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cwest (1514)

cwest
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http://caseywest.com/
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Perl geek.

Journal of cwest (1514)

Monday June 03, 2002
11:56 AM

Great Hacker or Lame Faker?

[ #5388 ]

Why is it that ever since I took this job (September last year) I feel like such a lame programmer? Before I took this job I thought I was good. A good programmer, hacker, coder, whatever. Now I just feel like a dumb ass.

Is this part of moving on? Part of a different environment? It's not like I moved into a top-o-the-line hacking house. I'm the only programmer (sans my boss) ... it's not like I can find out if others feel the same way.

At my previous job, something that I couldn't figure out didn't turn into a problem that made me feel stupid, it was just a challenge that we worked on together. Is that a rare environment?

Am I just a neive youth to think that problems or challenges or my own ineptitude with new things should be an opportunity for me to grow? Instead it seems that they are a chance to make me feel like a jack ass.

Should I have all the right answers, all the knowledge, no flaws, every algorithm tucked in my brain or at my finger tips? If I should, then fine, I'll work harder at becoming perfect. I have to say though, I know I'll fail. When I do, how will I be made to feel?

So I'm left asking myself, wtf?

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  • In my situation it's kind of the reverse. I considered myself a great Perl programmer but I was surrounded by much better programmers in general. This gave me lots of humility and folks to absorb info from as well as bounce ideas off.

    Now, I'm basically one of the best programmers at my company. My boss is good but not at my level, especially when it comes to Perl.

    I guess I like the idea of having programmers at my level around me, makes it easier when you stumble and fall. Then again if I don't set myself up as a god of a programmer the distance to earth won't hurt so much.
  • Feeling inadequate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Damian (784) on 2002.06.03 16:44 (#9094)
    My experience has been that the older I get, the better I get at what I do. And the better I get at what I do, the more keenly I become aware of my limitations, of my inadequacies, of just how much I don't do well. The higher up the mountain I climb, the broader my perspective becomes, and the more I realize how small and finite I am.

    That can be a good thing (if I can muster enough self-esteem to let it be). It's an opportunity for humility and for rededication to the climbing itself.

    And it's the climbing itself that matters, not how high I am now, or how far it still is to the top, or where others are in comparison. What matters is: am I further along today than I was yesterday?

    The real problem arises when others say good things about me and my work. The gap between their perception of my abilities and my perception of the vast extent of my inability, sets up feelings of being a fraud.

    And that's a very common experience. Try googling on "imposter syndrome" [google.com].

    I've found that the best way to handle those feelings of imposture is to consciously give myself permission to be human, to be fallible, to be imperfect. And to tell myself that counts is always doing the very best I can, always giving at least 100%, always to striving to improve.

    And to be grateful. As debilitating as those feelings can be, it's infinitely better to be someone who is competent but feels incompetent than vice versa.

    • Someone just pointed out Casey's journal entry to me. It's a bit old but I still wanted to note that I appreciate the original post and also Damian's followup. I never heard the term 'imposter syndrome' before, but I was certainly familiar with what I read about it. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one among the people I know.