#1082: “How do I deal with people who aren’t happy about my work success (if this is even success)?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m having an awkward problem dealing with jealousy(?) from my peers.

I’m mid-twenties and very new to the working world. I dropped out of highschool due to some very serious mental health struggles and have only managed to pick myself up in the past few years. I’m doing amazing now, though I will probably still be in therapy for a couple more decades. I don’t think this history is relevant to my successes, but it’s probably relevant to my raging “imposter syndrome” and insecurities.

Last year, I was given a very cool opportunity to program a small game, with dedicated art assets and various quality checks already in place. I had never programmed anything for money before, but I quickly taught myself what I was doing and I felt very supported throughout. The client is impressed enough that I was brought on for a second game with the same team. I’ve realized that I am Not Bad at this, and, more importantly, I love doing it enough that I want to keep going. I plan to take some real classes and branch out in my abilities so I can make this a full-time job.

Not everyone is happy for me, and I don’t know how to deal with negative responses to my new streak of “doing well,” especially as it relates to my work. A lot of my friends have previously tried to make their own games, often unsuccessfully. I got a lot of discouraging talk early on (“it’s actually really hard and you’ll hate it!”) but it hasn’t been as bad now that I have a completed game ready to go out and am working on the second one. It’s been a lot harder for me to cope with comments that minimize my achievements and make them into… well, not achievements. For example, recently an acquaintance (who has previously expressed interest in working in this field) asked what development tools I was using and said something like, “Wow, people pay money for that? Really? *I* could do that – I should start doing it too.”

I didn’t want to be publicly insecure about my abilities, so I wasn’t. But it made me feel really, really bad, like what I was doing wasn’t significant or valuable. I don’t know what to do to gracefully defend myself when this kind of thing comes up, or if I even should. I already have a lot of survivor’s guilt for how well my life has been going the past two years, when a lot of my peer group is Very Sad All The Time, so it’s possible that these kinds of comments are being blown out of proportion for me. How do I cope with it? What can I say?

A Real Programmer!

Dear Real Programmer,

You sound like you are very very good at your work and I am glad that other people are recognizing how great you are at it! Congratulations on your new projects!

These folks are letting their jealousy and insecurity show and it is not pretty. These are gross comments to make to friends or colleagues when they get a new job or do something cool!

The most important thing to keep in mind here is: You know more than they do about this stuff! They are not the experts – on you, on the industry, on software, on your prospects or likely enjoyment. So please, please, do not let their comments slow you down or affect your confidence.

As for responding to strange comments on your work:

  • Just stare at them in silence until they change the subject. Like, what are they even talking about?
  • “Wow.” + awkward silence
  • “Weird, why would you say that?” 
  • “Did you mean to say ‘congratulations on your new gig?’ If so, thanks!” 
  • Or, act as if they said something nice. “Well, great, I’m really excited about it. What’s new with you?” 
  • “I have no idea what to say to that.” 
  • “Welp, if you think you’d be good at it, give it a try!”
  • “Probably time for a new topic, though, this one got really awkward.” 
  • “I sure hope you’re wrong about that, I guess we’ll find out!” 
  • “Good thing you’re not the boss of me!” 
  • “Did you mean that to be helpful? It isn’t.” 

BTW I think there is a 99.99% chance that most of these snarky assholes are dudes looking for some way to feel superior to you even in the face of your success in a field that they think belongs to them (EVEN IF THEY DON’T ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING IN THE ACTUAL FIELD). If I am right, their misogyny is showing, and this is just more reason to ignore these comments and go on awesome-ing.

In short, continue crushing it, do not feel compelled to comfort people when they are taken aback by how brightly you shine. Seek out people on your level who are able to be happy for other people’s success.

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Image description: Animated gif of a lady in a sparkly gown and mask surrounded by men bowing to her, with the words: “BOW DOWN”



207 thoughts on “#1082: “How do I deal with people who aren’t happy about my work success (if this is even success)?”

