10 years working as a developer but feeling overwhelmed, stressed, depressed and frustrated

Hey there!

Hopefully I can get support or help here because I feel totally lost, overwhelmed, depressed and frustrated.

I am almost around ten years into software development (35 years old). Therefore, I would assume that I am some kind of senior software developer. But to be honest: I definitely do not feel like one. I have worked around six years with C# .NET and since three years I am into Java development.

I put much pressure on myself because I would like to get better or to be at least a better developer. Likewise, I see roadmaps like the following: Java Developer Roadmap
and just thinking: Damn it. How to learn all this stuff? Where should I start? I lack so much of these things. I am totally lost as a developer and should think about quitting. That makes me realize that I am just shit and think I am good at nothing.

It just feels like I am a complete loser. This frustration then leads to inhibitions, bad mood and “fear of the future” in relation to my job. Yes, some days it actually makes me so depressed that I want to cry because I realize that I have so many gaps in my knowledge that I think it is simply impossible to ever be a good or great developer and be “job safe”.

It often happens that I perform a code review for some of my colleagues / co-workers and when seeing their implementation or solution my whole body begins to shiver, I begin to be total nervous, my circulatory breaks down I am paralyzed because I see it written down that I am just a damn bad, wrong and worse developer because I would never be able to build such a solution. My thinking rotates from day to day “You are not good enough. Everybody is better than you. I am lost. Stay at your company or you will end on the street”. It seems like everyone around me is just better than me. In every aspect and in every case. Everyone around me is a better developer than me.

  • They are able to build generic solutions I would never be able to build.
  • They are finding solutions I would never be able to find and I am not able to find. * Likewise, they are building recursive functions I would never be able to build.
    *… and so on.
    It’s definitely not because they are older as we are in the same age.

To be honest, that is not healthy. Really. I struggle every day with this thinking. I think I have to sit the whole day after work in front of my computer and learn learn learn. Day by day. Otherwise, there will be no chance to get better. I hate my self that I have not learned every day in the past to get better. Now I struggle from day to day with this feeling.

Sometimes I think or believe that I am a lack of something which is necessary to be (good) developer and that my career choice was a bad one. Even if love the job in general. Don’t know if its because I just got an apprenticeship and missing a cs degree.

To be honest, I really love my job.
I love to code and to find solutions to several problems. Further, I love to find bugs and analyze why things happen like they happen. But on the other hand, the job puts a damn pressure on me which leads to the fact that I always feel and think that I am not enough for the job. Living day after day with this pressure is not really cool and just brings me down from day to day, which makes me feel overwhelmed and depressed.

Hopefully some of you can understand my problem and maybe give some advice or some help to get over this.

1 Like

Hi @matsmad !

Welcome to the forum!

Normally I wouldn’t be up this late (it’s 1am where I am at) but I had trouble sleeping and stumbled on your post.

I am just at the beginning of my development journey but I can definitely relate to your situation.

What you are describing sounds like a serious case of imposter syndrome.

I have had to deal with imposter syndrome my whole life as a musician.
I have been playing my instruments for over 18 years, trained at top conservatories and still have moments where I feel like a crap musician.

Just last week, I had a recording session and I messed up a soft entrance that was really exposed.
My immediate reaction was to put myself down and think that I shouldn’t be there and that my colleagues didn’t mess up their entrances.

You might be thinking,
“Jesus, it is just one note. What is the big deal?”

But at that moment, I saw it as we had to do another take because I suck at my instrument.

The key to overcoming imposter syndrome is to remind yourself of the facts.

I had to remind myself that I was a good musician and every little mistake doesn’t define me because there were plenty of other good moments from that session.

You have to remind yourself that you are a good developer.
You don’t last 10 years in an industry by accident.

If you were really a bad developer, then you probably would have lasted a couple years if that.

But you have been a professional developer for 10.
So you are obviously doing something right. :grinning:

Yes, there will always be people that are smarter but that doesn’t mean you aren’t good at what you do.

When thoughts of doubt and fear come into your head, try to focus on the facts.

I bet you are better than you think you are :grinning:

Hope that helps!

