Working through negative feelings

My anxiety has been ratcheted up after struggling with a particularly difficult (to me) challenge. This has made it easy for all kinds of negative thoughts to start rushing through my head. I feel like I’ll never get this, that I’ll be a subpar developer, that I’ll end up working at Starbucks for terrible pay, that I’ll be a failure at life. The usual gambit that I’m sure everyone here has felt.

I need someone to tell me that I’m not a failure for looking at the answers, that it doesn’t have a bearing on what kind of developer I’ll be, that I’ll eventually get it, and that I can still be the developer I want to be.

Working through code can be hard. Working through the negative feelings associated with that struggle can be even harder. I know that this isn’t my final state, it’s just hard sometimes to feel that that is true.

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You can do it, the only important thing is that you keep working on things.

Is it really the end of the world if at one point you will be working at Starbucks? (If you need the money, everything works) You can still search for an other job, you can still freelance on your free time. It will just mean that you have not yet found a position as a developer!

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Perfectly normal

Even experienced professional developers get stuck and frustrated. We spend too long on what seems like a simple task. We have to break down and ask for help. Then more help. We fuck it up and have it publicly pointed out in a code review. We Google “how much money do professional dog walkers make”.

Looking at answers

Is fine to do sometimes, objectively. It sounds like it really bugs you though, so I want to say that you don’t have to. You always have the option to come here and ask for help. Most of us in this community will try to give you small pieces of advice one at a time so that your brain is doing the hard work of connecting the dots, but we are perfectly happy to keep talking to you as much as you need to get through the challenge and feel like you understand your solution.

You just finished a difficult and frustrating task. Have a cookie, go for a walk, pet a dog, come up for air. The next challenge is a fresh start, with no baggage.

Starbucks isn’t objectively a bad job. I love coffee. I think I would actually love working in a coffee shop with how much I love coffee. I guess I was using it as an example of a job that I have to work in vs a job I want to work in, one with far less freedom and benefits.

@ArielLeslie, thanks so much for your advice. I was discussing this with a friend of mine. He’s still in the “learning” phase, but is a great deal farther than me. He too told me that it’s okay to look at the answers and learn from them. Then next time you will be better equipped to tackle the problem when it arises again. I made the realization that I understand that and it sounds true, but something deep down is keeping me from really believing it. I think that’s the one thing above all others that I need to work on. Thinking there is only one way to progress. There’s a lot of ways to get to the places you need to be, but for some reason I keep hanging on to this one idea, that I have to be someone that has to teach myself the concepts independently or else I will never make it in the coding world.

This changes over time and the paradigm shift happens almost instantaneously once you start working in development (getting requirements from the business and getting paycheck)

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Failure is a temporary state of mind, not an actual position

Saying your a failure, intones that you will always be a failure. This is not true unless you make it true. Believing you are only going to fail forever is almost a self fulfilling prophecy. Think about it, if you were to go into anything and everything believing your going to fail, odds are you will. Now this is especially true when your doing things that really just rely on you. It’s up to you to get better, learn, and succeed. Developing is hard, since you will fail often and it might feel like it wont ever get better.

Now does that mean your a failure? Hell no. There are basically 0 developers who don’t fail on a daily basis. The ones that don’t fail probably aren’t working that hard, or doing the same easy stuff over and over again. This feeling is very common. If your learning something like programming, its going to be hard, and rough road. But that’s why its worth it, it’s not easy, but then if it was easy everyone would do it!

Now, I said failure is a temporary state of mind at the start, because you can think of yourself as a failure all you want, but you can change whatever is making feel like that by overcoming your challenges. You could be spending 2 days, or 2 weeks on a problem and finding it was something dumb. You always can overcome, there isn’t a high limit, you don’t need to be able to run a 5 minute mile, or have a high IQ. You just need time, patience, practice and grit to see it through.

You will learn more trying to figure something out, than if you succeed the first time. It’s in failure we learn the most.You might spend a month dealing with an issue, but its still not permanent if you keep pushing. You might try 500 different ways of solving a problem before figuring it out, and you know what you just learned 500 ways not to do something! If you didn’t struggle, if you didn’t fall flat on your face, you probably wont learn a single thing, you would miss out on all that experience.

I’ll leave you with this, failure is the best teacher embrace it and learn to overcome. There won’t be a day when you know everything, so expect to fail, and see it as a opportunity to grow, succeed and overcome.

Goodluck, happy programming and keep it up! :smile:

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Woooowww I was just feeling this way a few days ago lol :sweat_smile: What’s worse is that I had visited a Starbucks earlier that day and I was thinking the same thing, “I gunna end up just getting a regular job b/c I can’t seem to find what I want and what I’m good at.”

Then I ate some food, drank some water, and went outside to get some fresh air. I was gunna go for a whole walk, but I felt A LOT better just breathing in something new.

You’ll feel it again. And again. And so will I. And many others. But you’re gunna fail and be frustrated. It’s just hard to remember that when you’re feeling really down.

It might help to not only make sure you do the three things above, but make sure you do move your body from time to time if you don’t normally do so. A walk really does help. And sleep!

Also, try to find a mentor or a person you can share your triumphs and struggles with. I got someone I found on here and it actually really does help to know that someone who knows what you’ve been through has got your back when they can, but doesn’t hold your hand with it either. It’s refreshing and can help you gain better perspective on things. Don’t be afraid to talk to people, the worst they can do is ignore you or tell you to go away haha.


Negative self-talk is a thing. Most of the people I know and talk to tend to have a pretty negative internal dialog on average. Sure, there’s long stretches of “I’m in the ZONE! I so got this! Woo-HOO!!!”, but there are also long spells where we are looking at the screen and can’t get out of our own way.

Most mornings, with my morning coffee, I will pick up a crossword book. I love puzzles and logic challenges, keep my brain limber. But there’s another reason I do this – most mornings I can blaze through a Sunday Times crossword like I’m a vocab GOD, but some days I’m dumber than the gerbil in the third-grader’s classroom. The one that the kids keep feeding rubber cement. On those days, I may actually look at the solution, and maybe even feel a little guilt.

It’s not that I’m any smarter or dumber, simply I’m not making the connections at that point. And that’s totally ok. I can get there, but I may need a “boost”. Sometimes more coffee, sometimes I can push myself out, but more often than not, I need to hear another voice. The best counter for the voice in your head that says “You just ain’t good enough” is to listen to other people affirm that, in fact, you are.

I spend a fair bit of time in these forums, helping as many people with as wide a diversity of questions as I can. First, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to help. Second, it gives me positive affirmation when they have an “AHA!!”. Third, helping others helps me to see my problems differently.

You’ve been around a bit,you’ve worked through the lessons, you’ve broken stuff and figured out what works and what doesn’t. Have you started helping others with the stuff you do know? You may find that that will combat your negative feelings nicely.

And I get the frustrations – after more than two decades in programming, I’ve spent the last decade a cabinet-maker and landscaper. Whatever it takes to support my family, I keep reminding myself. But I am working toward my personal goal of breaking back into what I love, and I do fight those same negative feelings all the time. You people in here, all of you… you are my medication. Helping and being helped by you, I know I’ll get there.


Wise words, thank you.