  1. This is success. Own it, love it.

    I’m a programmer myself, and a lot of this sounds like jealousy and insecure bragging on their parts. Being capable of it is one thing — the programming I’m doing, I’m certain any other programmer would be capable of, absolutely. But you build up that knowledge of your specialty over time, and claiming that you can just step in to what another programmer is doing and immediately be just as good is just arrogant.

    You’ve managed to work on a game, for money. That’s an incredibly small sphere of programmers that can say they’ve done that, let alone been hired back to work on game #2.

    You rock, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    1. There’s a quote from “The Art Assignment” on PBS Digital that goes something like “If you look at a piece of art and say “I could have done that” well 1. You probably couldn’t, and 2. Even if you could, you didn’t.”
      Even if someone has the capacity to do a thing, if they didn’t get up and actually do the thing then their point is moot.

      Impostor syndrome is a cruel bedfellow, but one of the easiest ways to begin combating it is not to let people who are supposed to be on your side tear you down. (Either by telling them to knock it off, or not talking to them anymore.)

      1. My dad loves to watch soccer and complain that he could do better than the players. It’s fun because then we laugh over all the reasons why that’s an insane statement: dad you’re in your sixties / dad your knee is basically sand inside / dad you’re literally armchairing / dad no

      2. Exactly! I’m a writer, and I often see published work and think, “I could have done that.” But then the voice of reason chimes in with, “Hey self, you didn’t though.” And it reminds me to get after my own projects. I would never, ever say that out loud to someone about their work. And even if I did feel it was something I could have done, the fact that they actually did it is impressive in itself. (The reason I didn’t do it is likely something to do with the amount of work, perseverance, pushing through self-doubt, etc. that doing the thing would have taken – all qualities I aspire to.)

        Bottom line: people who say this to you are a) out of line and b) probably have no idea how much actual work, ability and talent went into what you did.

        1. RIGHT! I think that ALL THE TIME, but there’s no need to say it, because even if I’m right that I could have done their work (better! My work is always better for Reasons!) I didn’t do it. They did. And that means that I should worry about myself, and not what someone else is or is not doing.

          “I could have done that” is never a cool response, basically.

        2. I’m sorry, I don’t understand this – how are you a writer if you’re not published? Is it your hobby? Because I’m pretty good at cooking and gardening but I am not a cook or gardener.

          1. Two possibilities here:
            1. CAnemone might have published work and be referring to other published work they’ve seen.
            2. Lots and lots of people do use nouns to refer to their avocations as well as their jobs. I don’t cook professionally, but I am definitely a cook. People who participate in community theater are actors and musicians and stagehands and everything else. People who grow flowers and vegetables in their yards are certainly gardeners, though you don’t have to call yourself one if that’s not the way you feel about it. And people who use words to create stories or poetry or essays or articles or whatever are writers if they say they are. They might be working on doing so commercially but not be published yet, or they might write a blog or write fanfic or write for their professional/community/religious newsletter, or they might create things they only share with their friends and family but that they put effort into and get joy out of.

          2. @Kacienna, thank you for saying exactly what I was coming here to say, but probably more clearly!

          3. I’m not published, but I’d still consider myself to be a writer. If I ever am lucky enough to be published, I’d consider myself an ‘author’ as well as a writer. Not sure if any dictionary totally agrees with my personal definitions but it seems to make sense in my brain.

          4. Your identity isn’t just tied up with things you do for money or for recognition. Your identity is tied up with what you have a talent for, what you love, and what you stand for.

          5. @Fantasia Others have already addressed that you can be a writer without being published, so it doesn’t need to be repeated, but your comment really bothered me. It came off as rude and disingenuous. Next time, if you’re really confused about something, maybe find a nicer way to ask for clarification.

        3. I agree with Barlowstreet, below, who says that a writer is someone who writes — a publisher is someone who publishes.

          As the saying goes, a writer writes. If you write, then go ahead and call yourself a writer. You’re a writer if you’ve sold articles but you’re also a writer if you haven’t made a dime from your work. (Yet.) You’re a writer if you maintain a blog. You’re a writer if you’re pecking away at the Great American Novel, a memoir or a collection of urban sonnets.

