Do IT professionals experience imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is experienced by professionals across the globe in many different ways. But rarely will you hear about it from within the IT industry. Is the IT industry somehow immune to Imposter syndrome? Do software developers and IT professionals alike, possess a hidden superpower that repels imposter syndrome, like trying to push together the north poles of two magnets?
Professionals experience imposter syndrome across the globe in many different ways. But rarely will you hear about it from within the IT industry. Is the IT industry somehow immune to Imposter syndrome? Do software developers and IT professionals possess a hidden superpower that repels imposter syndrome, like trying to push together the north poles of two magnets?
As much as every IT professional would love to lay claim to having a superpower - any superpower - it’s doubtful. So why don’t you hear much about imposter syndrome within IT? I have a few ideas, although naturally, I’m just speculating.
Four reasons off the top of my head:
- Many people have never heard of imposter syndrome
- Many people don’t recognise the symptoms and assume it is just their own failing (imposter syndrome without the name)
- No one wants to be labelled with a syndrome - fair enough
- IT professionals are not exactly known for their extroverted personalities – as such, it is rarely talked about
So, what is imposter syndrome, and how do you know if you are experiencing or have ever experienced it?
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome first reared its head in 1978 and can be characterized by chronic feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and fraudulence despite objective success. Professionals are known to think thoughts such as “They’ll find out I’m a fraud” or “I’m going to get found out”.
However, imposter syndrome is not recognised as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. For this reason, rather than label someone with imposter syndrome and say they are suffering from it, I like to say that someone is experiencing or has experienced it.
If we were to really simplify it, it comes down to persistent self-doubt and limiting beliefs, but I’ve listed common signs below.
The keyword here being persistent. Everyone, at some stage, will experience self-doubt, especially in situations of stress and anxiety. But if it is an ongoing issue and you still hold your beliefs after the stress-inducing situations, you could be experiencing imposter syndrome.
What are the signs of imposter syndrome?
- Persistent self-doubt
- Persistent fear that you’re going to be “found out” or discovered as a fraud, despite objective successes.
- Attribute success to luck or claim it was a fluke
- You might feel relief or even distress in place of happiness and pride.
What are the impacts of impostor syndrome?
Imposter syndrome can negatively impact your personal life and work-life in several ways:
- Self-doubt and low self-esteem
- Lead you to reject praise and downplay achievements
- Impedes career growth – you may not demand or even expect a promotion or a pay rise and don’t recognise your value
- Decreased job satisfaction, lack of purpose and fear of failure
- Hinders leadership and management due to feeling vulnerable and finding it difficult to make tough decisions
- Mental health – stress, anxiety and feelings of isolation
Imposter syndrome in the context of your IT career
When considering imposter syndrome in the context of your career, you might consider your achievements down to luck, downplay your success and feel like you’re not good enough to do the role you are in.
It’s widespread for such feelings to come about, specifically on the back of getting a new job or promotion. The thought can haunt you that someone will “find you out” and realise that you’re “not good enough” after all. These feelings can be further heightened when moving into leadership or managerial roles.
In some cases, even the joyous event of receiving a pay rise can add more weight to the feeling of not deserving it and feeling like you can’t “live up to the price tag”.
How can you deal with feelings of imposter syndrome?
Although the impacts can be quite damaging, there are many ways that you can fend off imposter syndrome:
- Question yourself. Start to question your thoughts. Are they helpful or unhelpful, actually true or exaggerated?
- Reframe your thinking. It's cliché - but reframe your thoughts positively. Rather than I’m not sure I deserve this pay rise, find the positive reasons why you do deserve it. If you’re struggling to find them, talk to someone else who might be able to make you see your value.
- Embrace success. Start to celebrate all your wins – even the small ones.
- Talk it out. Talking to a friend, a relative, or a coach can really help you find a perspective that you might not be able to find on your own.
We need to talk about it
While talking with many software developer friends in none work settings, I’ve started recognised imposter syndrome symptoms over and over again. What’s also surprising is that I’ve heard them from some of the best software developers I know. I guess it’s no wonder that everyone else thinks that no one else feels like they do.
That being said, I’ve felt these same symptoms at several points earlier in my career and guess what? I didn’t talk to anyone about it, and I didn’t know I was experiencing imposter syndrome.
So, if you recognise any of these symptoms, either from yourself or from a colleague, try bringing it up in conversation; you could use this article as an ice breaker. Every time I’ve brought this up, someone else has resonated with it, and we all feel better when we find out that we are not the only ones feeling a certain way.
Can mindset coaching help?
If you’ve been experiencing imposter syndrome or similar symptoms, then mindset coaching can help. Mindset coaching in the context of imposter syndrome can help by improving your self-belief, irradicating limiting beliefs and improving your confidence. You’ll start to feel much better about being you by establishing your core values and defining what you stand for.
When you align your actions and decisions with your core values, you become much surer of yourself, your purpose and what you will and won’t put up with.
Mindset coaching as a whole can lift you to greater levels of performance in your life and career. If you or anyone you know would like to find out what mindset coaching can do for you, then you can book a free discovery call with me to find out more.
Thanks for reading.
Hi there! I’m Richard Donovan and I’ve been a Software Developer for over two decades. I started at the bottom and worked my way up, eventually becoming a Software Architect for a global FTSE 100 company. I’m self-taught and I believe in the power of hard work and determination. In addition to my software development career, I’m also a licensed Mindspan Peak Performance Trainer and Coach, as well as a Personal Trainer and online fitness coach. I love staying active and playing sports like squash and golf. What is my why? As a Software Developer, I’ve learned that taking care of your mental and physical health is key to performing at your best. I’ve struggled with self-doubt and lack of confidence, but by focusing on my wellbeing, I’ve seen significant improvements in my work and overall confidence. I’m passionate about helping others who may be struggling and believe that by working together, we can create a supportive and healthy environment in our industry. I would love the oppo