by Jaime J. Rios

“Stop that imposter! Seize them!”

I first spotted my imposter two years ago. It happened when I began learning how to code.

Whenever I made a mistake, my imposter would emerge from my mental abyss and say, “Hi, I’m Jaime. And I suck at coding.”

After spotting this imposter, my mind turned into a search helicopter. I was constantly on the lookout.

When I did locate my imposter, I would megaphone to him from behind my mental searchlight:

“There’s the guy who thinks he can code! Surround the perimeter! Don’t let him move anywhere but backward! I’m afraid this person does not have a future in software engineering!”

This imposter disguised my competency with incompetency. It drowned my knowledge with ineptitude.

My imposter search led me at times to believe that I was the imposter — someone not talented enough to become a software engineer.

With my imposter search recurring regularly, learning how to code became a schlep. I simply was not progressing at a steady pace.

This led me to take a hiatus from coding. I needed to a long, objective look at my pessimism.

During this coding chasm, I realized that my imposter-self was not the core of the problem. The problem lay with my frequent bouts of searching for the imposter.

My mental searchlight was actively searching for faults — looking for pitfalls to stumble into.

Deliberately searching for your internal imposter will accentuate pessimism.

I recognized that my internal search needed an overhaul. So I challenged my mind to hunt for successes and positive qualities, as opposed to illuminating my negative attributes.

This adjustment was vital towards moving my coding journey forward.

Since that pivotal revelation, my ability to retain coding knowledge has improved tenfold. Addressing the realities of my mental searchlight enabled me to embrace conquests and accomplishments.

I soon became confident in my coding skills.

My newfound self-assurance spurred me to complete the first four Free Code Camp projects. I even won a scholarship to a coding bootcamp — all thanks to refocusing my searchlight.

Experiencing this success prompted me to ponder over my previous, archaic mindset. Before, I was quick to indulge in and reflect on my coding mishaps. I was reluctant to accept positive progress.

Now I was consumed by victory, and no longer distressed when I encountered common errors that are easy to push past with the right attitude.

When you make mistakes coding — which is inevitable — your mental helicopter instinctively takes off. And your searchlight never fails to bring attention to your imposter.

Unlike real-life imposters who want to avoid detection, your imposter is all too eager to be discovered.

Our imposters want to be seen. They want to be known. They want to be you. This imposter wants yourself to believe that you are inadequate and incapable of learning how to code.

You can overcome this inherent bias by shining your mental searchlight on past experiences that have yielded improvement. In doing so, you can transcend your inadequacies and succeed.

Positive progress happens all the time when you’re coding. Use your searchlight to highlight these emphatic moments.

Perhaps you managed to complete your first front end development project. If you did, get your mental helicopter ready for take-off! Shine your mental searchlight on that outstanding achievement! Give yourself a high five. Reward yourself. Take pride in that triumph. Seriously! You deserve it.

Or maybe you finally built up the courage to create a Free Code Camp account. That’s an enormous feat in itself! Many people do not take that bold first step towards learning code. And you did!

Through shining your searchlight on personal achievements — big or small — you can tell yourself, “I finished that task. What’s next?” This positive momentum is vital towards advancing your skills.

So practice shining your internal searchlight on your strengths, and not on the false self, the imposter. Your searchlight will instill within you the power you need so you can succeed in learning how to code.

Your newfound skills will push your imposter farther out into the shadows, and away from your searchlight. Instead, your searchlight will illuminate positive outcomes and steer you toward success.

Thanks to Nelson Esparza, William Parker, and Terry Poyser for reading drafts of this.

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