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First and foremost, none of the advice we can give can replace the counsel of a professional mental health doctor.
Nothing wrong in self care and talking to a specialist if the need arise :heart:


That said hello @matsmad and welcome to the forum.

In this situation I find comforting thinking about action point, and possible course of action that can help you overcome those fears.

We can both agree that there is a weird paradox in this industry where you learn very complex things but the work on a daily basis is simpler.

The recurring joke of having to learn how to invert a binary tree for the job interview, but then working on fixing the color of a button on a daily basis :smiley:

So this is an industry where if you just rely on “daily work” to keep you afloat, sometimes it won’t be enough to make you move forward.

What I do, and almost all the developer I know is to keep studding, practicing and overall being interested in the field by reading, trying new stuff and keep challenging yourself.

If you think about it, is not different than a musician or an athlete. They don’t stop training just because they “made it”.
Same story for software engineering.

But don’t stress over it, as at least we can “train” on technology that we actually interested in and care about, which I consider it as a great plus.
For example you can work on a stack, but then I study a totally different one.
Whatever you learn from it will be ported over: knowledge is never wasted.

My suggestion / action point would be then to keep studying and “practicing”, with the hope that whatever new you discover will keep giving you a new sense of accomplishment and confidence in your skills. Remember the first time that you make your code compile :slight_smile:

Also another habit that I suggest is to go on and make some job interview, even if not actively looking for jobs.
That way you’ll know what the market needs, and have a concrete proof of area where you can improve.

For example:
Have I bombed an interview because my soft skills? Will work on those.
Have I messed up my code challenge in a meaningful way? Let’s practice those areas that the challenge was about

And so on…
So treat job interview as an actual real-life practice.

[disclaimer] Of course I apply only for jobs that I actually like/care, as I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, including mine, so my suggestion is the same to you: if you have to apply and spend time for this, at least do it for something that eventually you’ll consider.


To conclude, I sympathy for you, as we all have been there.
Keep your chin up and a mind focused.
Think about actions that will make you feel confident and empowered again and focus on those.
Don’t waste your precious energy focusing on others.

Good luck and happy coding :sparkles:

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Thanks for your input.
Sure, there are several Topics I would like to learn. Especially DSA because I’m definitely lacking of skills in this area (due to the fact I never needed it within my actual career). Then there are other topics I like to learn about. My udemy account contains several courses, but I have finished none of them. It is like a loop of hell: Fear of missing out as there are several topics I am lacking in, and therefore I just jump around topics with the result that I get nothing done and in the end I am frustrated that I know nothing.

Further It just the thing that I am working round about 10 years as a developer, so I think that there is some kind of expectation to someone like me. I would like to make an employee switch to face new challenges as I stagnate at my current employer. Also, I have more meetings and organization tasks then coding tasks, which sucks. I already had some interviews and received a positive response, but I always declined because I have the fear that will find out that I am a kind of fake developer and get nothing done or don’t fit into their first expectation. Just a hard struggle.

Besides that I am not able to spend several hours daily to learn even if I would like to. Friends, Girlfriend, other hobbies etc. take also time.

Imagine you walk into an art gallery with the greatest paintings ever made. The Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s, Monet’s, Pablo Picasso’s. Even if you aren’t an art fan you’d probably recognize a few works, and also probably will recognize these are great pieces of art.

Now imagine the same scenario, except your an inspiring painter who has worked years trying to get recognized. You could enter the same art gallery and see the same art and yet be thrown into existential dread, realizing a bunch of dead guys are still more famous than your work.

The only difference between these 2 scenarios is perspective. It’s the root of imposter syndrome.

The second scenario ends with existential dread and questioning your self worth, but it doesn’t have to. An aspiring artist can go into the art gallery filled with great paintings and enjoy them just as much as the average person. The difference is the perspectives they go in with, and what they seek to get out of it.

Imposter syndrome source is when you base your self worth out of comparison with others.

If you go into an art gallery to see how good you are, only to find yourself amongst giants. You might feel small, bad at your work, and end up in that mental state.

It’s that perspective that is the source of imposter syndrome, in this case not with art, but with code.