          I wish you luck in pushing through that self-doubt et al. Feel free to drop me a line at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com — I’ve been making a living as a writer for 34 years and would be glad to listen if you wanted to bounce any questions off me. I’ve also dealt with anxiety and depression that sometimes made it hard to work. I’d be glad to share a few tactics that have helped me through it.

          And to the OP: Please allow yourself to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment. You’re amazing! You did this! And you’re doing it again! I am very impressed and I congratulate you.

          However, I also understand Impostor Syndrome, having worked in newspapers for for 18 years without a journalism degree (or any degree at all). Although my work won regional and national awards, I always felt as though someone would decide I couldn’t do this any longer because of my lack of a j-school sheepskin. Impostor Syndrome messes with your head. I hope you can find ways to banish these thoughts — and to use some of CA’s scripts when people deride your accomplishments. Because they ARE accomplishments. Jealous people can’t stand the idea that someone else is succeeding at something they wish they could do.

          The difference? You’re doing it. They aren’t. Go you!

      3. THIS. I think a lot of sciency/programming stuff looks easy from the outside, especially because technical skills and soft skills feed into each other and the latter are severely undervalued (at least, in my field). The better you are at collaboration, the faster you learn. The better you are at picking up a ton of easy skills on the fly, the more you’ll produce. If a person looks at one project using one easy skill, they can say “I could have done that,” but they wouldn’t have known to do it, they know nothing of the 100+ other things you learned that didn’t need to be used in the final product, etc etc. Learning one thing really well and being inflexible about it is where scientific careers go to die. But it earns you internet points, I guess.

        Another good example is professional musicians vs. a hobbiest who gets really good and one extremely difficult song, but can play nothing else. From the outside, the hobbiest looks like the fancier musician, but to a professional it’s obvious that technical skill and the ability to learn quickly are both equally important.

        1. I’m a fan of gymnastics and ice skating. These are sports, when done by the trained professionals, look so effortless. I watch these events and always sigh wistfully “oh, I wish I could do that” to which my husband will say “well take a lesson and learn how to do it.” I always remind him that I’m middle aged, lacking the focus needed, and not ready to devote myself to the rigorous training that these athletes have undergone to become the competitors they are. I just love watching the way that they make things look so effortless and easy…but I’m aware enough to know that there’s a reason for it.

          LW, your friends are being jerks.

          1. I mean, you could still take the lessons. My mom learned to skate post-retirement because she’d always wanted to learn, but she’s certainly not going to be landing olympic performance jumps.
            But! There is a difference between “can skate” and “can land a quad”, and there is also a difference between “can code” and “can succeed in a coding career”
            There is also something disingenuous about substituting the one for the other, as in the case of LWs “”friends”” who may be correct in that they could do the former, but they are refusing to acknowledge that the latter is a different thing which they cannot do.

      4. I like Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech where he said:

        It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

        1. Oh wow, this is great. Thanks for sharing! Definitely going to remember this for future situations.

      5. Yes! We aren’t our potential, we’re our actions. I’m a graphic artist and find it’s important to take chances to support other artists. When you have success, I take every opportunity to send the ladder down and encourage the success of others. These commenters serve as a good reminder not to be that person

        What works for me and might be worth trying for you, LW: I try to encourage them in some way. Be the example I want to be.

        “Oh you want to make games too? Awesome, great to grow the industry. If you tackle it and need help, check in. You’d be surprised at some of the challenges that come up.”

        “I wish it was as easy as it looks! You’re so good at X that you make it look easy. Though I know you worked hard to be so good.”

        “You’ve tried making games in the past. Keep at it! You inspire me! Let’s support each other” (Actively say specifically I expect support.)

        “If they see value in what I do, I’m happy to take the money. I can send you some resources if you’re interested in starting out.”

        “It’s s skill that takes effort and practice to learn. All that preparation along with the right opportunities and people has worked out well!”

