How to Fake It as a Developer (and Kick Impostor Syndrome to the Curb for Good)
Despite the fact I’ve been developing websites for the past 15 years and writing professionally about WordPress for three years, I’m a total fake.
Yes, I pretend I’m great at WordPress development.
Can you tell?
Yet I know that I’m not really a fake. After all, I’ve got years of experience to back up what I do.
Yes, impostor syndrome has a way of creeping into your thoughts, making you question what you think you know and, for me, feeding me thoughts that I’m a fraud and about to be exposed for what I don’t know.
Unfortunately, the lies we tell ourselves are a debilitating and widespread problem and can seriously impede your day-to-day work, productivity, and success.
There are so many people in the WordPress community who suffer from the impostor syndrome: Chris Lema, Jeff Chandler, myself and many, many others. We all pretend we’re great at what we do until one day (we hope!) it becomes true.
So today, I’m going to share with you the 17 tips I use to push past impostor syndrome.
Here, There and Everywhere: Impostor Syndrome
Impostor syndrome typically affects high-achieving people, but it can also affect anyone who has a belief that they aren’t good enough.
There are three ways impostor syndrome can appear in a person’s life:
- Thinking you’re a fraud and that it’s only a matter of time before everyone finds out
- Not being able to internalize accomplishments and successes and attributing them to luck
- Minimizing successes and internalizing failures instead
There are many ways to manage your impostor syndrome, but there are five main steps you should take that are the most helpful. They’re the foundation of a successful coping strategy and implementing them with other tips should help further your progress and build your confidence.
Tip #1: Commit to Changing Your Habits
There’s a reason this is the first tip. If you want to move past impostor syndrome, you need to commit to making it happen since no one else can do this for you. You need to acknowledge you are affected by impostor syndrome and make a commitment to yourself to get over it.
Because the truth is, you’re knowledgeable in your field and your work so after you make a commitment to yourself, it can be helpful to press on with your work and continue to pretend you’re a great WordPress professional and ignore those niggling, negative thoughts. You’re already doing the work, right? So you must know what you’re doing; you’re more capable than you may think.
This tip will help increase your chances of experiencing more accomplishments that you can work on internalizing.
Tip #2: Make a note of Your Supporters
While you’re working on ridding yourself of impostor syndrome, it’s helpful to remember and make a note of the people around you who you can trust to support you.
Sometimes you may need to vent, or maybe you just need some encouragement and a reminder that you’re capable. You can have different people for each kind of support you need, such as a friend, family member, co-worker, colleague or even your supervisor.
For example, your friends or family can listen to you vent when you need it, and your co-workers, colleagues or supervisors can give you some gentle encouragement when you’re feeling the most like a fraud.
Tip #3: Get to the Core of Your Impostor Syndrome
There could be many underlying reasons why you believe you’re a fraud (when you’re anything but!). Identifying the core belief that’s fueling your impostor syndrome and then fixing it is the one thing that’s going to make the syndrome pack its bags and leave for good.
If your car is running poorly and there’s a problem with the engine, you can wash the windows and change the oil all you want, but the engine is going to be still broken. It’s the same thing with your impostor syndrome.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been used consistently in the field of psychology to help people cope with negative beliefs that they have about themselves. It focuses on getting to the core of your beliefs so you can minimize the effects of impostor syndrome to the point where you barely notice it.
For details, check out these resources:
- Self Help – Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- CBT Self-Help Course
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques That Work
- In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Mind Over Mood, Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think
Tip #4: Catch Impostor Syndrome in the Act
It’s important to start becoming more aware of your thoughts and actions. The next time you think, say or do something out of habit because of impostor syndrome, become aware of it. Don’t beat yourself up over it, just be aware it’s happening.
Then, stop yourself in that moment by clapping your hands, snapping your fingers, visualizing a stop sign in your mind or anything else that reminds you to stop your impostor syndrome-fueled habits.
Whatever you choose, just be sure not to hurt yourself in the process by clapping too hard, for example!
Tip #5: Set Realistic Goals for Your Recovery
Setting realistic goals that you hope to achieve to squash impostor syndrome and can help you stay committed and on track so you can get there.
For example, you could set a goal to try one tip a week or month. Alternatively, you could set a goal to implement these tips in your life by the 12-week mark.
We Can Work It Out… With These Top Tips
The tips below are great for giving you a jump start and are most effective when used in conjunction with the five steps mentioned above. Try one of them or try them all, but the more you implement into your life the better. Be sure to choose the tips that work best for you.
Tip #6: Make Time to Stay in the Loop
Make time to stay up-to-date with the WordPress community. This will help remind you and solidify that you actually are knowledgeable and less of a fraud than you think, especially when you’re up-to-date with all the latest advancements. The easiest way to do this is to subscribe to The WhiP for weekly WordPress-related news.
While you’re at it, why not make time to brush up on your skills as well. Subscribe to blogs that post regularly about WordPress such as the WPMU DEV Blog. Sure, you’re probably going to know about most of what’s posted, but it serves to remind you further that you do know what you’re talking about.
Tip #7: Keep a Compliments Folder or Site
Whenever you receive a compliment about your work, copy it into a folder on your computer or, better yet, make a local install of WordPress and record everything there.
Every time you feel like a fraud, look through all the compliments you saved. Just don’t let the ego boost get to your head too much!
Tip #8: Remember Why You Started
Remembering your passions and reasons for working professionally with WordPress can help you keep going when impostor syndrome makes working tougher.
