By John Sonmez November 29, 2018

There Are A Hundred Programmers Better Than Me! (Am I A Bad Programmer?)

A lot of programmers feel like they're always one step behind other programmers… They end up feeling like they are a bad programmer.

With social media today, it's really easy to get overwhelming by seeing so many developers achieve so great things and yet, you feel like you've not accomplished so much.

What do you do in situations like these? How do you overcome this feeling that you have so many other developers ahead of you?

Watch this video and find out!

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: Today we're going to be talking about imposter syndrome. That's something that a lot of programmers have. I actually have an email here from a 13 year old kid who's already suffering from imposter syndrome. It's definitely one of those problems that software developers especially have because of the kind of inflated egos sometimes, and the perception that other people are more successful, are doing better than you, or know more than you.

Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from Simpleprogrammer.com. Stay tuned and we're going to be talking about that in a second. But before we do, make sure that you click that subscribe button, and click the bell so you get notifications on this channel. I'm going to be doing a lot of videos on this channel about all kinds of topics that relate to software developers and programming. Especially in relation to soft skills, social skills, career management skills. The kind of stuff that you're not really going to find in other places on YouTube when you look at programming channels.

This is a little bit of a long email, but bear with me because I think it's worth it here. And he says here … I'm not going to give any names … But he says hi, on a serious issue my age, it's going to be 13, you will be needing it. So this year, I'm well known in my school for failing in almost every subject, five out of eight. My teacher interviewed me; why don't you have friends? I'm interested in something which they are not. So she says why don't you have friends? He says ‘I'm interested in something which they are not.'

Then any time the teacher talks about successful people's failures, they looked at the back bench where I sit every day because of being late. Okay, so they're calling him out. I told I'm interested in programming. And no one knows me well; new school this year. And what about my family? When I was nine, I used to search Google and YouTube and copy directly what they did, hacking like a proud script kitty.

So he's saying he basically copied and pasted code. Always talking about you know what, I successfully did it. And when my mother scolds me, ‘I'm going to build a computer on the air. I told a lot of lies and telling them I'm going to build the impossible on the future. I got a lot of appreciation and they shared it to everyone, and it became a part of my IDENTITY.' In caps, he's got here.

‘When I used to do that, my school results were good. I stopped that forever, years before. What about me? None of what I did meant anything? That was a complete social screw up. And doing those, in short, needs no technical skills.' So he's saying this is something he does that didn't need any technical skills to make up these lies.

‘I know of so many people who used to program when they were at my age. Some built a recovery tool that was published and used around the world. And some, my mother now says, I will see what you do when you become big. Anger. I know whoever you are, if you screw up college and want to become a programmer, it's not a big deal. So what's the problem? Just accomplish it. I can't even code beyond the basics. Can't use stack overflow. All other open source projects are way too advanced. I should make it one day. When some programmers today were young, they did those amazing things without so many resources and Internet like today. Not all of them, but some of them, so it is definitely possible. Why I'm not able to do it?'

‘Okay, what about all those expectations? How can I deal with them?'

The email's a bit rocky. I hope you understand what he's basically asking here. But again, this is related to imposter syndrome, that a lot of us face. The thing that troubles me is the idea of comparing … If you're 13 years old … And think about this, because a lot of you are not 13 years old. You might be in your 20's or even your 30's or later and you have this imposter syndrome because you feel like that people are so more advanced than you.

And it's true. There are some people that started programming when they were like 10 years old. I probably started programming around that time. Not seriously, I didn't build anything of any value at all, just a few little games and stuff like that. But I wasn't good. But the point is this, is that no matter where you're at, everyone experiences this. It doesn't matter where you're at.

And so one of the concepts that I like to tell people for overcoming imposter syndrome is it's better to have delusions of grandeur. I'd rather see you have an inflated view of yourself than a deflated one. Now it doesn't mean to be arrogant and be cocky and to be a jerk and to be so over self confident that you treat other people poorly and you end up getting in way over your head and telling lies. It doesn't mean to do that.