        Rather than jealousy, I frame it that they are sad that they haven’t done it. Or admire it and like to think they could do something as good. In that way, you’re a role model. Find some positive truth in what they are saying.

        In fact, their devaluing their work is probably a sign of how they don’t value their own effort. (See the book Mindset by Carol Dweck)

        Lots of people don’t really know the effort it takes. It’s a great opportunity to say: Yes this is work.

        If they are unconvinced after one or two stock answers, then I let them think whatever they want.

      6. I studied art history in college, and I’d hear “I could have done that” usually in reference to Abstract Expressionist art from (usually) family when I was studying. I’d always say “but you didn’t”. There is no argument to that.

        LW–In a past job I was responsible for hiring and supervising 40+ staff during a seasonal educational program. Now I work in schools. These experiences have lead me to to have very little patience for “I could do that”. I see so many students with great intellectual strengths–making connections between multiple ideas, abstract thinking, ability to make inferences, etc. But if they don’t get something immediately, they melt down. In the staff that I supervised, I much preferred someone who would put their head down and do the job than someone who thinks their innate abilities can carry them.

        So, as many others have said-Have pride in your ability to successfully complete a difficult job–and be asked back. I felt pride for you as I read the letter. When you got to the reactions of people in your life, I maybe said something that I’d give a student detention for.

        One final thought since you brought up Impostor Syndrome–Whenever I am feeling down about my abilities at work, I ask myself “If my friend shared this with me, how would I feel?” Usually I’d answer that I’d feel immense pride. Then I’d think that if I can feel proud for a friend, then I can feel proud for myself. I also have to remind myself that striving for continuous improvement doesn’t mean that my past work was bad.

        1. Spouse bought paint and tried to replicate an abstract work of art that I loved instead of purchasing the art. He has no training and his efforts were a dismal failure.

          I don’t know why something that looks so simple on the canvas is so hard to reproduce, and clearly neither did he. It would probably take going to classes on art just to know why the art was good, let alone reproduce it.

          But I still wish I had bought that painting. *sigh*

          1. Haha, well I actually salute spouse for trying. Did they learn a lesson about abstract art? (NGL I used to think abstract would be easy to do… until I tried making it)

          2. I actually had to google why Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings are good. I’m not an artist or art historian. I tend to think if it looks like I can do it, it isn’t really art.

          3. That actually made me giggle out loud. Not many people actually try when they say that!

            If the artwork has already sold, I do hope you at least get to purchase a print or something. Everyone should get to enjoy the art they love.

        2. I was a student like that until about halfway through 9th grade. I sailed through school picking up concepts easily enough that I took it for granted. Then I hit a wall with a concept in my honors geometry class. I told the teacher that I thought I should drop to the regular geometry class, and he told me that I was being lazy because I had never had to work to learn before. It was harsh, but true.

          1. Similar story here… and yes, “had never had to work to learn before” describes it well. And yet it seems cruel to label that as “lazy” to not be ready do that work when you’ve also never had the opportunity to learn how to work to learn, and to some extent maybe not even realize that there is work to be done! It may just as well come across as “learning no longer works, apparentIy am no longer smart” and frequently does :/

          2. Learning to study a thing that doesn’t come naturally to you is a skill in and of itself. Unfortunately kids with high ability in a few domains take so long to get there, and teachers are often so ready to see it as a comeuppance that they rarely get the help to learn it that they need

        3. As an art teacher I spend a larger amount of time than one would think explaining why abstract expressionism is a) harder than it looks (for real, the amount of time it takes to master dripping paint like Pollack did and then covering an entire canvas with that many layers when I can’t even get my kids to do drawings that take up the majority of the page….stunning) and b) about the fact that comeone conceived of it at all just as much as what you think it took to make it (if you don’t like Mark Rothko – translate: don’t understand – look up the Rothko chapel and realize that is the church equivalent of his paintings, I swear you will get it much better). Just because something looks easy doesn’t mean it was, and just because you don’t understand why something was created doesn’t mean you get to deem it pointless.

