The Prompt and Subtle Infiltration of Imposter Syndrome
When comparing other people who are more skilled, I am a mere dozen steps into the journey compared to their thousands. The conclusion that the vast divide between the skills of others and myself makes me a fraud or unworthy is easy to reach, even subconsciously in my case; however, it is damaging and false.
The notion of “imposter syndrome"1 hit me hard in the past week. I launched the initial version of this site, which was the first project I had built from the ground up and not in Code Pen; a recent acquaintance from the local Free Code Camp meet up gave some sage advice that my bio at the time of launch was incorrect. It originally stated that I was an aspiring front end developer, and he recommended removing the word “aspiring”; initially it was just a copy choice, and I was reticent to move forward with it. I am new to all of this, and didn’t want to give the wrong impression that I had everything together. I saw enough merit in his argument that I moved forward with the proposed change, but it wasn’t until this week that the argument hit home for me.
I was talking with a close friend of mine whom I have known from before my foray into learning web development. He also happens to do web development, and there have consequently been a number of related conversations back and forth over the past several months. He has given me many welcome advice and answers in my fledgling journey. In one of our recent conversations he asked me if I would be willing to check out one of his projects that he is creating. I was excited to check it out, but reluctant on how much or what quality of feedback I could provide. Upon giving the project a quick test, we had a great conversation where I shared some of my perspectives of how the UX may be improved; again still maintaining the perspective of the humble scribe trying to offer up some pittance to the wiser and more experienced scholar. It was a great conversation, and I shared some things that he had not thought of. I somewhat quickly set it mentally aside as a good interaction with a friend, but maintaining the subconscious mindset of not being a “real web developer.” Later that day I realized what had happened, and how quickly I had already succumbed to imposter syndrome; I had not fully realized the advice of my other friend to move beyond the mindset of “aspiring”.
It appears imposter syndrome is rooted both in a twisted sense of humility and an over-elevation of those who have “made it.” There’s an engrained sense of not wanting to say that I am good at something, because someone is better or not wanting to come across as arrogant. Additionally, there is the subconscious nagging that if I still have so much more to learn, can I really claim to be good at something. When comparing other people who are more skilled, I am a mere dozen steps into the journey compared to their thousands. The conclusion that the vast divide between the skills of others and myself makes me a fraud or unworthy is easy to reach, even subconsciously in my case; however, it is damaging and false. While others may be and are more skilled in areas of web development, that does not invalidate me as a front-end developer, nor am I less of a front-end developer than them. Yes I am currently less skilled than others and have room to grow and learn, but learning is a lifelong process and there is no arbitrary point at which someone has "made it." The perpetuation of this belief only serves to re-enforce internal belittling and the development of new talents.
My portfolio and this site shows what I am capable of. It may have humble beginnings and not be as sophisticated as what someone who has been doing this for years would build, but it is uniquely mine. It is a snapshot of the journey that I am taking into learning web development and is something to be proud of--I am proud of it. It will definitely evolve as my skills and knowledge do, just as more experienced developers' work evolves with their increasing knowledge. To say that I am a front end developer is not a statement of hubris; it is shedding off the incorrect belief and self-flagellation that I am unfit to call myself what I am. The arbitrary boundary is a fictitious construct which only serves to harm. It’s time to begin actively reminding myself of that fact and continue pressing on learning and building new and exciting things.
My many thanks to the friends who helped me come to these conclusions, and all the others who have helped me along the journey thus far. Your encouragement means the world to me.