I volunteer as a mentor at Code Louisville where the mission is “to provide quality training and support to help residents of Louisville enter software development careers at no charge” (Code Louisville, n.d.). It’s a mission that’s placed more than 500 graduates in technology roles, reports David A. Mann, Digital Editor for Louisville Business First (Mann, 2020).
But there’s a constant at Code Louisville I want to address: students struggle and they hide it.
Why Hide Our Struggles?
Hiding our struggles amounts to feeling shame on some level. We think that we shouldn’t be struggling, or at least struggling this much; that it’s a sign of ineptitude. Imposter Syndrome is so common in tech that I haven’t met a dev who hasn’t experienced it. It’s practically a mental health issue. But whatever the reason, it’s an unnecessary barrier between yourself and learning.
Because that’s the bottom line: hiding our struggle slows our learning. Of course, we struggle as we learn something new. The irony here is that by not asking for help when we need it, we’re making learning harder.
The Importance of Transparency
LinkedIn isn’t usually where we share our struggles. It’s more like a highlight reel for our careers. It’s where we share our accomplishments, the things we’ve poured their hearts and minds into. And it isn’t self serving; our stories can motivate others, inspire them.
But we should celebrate our struggles too.
Learning to embrace struggling represents an enormous shift in perspective. It means being transparent about feelings we all share. It means asking for help even when you’re embarrassed to. It means you’re holding yourself accountable and prioritizing learning over ego.
Embracing struggling means no longer seeing challenges as negatives that take away from. Instead, it’s about interpreting challenges as positives that contribute to your success. You know you’re honing skills and growing when you struggle. It’s an opportunity, but only if you view it that way.
It wasn’t until I changed how I viewed my struggle with addiction that I became sober. Rather than see my struggle as a weakness, I learned to draw strength from not giving in.
I’m empowered from sharing it with others. The people I share it with hold me accountable. The more I share about that part of my life, the more I thrive.
That brings us full circle. When my students finally get around to asking for help (usually near the end of the term), they learn more. Their performance improves. And learning to ask for help is one of the most important skills there are. Admitting when you struggle and asking for help moves you forward. It gets you unstuck.
If anyone out there is struggling, if you’re doubting yourself, if you’re wondering if this is the right path for you, keep going. You’re in good company.
Asking for help or admitting you don’t know something doesn’t mean you aren’t clever or ‘don’t have what it takes’. In fact, it indicates the opposite.
How do you respond to struggling in your life/career?
Code Louisville. (n.d.) Code Louisville. https://www.codelouisville.org
Mann, D.A. (November 30, 2020). Code Louisville celebrates milestone. Louisville Business First. https://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/news/2020/11/30/code-louisville.html
National Institutes of Health (November 18, 2015). 10 percent of US adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives. National Institutes of Health https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/10-percent-us-adults-have-drug-use-disorder-some-point-their-lives