Imposter Syndrome: Coping Techniques

May 27, 2016 | Greg Nelson

Sometimes a person starts to feel worth less and thoroughly incompetent about what he or she does; it also translates into a stronger feeling where you feel that everyone will sooner or later realize that about you. Software development is a rapidly evolving field and the professionals in this regard suffer the most from what is known as imposter syndrome.

I recently read about a Game Developers Conference where a developer behind the epic hit game “Super Meat Boy” spoke about this creepy feeling. He spoke about how he has no skill and no idea about how much he is capable of; in his view everything that he has done in life, he made up as he went along. He labeled it beautifully as simply the ongoing evolution known as life.

With the rapidly evolving technologies, there is always room to learn and a failure to do so can deem you as an imposter. There is so much information overload that a general feeling of not being able to keep up prevails. The only thing that can be done is to ‘learn on the fly’ and be flexible in your learning techniques.


A study from Business insider by Julie Bort shows a compelling picture where programmers are being coerced into a 50+ hours work week; besides that they are told that “real programmers” practice the art in their spare time as well. The offset between being over worked and a need to learn so much is a dilemma which leads to the imposter syndrome.

When talking about the Imposter Syndrome we have to investigate as to why professionals feel this way. The following paragraphs are an attempt to see why most acclaimed software professionals feel this way.

The demotivating vibe of the imposter syndrome is experienced the most in communities that use open source software’s. All kinds of peer review mechanisms add to the uneasiness. It is ironic how the open source-ness allows anyone to review the code and make changes.

The same feeling occurs while trying to grasp something new, the lack of ability which happens all the time occasionally provokes the feel of being a phony. It also fuels personal development as just another hurdle in the puzzle which needs some more solving, the ability to overcome such a feeling however restores the expert confidence.


Coping Techniques

The imposter syndrome draws its origin as being a syndrome that occurs only in women. This observation was made in 1978 and through the evolution of time; it has become a uni-sex syndrome. Its largely believed to be a very common syndrome. Olvia Goldhill provides a statistic of about 70 percent people suffering from this syndrome.

If it’s really that common, then, what’s the point in even talking about it? Because, as in so many other things, it helps a lot to find out you’re not alone. In essence everyone experiences imposter syndrome and the ones who do not should be labelled as people who are over confident.

At this point I became inquisitive about why such a commonly occurring thing can be discussed at such lengths. Realizing that such a thing exists however can result in discussing how to get over it in the best possible way.

Get over it

How to Get Over Imposter Syndrome

Apart from acknowledging the existence as a coping method, there are certain techniques and methods that can be used to not only cope but overcome this creepy feeling.

  • Rather than thinking about how the imposter syndrome can affect your performance focus more on delivering value to your clients.
  • It is only human to err and failure only leads to you being better prepared for the future. The feeling of failure should not lead to the feeling of being incompetent.
  • Trying something new that does not work initially does not mean that you don’t know how to make it work, maybe it needs a bit more effort!

In a team setting confessing to the existence of imposter syndrome can help your junior associates and everyone in not only coping with it, but discussing it more openly so that knowledge and experiences can be shared. Not knowing what you are doing when you start doing it is something that is only normal and is expected of you. Just the mere realization that everyone is going through the same feeling acts as a major relief.

The feeling of incompetence and not being good enough can fuel a strife for success and further improvement. This feeling can lead you into becoming a perfectionist where you put extra work hours so that you excel in whatever you do.

It’s a popular belief that if you suffer from Imposter syndrome and cope well with it, that may mean that you are more likely to succeed!

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