1.6 million WordPress Superheroes read and trust our blog. Join them and get daily posts delivered to your inbox - free!
Tip #9: Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People
Everyone has their struggles that you may not be aware of and assuming that someone has their life together when you don’t actually know their situation only makes the impostor syndrome become more severe.
Besides, no one is perfect or knows everything. You wouldn’t expect your mechanic to perform open heart surgery so why would you set that impossible standard for yourself? It’s just not realistic.
Tip #10: Create Reminders of Your Goals
Keep track of your goals and helpful phrases that help you feel more confident in your skills. You could set a daily alarm on your phone with your reminders, paint a canvas, create a desktop screensaver or install WordPress on a live server or locally.
Phrases that you can use could be tips nine, eleven, twelve and fourteen. Add whatever helps you.
Tip #11: You Can Control Yourself and Your Choices
You can’t control other people or your environment, but you can control yourself and your choices. You have a choice in everything you do. Reminding yourself of this fact can help you remember that you have control over your life and you can choose not to let the impostor syndrome control you.
Instead, you can take your control back and choose to do things that help you feel like less of a fraud. Whenever you feel like you’re overwhelmed and a fraud, stop yourself in that thought and ask yourself what steps you can take now to change things for the better.
Whenever you feel like you’re overwhelmed and a fraud, stop yourself in that thought and ask yourself what steps you can take now to change things for the better. It may help to start small and go from there.
Tip #12: Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
Pobody’s nerfect—I mean, nobody’s perfect. Perfection is an unrealistic standard. You’re not a fraud if you fail because it’s a part of the learning process. Don’t glorify it, but don’t let failure define you.
Remind yourself that you should focus on making progress, not being perfect.
If you receive constructive feedback, it’s natural to get defensive since it may remind you that you believe you’re a fraud. Remind yourself to focus on progress and take the opportunity to become better. If you do, you’re likely to go farther and stick around as a WordPress professional.
Tip #13: Keep a Record of Your Progress
Personally, I despise the suggestion of keeping a journal of your progress, accomplishments, and successes, but the fact is, it works. When you have impostor syndrome, you’re probably going to dislike this suggestion as well because it’s difficult to challenge your longstanding belief that you’re a fraud.
If you can blow past the initial discomfort, it’s worth it. You can refer to your journal every time you feel like a fraud or a failure, and it should help you internalize your successes and accomplishments.
Better yet, create a local WordPress install and record it all there!
Make a habit to record your successes and progress on a regular basis. It’s normal not to be able to record much at first, but as your confidence grows, it’s a task that gets easier.
Also, make a daily habit of checking it out before you start work or at least when you feel you need a boost. Don’t quickly skim through the content. Instead, be as thorough as you can since it increases the likelihood of internalizing your accomplishments.
You can also expand your records to include your goals, reminders, and sources of inspiration and motivation.
Tip #14: Remember You Are Good Enough
You may not believe you’re good enough, but you are and you need to remind yourself of this fact whenever the thought pops into your head that you’re a fraud. Notice when it happens, stop the thought right away and remind yourself that you are talented and know your stuff.
Then, remind yourself of all the reasons why you are good enough, including your accomplishments.
Tip #15: Work on Your “Good” Days
Impostor syndrome can be a roller coaster. Some days you feel pretty good and other days getting out of bed is just plain hard.
If you can, try to work on your “good” days and focus on feeling better on your “bad” days. If you can’t schedule your work that way, then focus on getting as much work as is reasonable on your good days so you don’t have as much pressure to complete work on days that are tougher for you.
Tip #16: Increase Your Productivity
When you believe you’re a fraud, this thought can be compounded by work that stacks up on your to-do list.
That backlog of work ends up being a reminder that you aren’t good enough or capable and that you must be a fraud because if it weren’t true, you would be able to handle your workload.
If you find ways to make working more efficient and productive, it helps you feel more accomplished and capable.
Check out these posts for some tools you can use to help you work productively: 35 Time-Saving Productivity Apps for Busy WordPress People and 20 Free Chrome Extensions for WordPress You Need Now.
Tip #17: Refer to Outside Resources
When you try out these tips, and you’re able to make significant gains over time, it can be helpful to begin looking for other resources to help you progress even further.
You can check out these great WordCamp talks for more tips:
- Chris Lema: Escaping The Impostor Syndrome
- Panel: Fight Impostor Syndrome
- Panel: Fight Impostor Syndrome #2
- Sonja Leix: My friend the Impostor Syndrome
- Eric Amundson: An Introvert’s Guide to Marketing Your WordPress Business
If you find your situation doesn’t improve and that it’s particularly excruciating, it may be time to search for a professional that can help you sort it out such as a life coach or counselor. Asking for help can be difficult, and it was for me, but I reached a point where I realized something: why suffer alone when you don’t have to – it’s not worth it.
Nobody’s perfect and you can’t know everything. At some point, everyone’s going to need to ask for help for one thing or another.
For example, if your arm got cut off, would you try repairing it yourself even though you don’t have the training, or would you go to the hospital and have a doctor help you?
Getting assistance from other resources or professionals can be your fast track toward improving your life and squashing impostor syndrome once and for all.
Hello, Goodbye Impostor Syndrome!
It won’t happen overnight, but these tips should help you cope with impostor syndrome to the point where it’s not really a problem anymore.
I have tried them all, and they work. These days, I’m feeling less like a fraud, and I’m able to recognize when I do great work. These tips should help you do the same.