Being a student in various online learning platforms, there is one single concept that is always discussed among computer programmers, web developers, producers, and engineers, as well as the students and (some) hobbyists within the web design/development community, especially when it comes to becoming a freelancer or those who want to pursue a field within computer science for a living. In fact, this particular subject is applicable to everyone who wants to get into any field (especially ones that involve art and creatives) for a living. We call this psychological term impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is not some kind of a mental illness. In fact, impostor syndrome lies within (almost) every person, educating themselves and pursue a field they get interested in and work in that field for a living. It’s when high achievers who achieved so much success through rigorous education and training but do not feel the confidence of entering the said field in the real world and actually show the world that he/she is the real deal.
In short, these highly successful achievers have shown greatness to the world, but deep inside, they feel like they’re just faking it and feel that they aren’t all that great at all. For example, a young pianist wins a first place award for his excellent performance, but that said pianist is thinking these particular thoughts: “I was just winging it because my parents are watching. If they’re not there, I’d screw up for sure.”
In other words, it’s when I as a web developer learned the basics to complex methods of developing sites (and some apps) through thorough study and training and projects, but do not feel confident to take on a job to make a different in today’s society. It’s when I show that I can build a website, but I have no confidence in being a real deal web development in the eyes of professionals and just the rest of the real world in general. It’s when I say “I know how to build a WordPress website, but I don’t think I’m legit enough to be able to get a job in WordPress web development because there is always someone out there better than I am.” And with having that kind of mindset, I’m also scared that I may turn out to be some kind of a wannabe or a complete fraud.
Imagine this particular scene here:
Person A: Wow, you have such wonderful websites!
Me: You mean my blog? Nah, I just built a child theme over a premade theme.
Person B: But you heavily customized it so it doesn’t look like that default premade theme. I love your colors, the fonts you used, and how you present your content!
Me: It’s not me. It’s Bootstrap, WordPress, and Photoshop… and a bunch of fonts from Google Fonts and graphics from Creative Market.
Person C: Why are you not taking credit for that beautiful site? You just told us the tools you used, but you still made. You can’t really make anything without the proper tools, right?
Me: I read tutorials and books and just followed instructions. I just tweaked a few colors here and there and copied some codes from Google Fonts and stuff. That’s all.
Person A: And you have this really cool feature that’s not even included in the premade theme.
Me: It’s a plugin that I downloaded from the plugin repository for free. I didn’t really code it. I’m just messing around with the child theme pretending it to be an original theme, so bleh.
(Person A, B, and C are tempted to strangle Me for having low self esteem…)
… and so on and so forth. Hopefully, that little scenario easily illustrates to you a high-achieving person 1 suffering from impostor syndrome. What I mean by a high-achieving person is that a person who starts off from knowing nothing and then completes his/her course and training as a successful, job-ready career person, ready to take on the real world using the skills and arsenal he/she earned from the glory days of academic and hands-on experience. Therefore, even a Valedictorian, a Salutatorian, and other graduates with the titles of summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude 2 can suffer impostor syndrome.
Throughout my classes back in college some 11 years ago and even through my Skillcrush classes and office hour sessions with the instructors, impostor syndrome is a very common topic to talk about, especially when we are going through the stages of building our portfolio, writing out our resumes, and even searching for a job or even start as a freelancer. In some ways, it’s just like counseling, like going through those self-help therapies, hypnotizing your mind that would prompt you to say things like “I am a web developer,” or “I am a mangaka,” or even something like “I am the web dev ninja,” as you go through your own preparation process and even building your own projects. I read various articles written by professional developers about their take on impostor syndrome.
When I build sites, I use a lot of frameworks and tools to make things a lot easier. By professional standards, they consider that as a web developer being smart on how to use the provided tools wisely to build sites in a timely manner. Some others think that there if you do everything manually without any set tools or frameworks, that you would be considered some kind of an “elite” web designer/developer. I say, why not use tools that can build your sites (and apps) efficiently while still looking gorgeous and eye-pleasing at the same time? It’s because of these types of mindsets that can cause someone to have their own case of impostor syndrome.
I started this creatives journal, not just yet another blog for me to write on, but to chronicle my lifelong journey through my dream field of web development. I’ve taken advice from my instructors and fellow students to chronicle everything I’ve learned and help demonstrate that I really learned something by sharing what I know to those who may be curious (thus the Tutorials section). I know I haven’t progressed much, but I have a lot of things that I really need to learn first before I start sharing them here or maybe somewhere.
And yet, even though I have mastered a skill or became knowledgeable with coding or art (for example), I still feel that it’s not enough for me to feel like a real certified creative. What I just said now is my example of impostor syndrome.
How to conquer impostor syndrome?
The only thing that one can conquer impostor syndrome is to be ensured that he/she has support from everyone: family, friends, teachers, classmates, fellow professionals, especially from those who also suffer from impostor syndrome. It takes a village to master a giant obstacle, after all. I do know that there are very few who come and read this blog or benefit from the tutorials I’ve written, but any sign of support would really help me to continue and pursue my career goals.
Posting a few comments definitely helps, or even making contact with me through the contact form of social media. Just say hello, let me know what you think of this site, the goods and the bads, and that can really help me lift myself up from impostor syndrome.
There is one thing that I did learn though about impostor syndrome. Fakers, posers, wannabes, and impersonators do not suffer impostor syndrome. Interesting.
Some articles on Impostor Syndrome
- The Impostor Syndrome (CalTech Counseling Center)
- Not An Imposter: Fighting Front-End Fatigue (Smashing Magazine)
- Impostor Syndrome (Wikipedia)
- Learning to deal with the Impostor Syndrome (The New York Times)
- Is Impostor Syndrome a sign of greatness? (Quartz)
On the sidenote…
- I said high achieving, not perfectly smart and successful here… ↩
- I’m not bragging here, okay? I graduated college as a summa cum laude; my brother and middle sister as magna cum laude; my youngest sister as cum laude. All four of us have one thing in common other than we’re siblings— we still suffer from impostor syndrome, even with our own jobs. ↩
November 27, 2016 @ 1:13 pm
Don’t sell yourself short 🙂 you’re definitely very talented!
November 28, 2016 @ 7:04 pm
Thanks so much for the encouragement.
But, I do want to point out with this post that Impostor Syndrome is real and it exists in every one of us, regardless of the level of talent or lack thereof. Those who want to learn but feel discouraged that they will never learn or become their dream job, those who have so much talent but pressure from the public makes them feel vulnerable and weak, for example.
Some people think that those who express impostor syndrome is some kind of an insult thinking that these people are insulting others for their skill level, but that’s not true at all. Still, something to ponder. 🙂