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I'm a fraud. I have no idea what I am doing and It's only a matter of time before they all find out. Sure, I've been working as hard as I can, spending most of my free time learning as much as I can about the technology and practices we use. I've been delivering and haven't caused any major breakages. But that's just because I'm being really careful. What if I'm working too slowly because of it.

This place is filled with rock stars. Their domain knowledge is so vast I probably look like a ranked amateur in comparison. I can't even think of anything relevant to say during stand ups. Everything I think of has been said already. Before I can get the words out. They're just on top of everything. There's just no way.

Before this I was working a smaller dev shop with a couple of smaller clients. Now I'm working for a modern, forward thinking company filled to the brim with freaking artisans. I consider them some of the best development brains I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

I'm working for some of the biggest brands in Europe. Hell, some of the biggest brands in the world. I'm screwed. It's only a matter of time before they find out.

Whoa. Calm down.

This has, in a nutshell, been the last five months or so of my life since starting my new job. Internally at least. You have just witnessed a spiral into the abyss. A journey I'm sure some of you reading this have taken yourselves. Or may be undertaking right now.

This is what is known as Imposter Syndrome.

Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. - Clance, Pauline Rose; Imes, Suzanne A. (1978)

For me, this only ever really hit me when I wasn't at work. At home I was processing the days events and starting to see patterns, starting to obsess over every single mistake I made, no matter how trivial. Replaying moments in my head where I had my chance to make a big difference and missed it.

When I'm at work I'm, well, working. Focusing on writing clean testable code, focusing on increasing value, focusing on quality. Focusing on all the things I should be focusing on to be considered good at my job.

See where I'm going with this?

Prove it? You already are.

You think you're a fraud, but chances are you aren't. Chances are your daily successes are outweighing your self doubt. The things that you do every day are proving your competency. Your self doubt isn't warranted. Stop being so hard on yourself.

It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me. - Freaking Batman

In my case the person in charge of recruitment appears to know exactly what he wants, he seems to me to be an excellent judge of both character and ability. If I were that bad, I wouldn't even be working here. You probably wouldn't have been hired by the person that hired you, either.

What helped me out of this spiral and has instead sent me on a journey of more effective self reflection, was simple. I asked what people think, instead of assuming what they think. I went to the team I work with and asked if there's anything I'm not doing that I should be. I got more than a few sarcastic comments, of course. But they couldn't think of anything major.

I also had a catch up with the Lead Developer and Academy Leader, and it turns out they think I'm doing just fine. It turns out they might even think I'm competent, hell, they even used the word good when describing my competencies in certain areas of my job. Better yet, they highlighted areas of improvement and set me on a path to become even better. It was incredibly constructive and just knowing what is expected of me has left me with feelings of confidence.

Sometimes you just need to ask what people think. I did, and it felt like I had been given a life raft. The ocean of self doubt is still there, but it doesn't feel like I'm treading water anymore.

But there is one other thing. Something that may help put life a little more into perspective.

Hold onto something, this is going to get a little existential.

Sonder.

sonder - n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Sonder is a word defined in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. There is a short and touching video explaining it here, that I definitely recommend watching.



You are the main character of your life.

Everyone must be watching you all the time, thinking about you, judging you. Right?

No.

Everyone is just living their own life, which is just as complex and rich as yours, with added stresses and struggles all their own.

They may even be worried, that you will find out that they are a fraud.

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Dan Hutchinson

By day, Dan is a Web Application Developer based in Wolverhampton, UK. By night, he is an Independent Game Developer and co-founder of Pixelbark Games.


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