13.7. Studio: Combating Imposter Syndrome

There is a widely recognized condition called Impostor Syndrome. First described in the 1970s, it refers to a situation where someone doubts their accomplishments, and they fear that their success is the result of "faking it". People experiencing imposter syndrome ignore external evidence of their skills, and they attribute their success to luck.

At this point in their learning journey, many new coders feel doubt about their prospects. However, they have PLENTY of company---supreme court justice Sonia Sotomayor, Serena Williams, Tom Hanks, and multiple CEOs have all questioned their success.

The struggle is real, and an open conversation often helps.

13.7.1. You CAN

First, a little perspective. Identify which of the following tasks you have already done or know that you can accomplish:

  1. Use code to print "Hello, World" to the screen.
  2. Define, initialize, change, and use variables.
  3. Convert the string '1234' into a number.
  4. Construct a for loop to repeat a task 100 times.
  5. Construct if/else if/else statements to decide which of three tasks to perform.
  6. Build, modify, and access an array.
  7. Design and call a function.
  8. Call one function from within another function.
  9. Find and fix bugs in a segment of non-working code.

How many of the 9 items listed above did you indicate? There is no 'passing' score for this. Whether you checked all 9 or only 1 or 2, simply saying, I can do that, means you have more coding skill than the bulk of the world's population.

Doubt and uncertainty are normal, especially when exploring a new career. However, with the skills you already know, you can legitimately say, I am a coder. Combined with the skills you will learn during the rest of the course, there can be no doubt. You ARE NOT pretending.

13.7.2. Discussion

Take a few moments in the studio to consider, share, and discuss the following:

  1. Have you ever felt the effects of Imposter Syndrome? When?
  2. Have you ever responded to a compliment by diminishing the work that earned you the praise? If so, why did you answer in that way?
  3. How do you feel in a test/quiz/studio when someone finishes much earlier than you?
  4. What are you most proud of from your time working with LaunchCode?
  5. What are your strengths?
  6. What gives you confidence?
  7. How can you use your effort and strengths to boost your confidence?

13.7.3. Real World Comments

  1. "We all have impostor syndrome. Every creative person at the top of their field will admit to it. And, frankly, getting notoriety for what you do only accentuates your feeling of being a fraud… because… you know how stupid you are, how lazy you are.” – Adam Savage, one of the hosts from Mythbusters
  2. "I thought it was a fluke. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take it back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, 'Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.'" - Jodie Foster after winning an Oscar for Best Actress
  3. "Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true." - Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz admitting to being insecure
  4. "Feeling a little uncomfortable with your skills is a sign of learning, and continuous learning is what the tech industry thrives on! It’s important to seek out environments where you are supported, but where you have the chance to be uncomfortable and learn new things." - Vanessa Hurst, Co-Founder of Girl Develop It

13.7.4. Helpful Tips

Imposter syndrome is real and common. However, there are things you can do to help boost your confidence:

  1. Acknowledge the thoughts, especially when you enter a new point in your life. Recognize that your feelings are normal.
  2. Put it into perspective. You have been in LC101 for 4 - 5 weeks. It is OK if you do not understand everything on Stack Overflow or recognize all the details about the latest technology.
  3. Review your accomplishments. Think about your life prior to JavaScript when string, object and function all meant something much simpler. Your learning has been real!
  4. Share with a trusted friend, teacher or mentor. Other people with more experience can provide reassurance, and they probably felt similar doubts when they started.
  5. Accept compliments. Luck did not earn you your tech job. There were LOTS of candidates, and you shined enough to set you apart. If someone compliments your effort or the quality of your work, graciously accept.
  6. Teach. This is a great way to reinforce your learning, and it helps you recognize how much you know.
  7. Remember the power of 'Yet'. You are not the master of all skills, of course, but you do know how to learn. With more practice, you will fill in any gaps in your knowledge.