The monster that sneaks up on you

I realize that the posting schedule has gone to whack but that last post was too long to finish in one day. And so I decided I could skip a day as a reward (not that I dislike writing these, mind! But I didn’t want to overextend myself). Also I realize this is not necessarily a technical post but it is something I need to address, for my own sake.

I was of the opinion that if you were aware of or had read about a situation before, you could identify it immediately when it occurred to you and you could be prepared to handle it. (This doesn’t apply for every situation, of course. No amount of reading could suitably prepare you for, say, being dropped in front a herd of hungry velociraptors). Turns out I wasn’t entirely right.

It’s the holidays for me right now and a friend of mine invited me develop an Android app with him. I thought “Hey! Why not!” and said yes, despite knowing zilch about app development. I thought I could learn as I go along. This was a week ago and I haven’t much much progress. Whereas my friend has already started work on the app.

Another friend of mine has started to learn Python. He’d been putting it off for quite a while but is now blazing through it. Far faster than my sorry ass did when I started (It took four years before I wrote my first Python application). This guy is also a Javascript ace, wrote a chat app that’s actually been seen and appreciated by other people, and can pull all-nighters without turning into a zombie.

And so the doubts started to creep in. “Am I doing enough?” “Is there more I could be learning?” “Am I making the most of my day?” and on and on. It wasn’t just seeing my friends that brought this on. It’s a whole host of things that builds up overtime. Seeing other people do cool shit while I sit here doing comparatively nothing. There are twelve year olds with a dozen apps in the app stores and its not just their grandma who is using them. What the heck have I done with my life? A couple of silly Python scripts? This dumb blog that a grand total of two people, including myself, read? What?

Say hello to the monster.

That feeling of inadequacy that every programmer goes through at least once in their lifetime. The feeling that everyone in this business is way smarter and more talented than you are. That no matter how much you try, how much you try to learn, you can never keep up with everyone else.

…and that’s okay.

No, really! It’s okay to feel that way. I’d read about it a lot and thought I was prepared. But it still caught me. It catches everyone. There’s no escaping it. There’s always going to be more to learn no matter how much you try. There’s always going to be folks smarter than you. So don’t stress yourself over what everyone else has done. Do what’s best for you! Don’t burn yourself out trying to do everything. Programming isn’t fun or productive if you don’t allow yourself time to just chill out. If all you ever do is compete with everyone else over who has the most knowledge, or knows the most frameworks, or writes code in the most languages, programming won’t be fun anymore.

Heck! Don’t take my word for it. I’m just some random bonehead who spends too much time on Reddit. Take Jeff Atwood’s word instead. Or take the word of dozens of people who’ve talked about Imposter Syndrome.

This blog post is addressed from the me of the now to the me of the future (and also to my buddy the Javascript ace, who tends to feel this way from time to time (Hey there pal!)). Because this probably won’t be the last time you feel this way. We all feel inadequate sometimes, even the smartypants. That doesn’t mean you’re not doing enough. You’re doing fine, mate! You’re not doing comparatively nothing. You’re doing a lot more than your than your stupid brain thinks. Just as long as you keep moving forward and don’t become complacent, that’s plenty enough.