Trying to perfect my imperfection(?)

A personal journey with a hidden but common struggle of life, imposter syndrome.

It’s Christmas time everyone! Holiday season! Lots of time spent with loved ones, families and friends, a lot of presents and of course a good chunk of free time.

Working in the tech world means that you need to be a lifetime learner but during this time of year hopefully all of us will not learn anything and just rest our busy brains!

Who am I?

I am Busra Sengul. Former high school maths teacher, now a developer for 3 years.

I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics then I achieved the qualifications to be a teacher. Although I loved teaching and did it for 5 years, I never wanted to be a teacher. It was a must for me to have more than one profession (You'll get why it was a ”must” later on!).

I always wanted to be a cryptographer, it’s still in my plans to get qualifications for it by either getting a master’s degree or learning somehow.

I was always interested in the internet of things. I had my own online radio channel when I was in high school. 

After 5 years of teaching I got into the biggest technical university’s software development program in Turkey and completed it by being the 3rd among more than 200 people.

Then I moved to Scotland and landed my first role as an intern and after 5 months I was offered a permanent role! I’ve loved being a developer since my first day but I kept hearing this phrase, if you love what you do you never actually work a day in your life

As we all know, love is a bittersweet concept.

Early ages

I taught myself reading and writing when I was 3 years old. From the first day I could read, I read everything. I had a huge hunger to learn already. I was a curious, noisy child back then. I can’t say much has changed! 😁

During the first grade, my teacher gave us daily written homework. My mother helped by ‘supervising’ me. I remember she either erased everything I wrote or tore the pages of my notebooks when she didn’t like my handwriting. This was our daily routine after school.

Well, I can’t say I enjoyed it much! But in my mother’s defense, my handwriting was awful and now it is really good - That’s all thanks to her 😊

When I was 8 years old, my mother enrolled me to take part in an English language course which was before the school curriculum even started teaching us, and at the same time, I was training for aerobics too.

Every summer, I went to a language course, sports training, and a musical device learning course. By the age of 14, I had my advanced level English certifications, playing guitar fairly well, playing basketball in a local team and in the school team. I also learned how to play the violin a bit, some piano, block flute, volleyball, handball, tennis, and some football too. Not that I kept up with them all, but in case I want to pick any of them up, I know the basics.

During school terms, it was not different either. Different courses after school or if nothing was going on then I headed to the library to read, teaching my sisters how to read, how to solve math problems, helping with their homework, as well as private tutoring neighbors’ children for pocket money.

As a student

I was a really mischievous student. The one who was always talking during the classes, making others laugh at really inappropriate times. I even had a gang, I was so "popular" among friends and teachers, but my grades were always excellent. 

We had a 0-100 point system and I always scored above 85-90. Even as this was the case, my mother was always questioning me after I get a result from an exam; 

“Why couldn’t you score 100?”

“Did you learn what was your mistake?”

“Who else got the same scores?”

“Who got 100?”...


She knew who was good in my class and asked what their grades were too.

This never really changed, even when I was at university she kept asking these same questions.

Not because she was angry or disappointed with my scores, but because she was curious and she wanted to be sure I learned my mistakes and corrected them. 

Later on

What my mother’s attitude created in me now was more of a serious problem. I used to get angry when she was asking these questions, not to her but to myself. I started to question: ‘Am I not good enough?’ ‘Am I stupid to make that silly mistake?’ 

To be clear I am not really blaming my mother for how she reacted to my school grades or to my issues and constant mischiefs. I totally understand why she was asking her questions. But it doesn’t change my current situation of why I am still criticizing myself very harshly.

It was a lot easier back then. I never took school lessons seriously to be honest because it was a set curriculum, there were a lot of books to re-learn - and I was always achieving good results.

Of course, it’s very different while working.

Switching careers

I have always appreciated learning new stuff late in your life. Leo Tolstoy learnt how to ride a bike when he was 67!! When I switched careers at 28, I knew it was never too late to do so, but there were so many things to learn. It was scary, but being afraid doesn’t solve anything. I just needed to work harder to reduce the gap of knowledge between me and my peers. It’s safe to say that the gap was just growing bigger every day…

So that’s what I have set out to do since the first day I started working as a developer - Complete my job during office hours and try to learn and practice after work hours. 

Is it ever enough?

While working on a client project, if I was stuck on something and end up spending ‘too much time’ trying to figure out what I need to do, I would then feel obligated to make up that time after work. You can always find me online till midnight on so many weekdays. I still get angry at myself when I miss a piece of code which means the project shows errors, or if I know that there’s an easier way to do things but I can’t remember the fix, even if I did the exact same thing just a few days earlier.

