On comparing yourself to others

I remember how daunting it was to start out in the tech industry. I had just immigrated to the US, and almost everyone I met had either gone to top universities, had worked on incredible projects, or are at the peak of their careers. Or at least that's what it felt like. It was tough seeing myself in their shoes, and that used to frustrate me to no end.

"How do I succeed in this field?"
"Am I way behind everyone else?"
"How the fuck do I catch up to these people?"

As a result, I ended up not being confident about anything. I didn't know how to voice my own opinions, I didn't know what I wanted, and I was always anxious about my work. It also got me into a sort of FOMO where I felt like I had to learn everything out there to succeed. I mean, the more skills I can list out in my résumé, the better chance I have of getting hired, right? Right?

So I bought and hoarded a ton of books. I had books on different programming languages, computer science, programming methodologies, and algorithms. It was a lot, and it was overwhelming. And the worst part? I don't remember anything from those books because I didn't actually get to use them in real life. It's like what people say: use it or lose it.

An illustration showing that we need to review and reread what we've learned so that we can remember them
Source: Nicky Case

Of course, this blog post is not trying to convince you to stop comparing yourself with others. Comparing yourself with others and having self-doubt is completely normal and healthy for your career:

Of course we all have worries that we aren’t equipped to do our job on any given day, and we’re aware we don’t know as much about a topic as the next dev. Just think about what you would be like if you didn’t, you’d be an arrogant asshole, have huge blindspots, and would probably be a nightmare to work with! If I could nominate one common trait of the most accomplished developers I know, it would be their constant awareness of the “gap” in their knowledge and willingness to work towards closing it. Do these people doubt themselves? have moments questioning whether they deserve to be where they are? Of course they do! It is a key part to being a humble, likable, open-minded developer. They aren’t “suffering” from a “syndrome”.

All I'm saying is that too much of it can waste your time and lead you to nowhere. Don't get too frustrated about the things that you can't do because it's a never ending process. Just like the title of this blog, we're all a work in progress 😉. Your body will thank you, too:

While it’s perfectly OK to want to perform at your personal best, constantly comparing yourself to others—whether you come out “winning” or not—can be incredibly detrimental to your physical and mental health.

You're always going to meet people who earn more or know more than you do. It's totally ok.

Here's to being a work in progress.

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