We’ve all been there.
Tech is a lucrative industry as you know. You’re apart of it or will be one day. The pay is higher than the national average for most careers, you can do all your work remote (even pre-COVID), and it’s comparably flexible and dare I say…even fun. The shows and stereotypes are already there. I mean just look at Silicon Valley. That’s what my friends and family think my life is like everyday.
But what happens when you feel like you don’t deserve that? I mean…really. Think about it. Right out of college, you get to work in an air conditioned room, a comfortable salary at a young age, working in a field that lets you wear hoodies into the office, and what are you actually doing? Like actually?
Are you spending 85% of your time on StackOverflow trying to figure out how to center a div in the center of a screen? Or maybe its a day undertaking a task to put together a powerpoint that just talks about an application that you could maybe build?
If you’re like the majority of techies starting out, then probably the answer is you’re doing absolutely nothing of value. To you at least. And when you do nothing…that takes a toll. Guilt gnaws in. Self-doubt. Depression. This isn’t the “making a difference” that you dreamed of.
I remember when I first started, I spent the first month reading documentation. Literally. That’s it. Reading documentation. By the third day I was ready to put my head in my hands and cry. I was also getting paid. And every time I got a paycheck I thought…do I deserve this? Why me? Compared to everyone else who were smarter, worked harder, did more, I didn’t feel up to their level. I mean all I did was nothing but read documentation. Do I need to repeat that again for you to know that all I did was read documentation? Good.
Even today, after proving myself and getting numerous awards and leading projects for some of the biggest companies in the world, I feel like I’m still faking it. I still spend hours just reading documentation. So how do you deal with this imposter syndrome? This feeling that you don’t really know anything yet somehow get treated like you know something when it comes to computers?
You deal with it by acknowledging that you know half your stuff only half as good as you like, and you know the other half almost to the point of knowing nothing at all. And you realize no one else has got it figured out either.
Socrates said it best. The man really said “I know one thing and that is that I know nothing” and thousands of years later people are like, “This man was ahead of his time, maybe even our time”.
When you begin to acknowledge what you don’t know and appreciate your failures, you open up the way to becoming a better person. Be hungry for knowledge and education. Always seek to grow better. A failure people make is thinking they will finally reach a point where they know everything.
I don’t think anyone will ever get to that point.
We will always feel inadequate in the things we do. That’s just a part of being human. By thinking you are only halfway there in half the stuff you know, you can have that level of confidence that you are not just pulling stuff out of your butt, but still give you leeway to be open to feedback and criticism. By acknowledging that you know nothing at all with the rest of knowledge, that means you acknowledge that growth is possible and that there is so much more potential you can tap into. The best way is to always be in the mindset that you are continuously learning. Even if you’re doing something that is worthless to you, try and take that as an experience in developing your skills and to mold yourself into a person you can be proud of.
An impostor is someone who tries to pretend that they are someone they’re not. To escape impostor syndrome, acknowledge your weaknesses and be true to yourself. Know that you don’t really know anything and you’re just hoping to get to the point that you know something. Make your past self proud of the future you.
At that point, the voice of self-doubt should become quieter and quieter. Because you’re no longer trying to be someone you’re not. You’re not trying to aim for the perception of whatever other people have for you. All you’re doing is being unabashedly yourself and acknowledging that you’re where you need to be in life to get better.
And that’s all that really matters.