When stuff like this started occurring more than once a day, I started to question myself again...

I’m not really qualified to do my job.

I’m not enough.

I am stupid.

I’m a fraud.

I got here with just dumb luck, they’ll see how terrible I am I’ll get fired eventually.

How can others do? 

How do they maintain their lives and also be amazing at their jobs?

What is it that I’m doing wrong or not doing enough? 🤷‍♀️

These thoughts would then seep into everything. My relationships, my friendships, housework, whatever I did during the day, I felt I wasn’t enough but I tried to do more work to make it up. To feel I was worth enough. My sleep got more and more irregular as there were so many things to consider during the day including work, and I couldn’t stop overthinking when I eventually tried to go to sleep.

Due to the inability to sleep well, the lack of energy and feeling withdrawn from the job I love emotionally, I welcomed burnt-outs at first. The meltdowns followed after.


I started working with a life coach during the first lockdown of the pandemic while trying to  deal with my insecurities. That’s when I realized the reasons for the thoughts above. While working with my coach I’ve learned what Imposter Syndrome is.

The definition of imposter syndrome is “the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills”

It refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context as well. 

So there it is. I have imposter syndrome! I didn’t believe that I was good enough in anything no matter what people were saying about me. When I learned I got the Umbraco MVP award I was deeply shocked! I still don’t think I did enough to contribute to the community in order to deserve this award! Even though I keep hearing amazing things about what I have done! 

I know the reasons! I'm not broken anymore(!)

Understanding the reason why I was feeling the way I was feeling stalled me for a while.
I guess somehow I deceived myself that I had the solution. This new information cleared so many grey clouds from my brain. Whenever I started falling into the same thoughts I reminded myself why I was thinking them.

It never prevented me from thinking those toxic thoughts but I now know the reason, I kept believing it was solved.

The case was closed.

I’m fixed. 

But if that's the case;

Why was I still having burnt-outs? 

Why was I working my butt off until midnight on so many days? 

What happened now? 👀

Am I in depression? 

Why are sleep remedies still not working? 

Why am I obsessively trying to clean my flat when it’s actually really clean? 

How could I help that friend out? I should text other 10 more friends tomorrow to just ask them how they’re doing.

I still need to get that 3rd .Net 5 course completed, one is never enough. Duh!

Remember that error in my code today, let’s start thinking about the code I wrote in the morning from the beginning to find the issue. 

Oh, I need to go shopping, but I also need to save up money! My sister’s birthday is coming up soon. 

It'd be good to do batch cooking this weekend.

I should clean my flat again, even though I did a big cleaning the other day.

Oh wait the code, I think I know what’s the problem, well I can’t sleep already I should turn my laptop on to work a bit more... 

More screen time, less sleep time… 

This became a regular occurrence at nighttime and these are a genuine snippet of examples of what’s going on inside my mind. There are also unrealistic scenarios of the conversations I might have (or had) with people. I also think about a family member's problem which I have zero control over. Future planning, massive amounts of stresses and traumas caused by previous romantic relationships, previous workplaces, family members... And on and on...

But I know what’s causing all these, so it should be fine shouldn’t it??

A second realization

I started reading a book called Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. This book is used to help people with cognitive-behavioral issues by professional therapists. If you follow the instructions you can also be your own therapist.

Recently I’ve read a phrase and that’s when everything came to light 💡:

“Finding the source or nature of your problem could make you gain self-insight; but, usually this will not make you change your behavior. This is actually not surprising. For years, you’ve been feeding your insecurities with destructive thought habits. To resolve your issue, there should be a systematic and constant effort.”

This was my issue. I have been hiding behind the reasons but never actually thought about how to resolve my issues! And to be honest there is no guide for a living, you know. None of the therapists or my life coach could ever show me how to fix them, but then I guess it’s never the case with them, they can never actually tell you what to do. You can only help yourself. 

No, that’s not entirely correct.

Yes I can help myself, but I am a human just like everyone else around me. While there are no massive expectations from me either from my job or my friends or family, I came to the conclusion that I should be more open about my feelings.

At this point I have to say, I am working with incredible people. I am extremely lucky to work with them. Every single one of them is such an understanding, caring person. Even when I wasn’t aware of it, when I was so close to another burn-out, my boss had forced me to take some time off. He always received my blurt-outs in a really friendly way and helped me in so many ways that I can’t even begin to start writing here. Working in a really friendly environment, amazing co-workers, genuine friends, I’m so lucky! 

