Perfectionism disguise as imposter syndrome

Posted by Samuel.Ogundiran on March 2, 2021

The socially accepted image of perfectionism is often portrayed by someone in the fashion industry like EDNA


“Google defines a Perfectionist as:

a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection,” which is what we are use to. What if I tell you that there is more to this than meets the eye.

Hold that thought, we will come back to it.

 If you are in development, you are not a stranger to Imposter Syndrome.

FreeCodeCamp defined Imposter Syndrome as:

” feeling of being a fraud or not being good enough to get a job done “.

Unfortunately, no matter how good we are at our duties, Most of us are not immune to this feeling by any stretch of the imagination. So rather than dwell on the topic allow me to propose a theory.

#### THESIS: What If Your imposter Syndrome is a result of an internal perfectionism .

Out the gate, the majority of people, myself included will deny being a perfectionist however, our behaviors bear witness to the latter.

If this is still unclear, what I am proposing is that our perfectionist behavior may be the source of imposter syndrome.

Based on personal experience, I have come to understand that perfectionism can be simply defined as having a certain image or outcome in your head and the readiness to defend against anything that threatens that image, often in a fight of flight mode.

There are certain traits I noticed in myself when taking on a new project or working with a group of people that often slips out as imposter syndrome, but thanks to some psychology training and background, I picked up some undercurrent regarding this matter. Maybe you can relate, Please write to me if this is accurate for you.

### Unpopular traits of perfectionism in developer (and other professions) that often manifest as Imposter syndrome.

*Refusal to ask for help:

We all have experienced this at some points in our journey. Often, caused by self shaming and lack of confidence. This is very straight to the point.

*Setting unrealistic standards for self and others or self critiquing with no facts:

there are many times when I’m in my developer mode “in the ZONE ‘’ so to speak, just to realize that I have spent the past 30 minutes on creating the perfect button on a page. And if that button does not work, I feel it deep inside like a punch to the stomach.

*Feeling of shame during code reviews:

This is one of the few apexs of learning in a developer career however, due to this big image that we often set ourselves to believe, anything that does not match such as a live refactoring or reading of our code by others, triggers shame in us.

*Ruminating brains about conversation of people & Concern with what people thinks:

Which positive criticize will do wonders in a developer journey. Taking those criticisms as personal attacks even to the point of rethinking the “feedback “ piece of the conversation while ignoring the excellent work you were praised for indicates your a perfectionist.

*Fear of failure or looking bad (I can’t fail if I don’t try), Procrastination & Fear of taking a break from coding or development:

I had to combine these three together as they all work together. This mindset is often common in the IT world as well as other fields. Yes, no one is a failure or set out to accomplish nothing, but sometimes, we fall victim to the saying that goes “if I don’t try, I wouldn’t fail, or if i dont start, i cant fail”, as a result we procrastinate and stall out on projects. Then, when we finally get down to work, we assume we can tap into our “codezilla “ and code with no breaks. Which I will tell you leads to disaster and burn out. I have huge concern for developers that choose not to take a break because you are gambling with a major tech debt and bugs in your code base.

*Deep feeling of disappointment or set back( It is a habit, spending 2 or 3 days mentally going through your shame imposed on self due to imposed perfection ):

This is one I can relate to on so many levels. Just like any good developer, we enjoy a good debugging session. Unfortunately, the project still does not function as intended. Evidence of perfectionism shows when you feel a physiological stress because your code is not working as intended and still feel the stress even after the fact.

*All or nothing thinking:

This is so common, it’s shocking. When you take on a project with excitement, as soon as you hit 1 or 2 roadblocks in your code. You delete the whole project and start over going back to the mindset of If i don’t try, I will not fail. So we play it safe by working on projects that are not as challenging. And I will tell you this may come back to hurt you in the future. Also, Let me clarify on this one, If you are working in a totally new language, codebase, environment that you are not familiar with and there are no educational resources, that is understandable. What I am implicating is a scenario in which you have all the tools you need, and still choose to throw out the project(“getting rid of the baby with the bath water”). That is prefectionism .

Please drop a like or comment if you relate to this list. Our mental health is what make our line of duty interesting. However, not a lot of people are covering this topic. Thus, I will like to hear from you .