3 Ways to Tackle Bootcamp Imposter Syndrome
"Am I smart enough?"
"I'm not good with computers, so a bootcamp is going to be too hard."
"I'm totally unqualified to be a developer, so there's no point."
Isn't that negative voice in your head annoying? The good news is it's normal and everyone feels inexperienced when facing new challenges. The even better news? There are ways to combat those thoughts. But first, let's look at why these feelings swirl around in your head when making important decisions.
It's called Imposter Syndrome – a psychological pattern in which you doubt your accomplishments, have a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud," and/or have a feeling that you've only succeeded because of luck, rather than talent.
If you've ever felt this way, welcome to the club! Imposter Syndrome affects pretty much everyone at some point in their lives, even high-ranking executives, accomplished academics, and movie stars.
The worst part of Imposter Syndrome is it can limit your courage to pursue new opportunities, explore potential areas of interest, and put yourself out there in meaningful ways.
So, whether you're considering a bootcamp, currently enrolled in one, or entering a new career, here are three ways to tell the devil on your shoulder to take a hike:
1. Determine What Makes You, "You"
Start by acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is to focus on what makes you different. For example, you may have a different style of thinking and different problem-solving tactics.
You won't always be as knowledgeable as the people around you. So, you have to think about what unique element(s) you bring to a group. It's valuable to be the person who offers a differing perspective.
Takeaway: if you feel like you don't belong, focusing on what you bring to the table will give you fuel to overcome negative thoughts.
2. Embrace Being Uncomfortable
The essential problem of Imposter Syndrome is that you're comparing what you know to what you think other people know. But, you aren't experiencing other people's struggles and you don't know what they don't know. It's a lot like social media feeds: you see vacations, new cars, phones, relationships, etc. – but you rarely see the doubts, anxieties, and other low points.
You see others' success or intelligence and you fear that you just can't get to the same level. It's natural to look at what you still have to learn, compare yourself to people who already know all of it, and feel inferior or that you'll never get to that point.
The key here is to understand that there will always be more to learn. There will always be someone who knows more than you do.
That thought may seem depressing, but it can also be very liberating. Focus on getting better and growing. There will never be a point where you'll feel completely knowledgeable and comfortable – no one does, and that's OK.
Takeaway: Embrace your inexperience and use that to fuel your growth, not your self-doubt.
3. Track Your Accomplishments
Reflecting on your successes can remind you of how far you've come and how good you really are. This will help counteract your negative inner dialogue.
One helpful exercise is to make a recurring calendar appointment at the end of each month to add all your accomplishments to a portfolio. Even if something didn't work out, if you attempted something outside your comfort zone, write it down. It was a growth experience.
You should also take a few minutes to reflect on past accomplishments and add any to previous months that you can remember. Don't just write them down and read them – really reflect on what went into that accomplishment and how you felt about it.
Bonus: you can use that portfolio to boost your résumé or LinkedIn profile to help you get future jobs or new responsibilities at your current job.
Takeaway: Spend time reflecting on your accomplishments, no matter how small or big they are. This will help you be more confident and can help boost your résumé.
Another good way to quell your Imposter Syndrome is simply talking about it with friends, family, or a mentor. It will normalize the feelings and reassure you that you aren't facing them alone. Having a strong support system is helpful for going through a coding bootcamp and improving your confidence levels in general. If you can't rely on friends/family as your support network, join a relevant online forum and start engaging with other like-minded people.
At the end of the day, just remember that you're worthy. You're better and smarter than you think you are. A coding bootcamp isn't an insurmountable obstacle – if you work hard, nothing can get in the way of you and your future career.