I started talking more about my feelings to my family/friends and only received good thoughts and kind feelings. 


So here I am. 

First I had to deal with my imposter monster that was living inside my brain. Find out how it had been created and how I had continued to feed it and allow it to make quite a comfortable home. Finally, after letting it grow for over 30 years, I started to learn how to beat it! 

The following steps made me realize my problems and helped me find solutions;

  1. Admitting that I have a problem.
  2. Trying to be more aware of my feelings and the thoughts that are causing those feelings. 
  3. Defining the problems, with therapists, life coaches, books…
  4. Realizing that defining the problems is not a solution.
  5. Finding the solutions
    • Be open and honest about how I feel to everyone around me, as long as they’re open to receive
    • WRITE down the automatic thoughts that are actually behind those emotions (self-criticism) 
    • Realize that the emotions arise when the monster is awake and doing its job with the self-criticism
    • Learn the cognitive distortion for these thoughts (I’ve got the book for the definitions and how to realize them)
    • Write down more realistic and logical thoughts that are actually happening and talk and try to convince my inner self (self-defense)
    • Re-consider the emotions after my self-defense
    • Be consistent with this system - no one can change what’s been there for 30 years in a flash
    • Stop speaking/thinking ill about myself

Here’s a daily example of one of the issues that the stupid imposter monster has been causing me and how I try to defeat it:

My boss asks me to implement a new piece of functionality to an existing project.

I write my code, test it, make sure it works, create a PR, and submit it for review.

My boss submits feedback which includes an obvious mistake I’ve made.

Within just a split second, right after I read the feedback, the monster starts inside my mind:

“How could you possibly not see that mistake, you are so stupid! He showed you what to do ages ago, now he will think you don’t listen to him. You always make stupid mistakes. You never get better, eventually, he will give up and fire you!”

The feelings after these thoughts:

Anxious - 90%

Upset - 75%

Disappointed in myself - 95%

Cognitive distortions in every single thought:

“How could you possibly not see that mistake, you are so stupid!”

  • Overgeneralization,
  • Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization 
  • Labeling and Mislabeling

“He showed you what to do ages ago, now he will think you don’t listen to him.”

  • Jumping to Conclusions – Mind Reading

“You always do stupid mistakes.”

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking / Polarized Thinking
  • Overgeneralization
  • Mental Filter

“You never get better, eventually, he will give up and fire you!”

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking / Polarized Thinking
  • Overgeneralization
  • Mental Filter
  • Jumping to Conclusions – Fortune Telling
  • Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization

The next step is to write more realistic thoughts for each one of them:

“How could you possibly not see that mistake, you are so stupid!”

  • It’s normal to miss that mistake, this doesn’t mean I am stupid. It means I am human. Everyone makes mistakes.

“He showed you what to do ages ago, now he will think I don’t listen to him.”

  • It’s so common to forget what to do. Almost all of the developers keep searching how-to dos for the same thing even though they have done it repeatedly. 
  • He knows I am listening to him. 

“You always make stupid mistakes.”

  • This is an exaggeration. I don’t ALWAYS make mistakes, I sometimes make mistakes and it is decreasing every day. No one is perfect, everyone can make mistakes, this doesn’t mean they always do stupid mistakes.
  • Next time try to be more alert to these kinds of mistakes.

“You never get better, eventually, he will give up and fire you!”

  • I am already getting better. Most of the feedback about my work is actually pretty good. 
  • I can’t predict if he will give up and fire me but I can prevent this from happening by working harder and that’s the only thing I can do already. 

The feelings after my realistic and logical thoughts:

Relieved - 55%

Anxious - 20%

Upset - 10%

Disappointed in myself - 30%

This is a genuine process about just one issue, and these are genuine feelings after I complete writing thoughts down. As you see it helps me a lot.

Well, this is how I am trying to help myself.

It is a constant battle and it is really frustrating.

Aside from all these, I am trying meditation, self and beauty care and socializing more. I am also trying to take more days off so I can rest longer on some weekends.

Most days it’s hard to find the motivation but I think it is still good progress. I try to manage my spare time better, to have some time for myself every week and aim to break these tasks down into smaller daily chunks. 

If you are having similar issues, you are not alone. Please don't be afraid to talk about it. There's nothing more natural than struggling with trying to live with yourself.

I hope my experiences and my monster have shed some light and been helpful to someone! 

Loads of pure love and happy Christmas!

Büşra Şengül

Büşra is on Twitter as