I keep a copy of a few quotes I pull out and reference for different problems I face in life. I have a few quotes on dealing with imposter syndrome. This is my favorite one:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” - Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story

Simply put, that “perspective” is something that not many people really pay attention to. It’s easy to just “feel” inadequate at what you believe you should be good at, and just accept that feeling as the truth. Except, one can step back, recognize that feeling, understand it for what it is, and recognize its your choice to focus on that feeling. Sure you might want to get better, and yes you might not feel like your the best you could be, and yes other’s might be better, but that only matters as much as you want it to matter.

The same way a narcissist can find all the ways they are the best at whatever they do and must compare themselves to others, Imposter Syndrome is built out of all the things you find you aren’t the best at compared to others. It’s the sheer opposite perspective on the exact same situation, but with a similar focus on one’s self worth based on external factors.

It’s only natural to try to compare yourself to others, its human nature. But if you let it get the best of you, you end up on the floor of the art gallery in front of the Mona Lisa questioning your life choices, instead of asking why it look so small and where are her eyebrows like the average person.


So it’s fine and dandy to know what the source of this imposter syndrome is, but it’s another to know what to do about it. Just understand that identifying this feeling, and that its a feeling rather than the truth is the first step it getting over it.

The second is understanding where it ultimately comes from. Which ultimately comes from the goal of deriving self worth by comparing oneself to others. Humans are naturally competitive, back in the stone age it was natural to go “how am I doing compared to everyone else?” is a great way to stay “above the rest”, stay in shape, stay healthy, stay safe, and not get eaten by a lion. However in a modern world it’s less and less useful because even if your not DaVinci painting, or Linus writing the next iteration of the Linux Kernel, you won’t suddenly get jumped by a lion. So having a similar reaction to not being “the best” isn’t life or death, but that is where your body goes when it comes to imposter syndrome, as it feels like a life or death situation when it isn’t. Finding your self-worth doesn’t have to be done this way, it can be found in recognizing your own life experiences are unique, your life is unique, your experiences are one of a kind, you can do better or you can not, how and what you find your self worth in is your choice, you are the master of that domain. As the quote goes you must give yourself consent.

Finally, the key thing perspective is that it’s like a mirror. Its polished, fine tuned to focus on a specific situation. It takes time and effort to build it that way, the same way if you want to “refocus” it on something else it takes time and effort to re polish/refine it to focus on your new area of focus. It might be easier to keep it set on whatever its set on and keep staring into the void. But it also might be worth it to do the work, grind that mirror to refocus at the beauties beyond. It will take time and effort, but just knowing that you can focus on something else, on greener pastures, or on finding your self-worth without comparing yourself to others is the path.

Look to improve your coding skills because you want to get better, not because someone else is. Admire your co-workers skills, rather compare it to yourself. Appreciate the topics you know, rather than finding the ones you don’t. Or just do your job, enjoy it, do your work as well as you can, and go home and enjoy life.

It’s easy to say, harder to do, the same way there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. The process to get started is the same, you just gotta start walking, by changing that perspective.

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Wow @bradtaniguchi, what a nice an well thought response.

I have always felt close to a philosophical teaching called Stoicism which teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.

One of my favorite quotes:

You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.―Marcus Aurelius

So @matsmad we can stay here and talk all day about this issues, but the best course of action is be proactive and change your perspective.

What more validation do you need? You are clearly doing fine already.

That’s the secret: you don’t need to spend hours each day, since life is busy and beautiful to be enjoyed. What you need is the power of habits.
Train yourself in being consistent and stay on schedule. Don’t focus on the end result (like "I’ve mastered this topic), but focus on the process.

Even if it’s just a little time each day, those minutes adds up.
And before you realize you have achieved so many things.

Don’t ever focus on goals, goals changes, motivation fades. Habit stays.

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Hey Marmiz,

I know that this will result in a never ending story. Talking about the same “issue” day by day.

Train yourself in being consistent and stay on schedule. Don’t focus on the end result (like "I’ve mastered this topic), but focus on the process.

