Only a month ago I was a confident front-end team lead working on JavaScript web applications for the insurance industry. I had resigned from that position and was looking forward to a new challenge at a large live TV streaming service working as a software engineer. Little did I know that impostor syndrome was about to rear its ugly head.

My experience with impostor syndrome

I had some experience with React but needed to improve my knowledge for my new role. Udemy, an online learning platform that I use had a course on React and Redux that seemed to cover everything that I needed. I completed the course and felt confident that I’d be able to do the job.

When I got to my new job and I started peering over the codebase, I felt lost. It was React and Redux, but just so different from what I was used to. I started feeling this pit in my stomach. “I’m not going to able to do this”, I thought to myself. “Software engineer? What was I thinking? I’m a designer at heart.”

“Software engineer? What was I thinking? I’m a designer at heart…”

That’s when I remembered that I’d felt this way before, only two years ago. I had been working as a WordPress developer before I started my job at wiCover. My work at wiCover was my first introduction to JavaScript frameworks. When I first laid eyes on those codebases it all seemed so foreign to me and I felt that same doubt in my abilities.

Except, I was wrong. Sure, it did take some time for me to get used to the frameworks and code, but eventually, I did. This realization was very comforting for me in my current predicament. Yes, I don’t understand how it all works together right now and maybe I’ll never understand it all, but given enough time and exposure to the code, I know that I will be fine.

Do you feel like a fraud?

I share my experience because I know I’m not alone. I did some research and found that these feelings are quite common, but it’s not very well known. A survey in the UK last year showed that 85% of working adults felt inadequate or incompetent at work, and almost 70% don’t feel they deserve their current success. Of those surveyed, only 25% were aware of impostor syndrome.

But what can be done about it?

This is going to sound a bit like something from r/wowthanksimcured, but impostor syndrome is a mental issue and your best bet against it is getting into the right mental state.

Firstly, you need to recognize it in yourself. Knowing what impostor syndrome is and knowing it’s commonplace is a great starting point. For me, this made a world of difference.

A little self-doubt is not only normal, but it’s also healthy. It prevents a leader from crossing the line between self-confidence and hubris. The key is to not let that doubt keep you from your goals and aspirations.

It’s also important to know that you can ask for help. No one knows everything and with experience, you’ll get better at what you’re struggling with right now as I did before.

Have you struggled with impostor syndrome? Do you have some coping mechanisms that have worked for you? Reach out to me on Twitter. I’d love to hear your story.