But what it means is that I'd rather you to have, to believe that you can do anything. To believe that you're greater than you are. Because when you believe that high, what will happen is even if you're not that, you're going to try to live up to that standard. And so you might miss, but you're going to miss pretty high. Whereas if you think you're crap, if you think that you are low, if you have this imposter syndrome, if you think everyone else is above you, you're going to be unmotivated. You're not going to try, you're going to feel like you're worthless.

That's not a great way to live your life. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't seek to see reality clearly. You should. You should honestly assess yourself. But at the end of the day, it's better to have a positive viewpoint than a negative one. So some specific advice in this case. One is this, I'd say this: kid, run your own race, man. Run your own race. What do I mean by that?

And I mean this to all of you. Don't worry what other people are doing. Don't worry what age that they accomplish something. Or how much better they are at using stack overflow or if they can program complex systems and you can't. The question you always have to ask yourself is where am I? Where do I want to get? And how do I get there? And you put your head down. And you don't look around, you don't look and you don't see are other people passing you in the race? Are they faster than you?

You've got to run your race, kid. You know what your pace is. You know what your objective is. You know where you're going. You don't need to look around. You don't need to see what other people are doing. And that's so many of us. If you're starting out as a software developer, if you're starting out as a programmer it can be overwhelming. Don't compare yourself to Mark Zuckerberg. Don't compare yourself to the genius programmers that are out there that are coding up quants in the financial industry, or making machine learning, complex AI algorithms to create self driving cars.

Don't compare yourself to those guys. Instead, what you need to do is you need to figure out what is your objective? What is your goal? And give yourself a pat on the back when you advance on that, when you make forward progress. I had a comment on one of my videos on the other channel, the Bulldog Mindset Channel, just last night. And I replied to it and the guy was basically saying something like you know what, I give up, I can't take any more. I'm tired of trying so hard and still being a loser.

And my answer … I replied immediately when I saw that … And I was like look dude, here's what you need to do. Go for it. Grind it out for another year. Hang on for another year. Grind it out, and do the best that you can. And then look back on who you were today and see how much progress and improvement you've made. And that's the best that any of us can expect. That's all there is. We cannot set the bar based on someone else. We have to set the bar based on ourselves.

We're all running our own race. If I go out there this weekend and I'm running a marathon in Vegas, if I go out there and I try to stay with the lead pack, the guys that are running five minute, five and a half minute miles when my pace is like an eight fifty, like a nine minute mile. I'm 220 pounds, so give me a break here. Anyway, if I tried to run their race, and I compare myself, oh I've got to be fast like them, what's going to happen? I'm going to crash out in mile two, maybe mile three.

I'm not going to make it 26.2 miles. And this is the same thing with you. Stop worrying about what pace other people are running. Don't worry about that. Maybe you'll get there some day, but what matters is that you keep on improving your pace. That you run your race, and you keep on improving your game. And if you end up being one of the best programmers in the world, great, that's awesome. But if you don't, as long as you're steadily improving, as long as you are working on the things in your life that are going to make you a better person … This is more than just programming, it's personal development. Your fitness goals, your finance goals. All of these goals that you have. Developing your social skills. Overcoming social anxiety.

All these things. I talk about a lot of these on this channel, by the way. As long as you're focused on that and you're making progress on that, that's great, that's awesome. So don't get discouraged. Don't worry what other people think, don't worry what other people say. Just run your own race.

All right, guys, that's all I have for you today. I hope that you found this useful. If you did, leave a comment below, let me know. Let me know if you're running your own race. I want to hear from you. And click that subscribe button. Click the subscribe, click the bell so you get the videos, the notifications when the videos come out. And yeah, check out also if you're looking for a community of software developers that are helping each other out, that are running their own races but helping each other, giving tips and everything. Go check out Simpleprogrammer.com.

I'll put a link here that will always be in the description. We've got a community, a membership community that you can sign up for. We open it up about once a month or so and allow new signups. But you can get on the wait list if you're interested. Because we just want quality people in there that really, really care about helping each other and developing this community.

So thank you again for watching the video, and I hope this helped you. I'll talk to you next time. Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."