I like the Point Don’t focus on the end result (like "I’ve mastered this topic), but focus on the process. That’s true. Currently and in the past I always focused on the end result. Focusing on getting the feeling “Yea I have mastered it” but to be honest I have never made it so far. But what I have noticed is that within the process I have already learned things I did not know before.

I am a big fan of StackOverflow, and I am trying to help people to give something back. I have noticed that I can help more and more people and realize “Hey, you learned that X days ago, now you can pass on the knowledge” - a great feeling.

But then I see solutions of implementations of co-workers and so on, and it kicks in: “Stay at your current safe job. You are not good enough to provide such solutions. Don’t take to risk getting exposed as a fake developer, get kicked out and stay unemployed” - On the other hand, if I stay at my current employer I will more and more stagnate. Meaning, both ways or decisions are bad in my point of view.

Saved this quote in my note, loved it :slightly_smiling_face:

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I don’t know much of anything about software developing, but I’ve dealt with a lot of the problems you are talking about ( not feeling adequate etc.), and some of what you bring up sounds a lot like my head when I go down the depression/despair route.

I don’t know what all is going on in your life, but other factors can have a huge strain on your psyche; and they can affect you in ways that aren’t related. You probably have heard it before but it always helps to talk to someone about what you think, obviously this is a step in the right direction. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed in general, but taking your problems piece by piece and remembering that we are all still learning can make a world of difference. If you feel overwhelmed, just think about us newbies who are basically drowning in documentation!

Kidding aside, I am not claiming to know anything about you but, these kind of problems usually stem from something that a move or career change won’t fix. I don’t know if you are a pet person but my animals keep my sanity in tact. The cloud always follows brother, it’s up to you and (hopefully) a good support network to battle through it!

Here is a list of my objections to your points and also some action I think you should do now:

  1. As @Marmiz mentioned, it’d be a good idea to reach out for professional help. A psychologist or a therapist are trained to outsmart one’s negative state of mind much better than us internet folks. First and foremost, do schedule a session.

  2. What’s the big deal about being a great developer? Is it really about being a great developer because of money or the chance to work impactful projects? Or is it some intrinsic drive of just being great at software development? If it’s the former, then stressing out because you’re not where you should be as a dev is meaningless. You’re better off switching to management since they make more money. But if it’s the lather, then you’re just living to work. Which is still not good for both your mind and your health. We’re not living our lives to just pay bills and die. So, ask yourself why do you care so much to a great developer? What are the outcomes you’re hoping to fulfill? And then ask yourself if having those outcomes make any sense.

  3. Let’s take an inventory with what you do have: You have friends, you have a girlfriend, and you’re still working as a software engineer. I can tell you right now, a good portion of users on this forum cannot claim that. So in some sense, you’re better than half the users on this forum. Let me reiterate to emphasize: You have more good things in your life than half the users on this forum.

I apologize if I come across as harsh. This obstacle you are facing is torturing you and I wouldn’t want you to go through with that mentally. It sucks. But at the same time, this idea of becoming of great software engineer is not worth spending your mental energy on.

That energy needs to go towards things that you can look back on in your old age, and be able to feel proud you did it. Like going on top of Devil’s Falls and being inches from death so you look down the waterfall. Or taking a trip Morocco to visit the film festive. That stuff is more worth while then trying to be great at realistically mundane stuff.

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Hey @DanStockham
wow - that one was deep and took some time to swallow.

  1. To be honest: I am on it. But it is difficult here in Germany to get a free date. Professional help for this area is very difficult and hard to find here in Germany. I know that many of my mental problems are based in my childhood.

  2. The big money is not important to me in the first place. I simply enjoy my work as a developer. Finding new ways to solve problems. Sitting down and racking my brains over a bug or coming up with a solution. Learning new things and having that “aha” moment where things become clearer to me why they work the way they do. Working on projects with other people. To exchange ideas and solutions, to discuss. To listen and talk with customers about their requirements. But also to pass them on to schools and my knowledge to others. It’s not about me being the best either. It’s about me being able to change jobs without worrying (to work on other topics and other projects), because I know that I can do what is required of me. But that’s exactly what I’m not doing. I see so many developers around me who are simply better. Finding solutions that I wouldn’t find or even finding solutions where I wouldn’t find any. I am afraid of not being good enough for the new job or the employer. To be dismissed during the probationary period and never to find a job again, and thus to be permanently unemployed.

