When the Imposter Syndrome Hits hard

Patrick Tumusiime
3 min readAug 8, 2021


My awesome Work/Study Station for the next 2 Years

Four years ago, during my undergraduate studies I was formally ushered into the world of programming (the process of designing and building an executable computer program to accomplish a specific computing result or to perform a specific task.). It was a world that I desired to be a part of ever since I set my eyes on the desktop computer that my dad had been using for his research at home. My curiosity was gradually activated as I sought to decipher how these machines worked and what it is that I needed to do in order to join the world of computer experts.

The computing world for me remains the most fascinating due to the rapid rate at which it evolves. I am daily reminded not to sit back, and play catch up or else I will be left behind watching on as the rest of the world gets smarter or rather as the computers get smarter (although one of my instructors likes to say that computers are stupid). As excited as I am at the mention of the word ‘programming’, this excitement is only momentary thanks to my failure to master this art (I am yet to call myself a programmer)

You know when to lower your expectations when your 1st encounter in a programing class is with an instructor (we call them lecturers in Uganda) that has a command of the written language so well (read cram work) that all practical aspects of the subject are left to your personal discovery and imagination. I was politely taught that all I needed to concern myself with is understanding the basics and pass the exams which were almost always a detailed version a closed book classroom assignment.

I struggled to reconcile my excitement with the reality of what I was being taught but also having been told that university level education is an opportunity to ‘discover things on your own’, I tried to do just that as I scheduled sessions with the tutorial industry that has since seen an exponential growth. I watched and tried to practice what I was being tutored even when some of it didn’t ‘click’ and stick to memory. I searched far and wide for all kinds of resources that would help get me to where I need to be, 9 years later, the search had not yielded any results.

A couple of times I thought this was probably a mistake in which case I needed to re-invent myself and find an alternative field that could perhaps accommodate my skill set but then again that would mean that I throw away more than 10 years of experience in the computing world. Was this just me being lazy or was I not smart enough to learn these concepts? I still don’t have a concrete answer up to now, even after having worked with a couple of expert programmers. I didn’t find any specific trait that sets them apart from me so much that they appeared to be smarter than I was (going by academic standards)

With all this going on, I was crazy enough to take it a step further and enroll for a postgraduate program that I very well knew was above my ‘smartness’ and programming acumen. Three weeks into orientation(Yes, CMU-Africa has a 5 week orientation program that I will most certainly write about later) and I already feel as through I was not ready to take on this enormous ‘burden’ as I find some of the programing assignments challenging and my mind rushes into auto pilot stress mode.

The reality is that it is indeed meant to be an uphill task which makes it a bit more interesting to see where you’ve come from once you reach the top and I know that it is going to take an even greater effort to overcome this imposter syndrome(a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud) so I will not be afraid to fail, learn and unlearn in the next two years.