Why you're not dumb
I decided to write a blog on feelings of negativity that I’ve seen a lot of us in the tech world face over the small time I’ve been here.
I’ve personally struggled with feelings of incompetency a lot in the past few years. I was a bit too into the competitive programming world and it is cut-throat. I used to go into bouts of self-loathing if I didn’t do as well as I thought I should have. It made it hard to actually spend time having an actual life outside of programming. I don’t regret doing so much competitive coding at all, it is part of what made me who I am and is definitely something I would do again. But I would definitely not care as much about it.
The feelings of incompetency have reduced a lot since the last year. I’ve been making efforts to seperate my feelings of self-worth from the unending ladder of accomplishments or from failure. A very chill friend of mine (who drinks a lot :P) helped me do this (probably unknowingly) last year. I’m really thankful for that because I’ve had code I wrote break in such ways this year, that if I was the same person I was three years ago, I’d probably just wallow in self-loathing for a few months.
I’ve realized now that part of it was Impostor Syndrome. Do you ever get the nagging feeling that you’re too dumb? That people praising you just don’t know the real you yet and they’ll find out that you’ve been faking it soon? That your accomplishments weren’t actually anything worthy of praise? If you said “yes” to any of those questions, you’re not alone. Almost everyone gets the feeling sometime.
“The assignment I made was so naive, why did they even select me for the interview?”
“I can’t give a good presentation to save my life.”
“I’m so dumb, I took a holiday and now I most definitely won’t meet my deadline even though I’ve been working overtime these days.”
These are three snippets of real conversations I’ve had with three really close friends in the last month. They are all blatantly untrue statements, but I’m pretty sure they’re all saying it sincerely. Impostor Syndrome is definitely real and it’s very widespread.
So how do we get over this?
In my opinion, the biggest thing to realize is that YOU’RE A WORK IN PROGRESS. Holding yourself to impossible standards is a recipe for disaster, because no one can realistically meet them. It’s okay if you messed up a test, it’s okay if you cost your boss a week of extra work because of shit code, it’s okay if something did not go your way. It happens. The important thing to glean from such stuff is not how dumb or incompetent you are. The important thing to do is think about how or what you could improve and move forward. Note that this having too much self-confidence can be bad for you as well, but having too little of it is generally a much bigger problem.
I know it’s hard to push negativity away, but once you realize that the feelings of negativity are unfounded or that everyone gets them, no matter how competent or skilled or accomplished they are, it gets a bit easier. So, the next time you feel like a fake or a dumbass, read this blog and remember that 58% of people in the tech world think of themselves as impostors and that it’s very probable that you’re one of them.
And try not to be too hard on yourself. :)
P.S: Just some background, I wrote this post because I was hearing sooo many “I’m too dumb” statements from a close friend of mind, Vansika Pareek. So thanks for inspiring me to write this, Vansika! And thanks for inspiring the title as well. =)