  3. Yes I know. And I don’t want to disappoint these people if I suddenly become unemployed because I was interested in changing employers. Not my girlfriend, not my daughter and not my parents.

No need to apologize. I am very very grateful to you for your post, honestly.

It just pisses me off that I am so paralysed and scared when it comes to changing my employer where I am totally dissatisfied and unhappy. I’d rather stay in a safe haven than try something new, take on new challenges and grow from them like I did before. In the past, I’ve turned down so many job offers and been annoyed afterwards. All I had to do was to sign the contract. But no, I stayed with my employer and remained unhappy. Currently, I also have a contract on hand from an employer that has been on me for two or three months. But I am damn afraid to be exposed as a “fake” and to be found out.

What I will definitely remember back in my old age is the birth of my child and my tandem skydive.

PS at all: Sorry for my bad English.

Self-esteem is a tough one. Especially if you spend your life comparing yourself to others. Or let people’s expectations, or what you believe to be their expectations, drive you. The fear of letting people down is rooted in survival instinct. Historically, if you strayed from the flock you were as good as dead on your own (Loneliness).

Few people find satisfaction in life by getting what they think they want. There is always something over the next hill. There is always an empty space that needs to be filled.

Do more, be more, don’t stop moving. It’s as if we were sharks and if we stopped moving we died (some sharks do, and some people do as well I guess). We aren’t all born with the same abilities. If you need to climb a mountain to be happy so be it, but you can’t tell someone born paraplegic they need to do the same.

I’m convinced we put too much pressure on each other and ourselves. As a wise man once said, it’s just a ride.

OK, I think that is enough armchair philosophy for one day. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Thanks for the question, the replies, I am sure everyone reading these will learn a thing or two, I know I am.

One suggestion: do what you fear the most. You think you will ‘die’, lose everything, not get a job again (the list will always be long…) maybe you will, but, not the way you expect. Maybe that will be a good thing.

I worked 7 years among professional singers, I was not a professional singer and I had to work much harder, but life became unbearable because of me pushing myself to be like everyone else. I quit. No more decent salary, benefits, secure retirement, status, high level professional performance. It was hard, but I faced it.

I embraced another project, chose another country to do it, dealt with new challenges, like finding a job in manual labour. Started all over again. Interestingly, the problem didn’t get resolved by itself, in fact I brought it with me, but it was easier to deal with it now. I can see where I was and where I am now. I can tell the difference. Fear dissolves when you face it, live it, go through it. And you start living your life on your own terms.

Not only I have kept singing, I sing better now, I even play the guitar and the piano; I have kept busy in new music projects and found new passions (yes, web developing). I don’t regret my past life, I treasure it, but I like my new life more :slight_smile:

hello I am new, glad to meet you all!

@ matsmad I understand how you’re feeling and please know you are not alone in feeling this way either.

My simple advice is to seek out a mentor. Is there someone at your work you feel comfortable approaching for mentorship? Is there a coworker or manager who you could ask for an assessment of your strengths and growth opportunities? Perhaps identifying a new thing to learn or asking for a new project would help you move out of the funk and bring back a sense of accomplishment.

As others have noted, professional counseling may help as well. Check to see if your company offers an employee assistance program. It could help you make sense of how you’re feeling, where it’s coming from, and help you decide what the next step should be.

Wishing you the best,
~hilbug

Well considered it lesson learnt. If you’re presented with the same opportunity next time and it’s extremely good for you, don’t make the same mistake again and make the leap.

I don’t think they would of pursued you as hard if there was a doubt in there mind that you were “fake”. A decade of experience in an employer’s eyes is a lump of gold. It’s very hard to find experienced and good developers.

You’re current employer had you this long, don’t you think if you were a “fake” or “imposter” they would’ve let you go long before you hit your 10 year mark?

Maybe move to a frontend job. You may find it a better fit.