Waking Up With Dread

Steven Kneiser
3-minute read

“I have been studying/coding diligently for 4 years now, and I am really not that great or talented at it.

It is taking me an extremely long amount of time to pick up anything new. I am lagging I feel.

I am just not that talented at this, being honest.

I wake up every morning with this dread feeling, like ‘wtf are you doing, and why are you still doing this?’

It is an awful feeling.”

When you say:

I’m immediately asking myself:

who’re you comparing yourself to?

People give a lot of lip service to Imposter Syndrome™ without enough actionable advice to get to work overcoming it. Putting a label on it so you can recognize the problem is only the first step.

Don’t get me wrong here: any developer of any experience will identify with the same feelings depending on who they’re working with (e.g. when they move to a faster-paced company).

How do we actually address this?

Your reality is entirely limited by your perspective. You don’t feel in your gut what you haven’t experienced in-person. If we get to work on your environment, we can fundamentally rewire your perception …& then your personal reality.

What does that look like in my experience?

Suffering from Imposter Syndrome is less about your abilities and more about who you compare yourself to.

People who feel like imposters usually compare up, instead of across or down.

In the beginning, you’re only comparing yourself to those who’ve gone before you & withstood the test of time. By definition, you’re following them from far far behind. Failing to emerge from an environment where you identify as the weakest is a death by a thousand cuts.

Even whales resurface sometimes

Malcolm Gladwell noted the same behavior in elite institutions: outcomes are largely dictated by one’s perceived status relative to peers. I added a link that starts at timestamp 7:05 where he explores this:

The best investment of your time would be to better distribute your time amongst peers. In theory, you should invest your time:

Like any retirement portfolio, you only experience stress when you invest in too many risky assets for your stomach to handle. In your case, let’s see how this allocation of money analogy translates to your allocation of time. I encourage you to skew the balance more heavily towards the latter two & spend more time chatting with:

How counter-intuitive is that?
Super counter-intuitive if you ask me!

That’s right:
if you’re Waking Up With Dread™.
I’m suggesting that you should take some time off to teach those just getting started out! (e.g. freeCodeCamp, Codecademy, local communities)

Once you’ve had enough of an emotional break, I encourage you to do a better job this time around of surrounding yourself with peers “closer to your level” (however you feel comfortable defining that)

…oh and this time: make it fun!

Don’t make the same mistake twice

Find peers that you genuinely enjoy the journey with instead of competing against. It’s self-defeating if you hold on to a scarcity mindset about “the limited supply of jobs” in our industry. As harsh as it may be to hear, I’m immensely grateful to be in an industry that didn’t recently grind to a halt like most others.

Things may not be “like they were,” but that doesn’t mean people/employers stop buying: they just start buying different things (and skillsets) …so be on the look out for those new opportunities!

Computing Opportunity

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