

  1. Exceptionally good at coding with all the latest technologies.  
  2. Be aware of the codebase architecture, technologies, programming languages, and frameworks 
  3. Should know how to deliver quality solutions 
  4. To understand different business logics to work with i.e. Must have worked on projects with different industries 

While common, there are other interpersonal skills that also come in hand with the job for e.g. 

  1. Strong communication skills  
  2. Good team player 
  3. Open to ideas 

Someone who ticks in all the boxes above should be the most ideal candidate. Those lacking in few things may be ignored, but it is the strengths that somehow turn into weaknesses for some. The reason: An internal shakedown of the confidence of an individual. It can lead to the belief one is not just good enough because the standards set are far greater and there is a mountain to climb them. While the mountain climb should be perceived as a motivation, but the opposite of it is also very true. This is where impostor syndrome comes into play.

The most common sign of an impostor syndrome effect is the individual not meeting expectations of the goal that were set initially. At times, having doubt in all the hard work being put in and falling into the trap of developing fears over competence and skills not being enough to take on a challenging task as also signs of an impostor syndrome. 

A common occurrence in the software industry, the causes of impostor syndrome could be due to multiple factors. Popular ones are being overcritical, not properly able to consume the technicalities of the task, and even a point where one task is not being able to meet the requirements that shatters down the confidence. This overthinking causes negative impressions which can undermine the performance. 

The most appealing aspect is that because of working in diversified number of projects, one does feel overwhelmed at times. This overwhelming effect can result in negative thinking for e.g., doing a project for a different kind of industry for the very first time can actually have the effect of impostor syndrome.

Despite being good at all the technical jumble, the understanding part of the industry is at times a little difficult, the task at hand is arduous and the overall zest to feel good on taking a challenging task becomes less fun and more sporadic. It affects everything. 

But while this is a mental phenomenon, there are certain things where a solution lies to these underlying issues. 

Here are 7 helpful ways to manage anxiety i.e. impostor syndrome: 
  1. One should stop assuming things will go bad, instead go back to the basics. At times going back to the drawing board and starting from scratch can change the overall perception to a solution. 
  2. Discussing the problem with those who matter, a feeling of inclusiveness will help. At times, talking does create a difference.  
  3. Creating small goals to achieve which can help regain confidence. If one has to go easy, just do the first few basics right. Build on that momentum, record the peaks, celebrate on the small things because that will let one stand up again.  
  4. Work with the skills that one aces the best at and acknowledge yourself. Maybe you are not familiar with the technology but you can always trust your skills. You didn’t master to learn the computer in a single day but you eventually stood up and were able to start from Hello World, to creating a database management system and so on. So this too shall pass.  
  5. It’s not about perfection, it’s more about putting in efforts to bring quality. Nothing is perfect. There is no perfect solution. Ever heard of maintenance and technical support. Yes, the quality with which the work is done shall matter. Start with the aim of let’s run this thing first, then go on and change the face of it with let’s run this thing better. Make it better every time. The better it gets, the more quality it meets. It’s not about perfection. It’s all about persistence. 
  6. Give yourself some leverage. We are all destined to make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world. Take notes from when things start going bad, start focusing primarily on the mistakes, try to rectify them. Most of us were never that perfect when we first started coding. How many of you aced running the Hello World code really well the very first time 
  7. The more one adapts into taking responsibility, the easier the things become. It will help gain focus on the task; it will help bring out better solutions into work. Moreover, at times the frame of mind completely starts operating differently as a responsible individual believes in finding the right fit to bring things to a logical conclusion. 

Right here, right now, we do feel burdened, reading lines of codes daily, understanding the depth of the problem in many projects and what not. This does affect the mental well-being but it doesn’t mean that one should undermine their efforts put into these lines of code. The art of fun lies in taking on different challenges rather than shying away. The mindset that we have done the best in this and we can’t make it better is overrated. It’s a question of belief in your ability and understanding you can go wrong.

But that doesn’t mean you will be stand exposed, it would only mean that you are learning and do not hesitate to show that you can learn. One should rather be more inclined towards let’s make it better. The question of how to deal with impostor syndrome completely depends on you and only you alone. Trust your instinct and you can certainly manage the impostor syndrome anxiety and be helpful to others too in this manner. 


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