I brought up Imposter Syndrome with my co-workers after listening to the above conversation. Most weren’t familiar with the actual term, but after explaining it there was a resounding “every damn day” from each of them. I know the problem exists across many areas of work, but it does feel very prevalent in the design/developer fields. Like many others, I struggle with the issue from time to time but not as bad as I did in my “teenage” developer years.
In those years, any new project or assignment would throw me into a state of panic or self-doubt. I’d end up texting my partner things like “What was I thinking, I’m not suited for this crap”. (Lucky for me, she is very patient and would always help talk me down from the mental cliff I was ready to jump from) Developers around me would seem so comfortable or familiar with issues that appeared daunting and would haunt me on the commute home.
Overtime, those reactions became less and less. The issue of imposter syndrome can still rear it’s ugly head from time to time, but I’ve found a super nerdy helpful way to approach it that has always kept me focused and pressing forward. I’m serious when I say it’s super nerdy, so just a fair warning; I can’t be at fault if your eyes roll too far back to recover.
Whenever I start to feel that “you don’t belong in this field, you know nothing, such a fraud” thought process, I frame everything in the idea of it being a game. A RPG/MMO to be exact. Have you ever played a RPG, reached a walled off part because you were too low level, turned off the game and said “I’ll never be good enough to unlock that area, I’m such a red mage fraud”? Unless you had a particularly bad day, I think it’s safe to assume you shrugged and went off to pursue whatever you had to do in-game to unlock that area.
I may have zero ideas about how to unlock this insane weapon, but I know if I poke around long enough in this huge open-world game, I will figure it out. I know that the game has provided me a means to learn and discover. Worst case, if I get really lost I have the option to reach out to a real community and seek help.
Bringing that same thought process over to development, I know that I know literally squat about three.js but I’m aware if I mess around with it enough, I will become better and better with it. Also, like a MMO, if I get really stuck or lost there’s a community of people excited to share and help me succeed further. Some might say I’m simplifying the problem, and that’s fair, but I do see a really close parallel. If I can see a goal in a game and understand all it takes to reach that goal is work, why is it so difficult to apply the same kind of thinking to the progression of our careers?