Neil on Being Afraid

Early in your career as a software developer, almost everything you will encounter will be scary. You will need to deal with learning new technologies, stressful interviews, strange team cultures, unfamiliar processes, and very often difficult people. Being afraid of the unknown is a normal reaction, and software developers continuously face things they don’t know. You cannot avoid feeling fear as it is an ingrained survival instinct, but you can control how you react to being frightened.

When a new technology becomes popular, there will always be people who object to learning it. When someone new joins a team, people complain about their new teammate. Introducing a new process will cause people to proclaim the old way was better. There will be no end to excuses, but never will people admit the simple truth: they are afraid of change. To be a software developer, you must accept that confronting strange things is an inescapable part of your profession. Therefore, to call yourself a professional, you must learn to face your fears and overcome them.

When you face something that makes you afraid, don’t ignore how you feel. Instead, embrace that being scared is a natural part of being human. Take a moment, breath, center yourself, and calm down. Figure out why you are reacting in fear to something that, in reality, poses no real threat to you. Why does a new technology intimidate you? What is causing you to be nervous when you work with different people? How does an unfamiliar process hurt you? Peel back the layers until you find your answers, and then reassess your situation. You will find that your fear is all in your head because you are in no danger. There was never any threat, only a lack of confidence. Belief in yourself is under your complete control, and therefore, so is your ability to control your reaction to being afraid.

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