  2. LW, your success is amazing! Programming work is really hard, game development is really hard, and it’s amazing that you’ve found something you enjoy doing and you’re great at. I can’t wait to play your games someday.

    [This is also an excellent reminder for me (being in the position of sadmadbad feels at my friend’s deserved success) that I’ve been displaying Not Great ways to support my friend (who is crushing it in our shared field). Thanks for the reminder, LW and Captain.]

    1. I’d also like to point out that there are different kinds of programming, and those different kinds can require slightly to significantly different skill sets. For example, I can right low level drivers that directly access hardware all day long. Just don’t ask me to write a complex database application with input and query forms. I know the basic concepts of how to build such an application, but you really want someone who can do in in their sleep. I’m confident that game programming its similar areas of specialized knowledge, techniques, and skills that not every programmer out there has developed.

  3. Hello Real Programmer, First congrats on your success. You did it. No one else. You.
    I had a similar situation where I struggled for a long time to get over some mental blockages. When I finally did make it my field, I saw how angry and jealous others were. They didn’t want me to be successful or pass them by.
    One thing I noticed I did was to lead with self depreciating remarks, ‘Oh it’s nothing, no big deal, if I can do it anyone can etc…’ I did it out of insecurity, who was I to take credit for anything? Well, the people who disliked my success just chimed right in with how easy it all was.
    So besides using those great responses from CA, you might want to look at how the conversation starts too. Stand proud, you earned it…

    1. I somehow picked up the idea that it’s more polite to talk about achievements with self-deprecating remarks, because it makes me seem more modest and feminine. Of course, that comes from the same culture that brought us purity balls and slut shaming…

      1. okay, I goofed and had to look twice at “purity balls” to figure out what it meant…seeing it paired with “slut shaming,” I somehow imagined it was like a purity ring but for dudes’…parts. >.<

  4. People who are successful do the things that others are not willing to do.

    It is a universal thing in all arenas that as you’re making your way through the desert, going after a dream people will say, “It’s too hard turn back!” “You’re not cut out for this!” “Why don’t you just [get a real job/be happy with where you are/focus on your family etc]”.

    Then, when you achieve success, they’ll say, “You’re so lucky.”

    You’re not lucky. You did what they weren’t willing to do, and powered through.

  5. lady programmer here! I had an internship at a game company right out of college and it was great – if you like what you’re doing, I hope you can learn to tune out any jealousy and enjoy your success.

    That said, only based on your letter, I think there’s some benefit of the doubt you could extend to your peers. For example you say a friend told you “Wow, people pay money for that? Really? *I* could do that – I should start doing it too.”. That they said “I should start doing it too” makes me think maybe they are jealous of your success, but that they aren’t necessarily trying to drag you down but rather facing their own insecurities at having not “worked hard enough” or otherwise succeeded at something they enjoy. This is NOT your problem to manage if so, but I just bring this up because you mentioned a lot of imposter syndrome and other things that could be causing you to view remarks that your peers view as neutral as attacks against yourself.

    Some possible replies to statements like this could be “Yeah it’s great, you should apply if you see an opening!”. Or “Yeah I’m glad I found a paying gig, I know they’re hard to find sometimes, but I networked with [group] you could check them out.” A bit of a more positive tactic than the Captain suggests. I think it will depend on your peer group, tone of voice, how they approach other parts of your friendship etc, whether this is a good suggestion, but I wanted to put it out there.

    1. Yeah, depending on tone I can definitely see the friend’s comment as coming from a place of “wait, this thing I thought was totally amateur-level fooling around is actually something you can make money at? Maybe I should look into a gaming career more seriously!”. But it could also absolutely be negging.

      1. To me, it sounded more like ‘what, you are making money with [tool I consider beneath me]? That’s not real programming, therefore your game is not a real game.’

    2. To me, the way that comment was phrased in the letter makes it sound like pretty rude and dismissive. There is definitely a non-patronizing way to say the same thing, like, “Wow, it’s amazing that you’ve been so successful! That sounds like something I’d be interested in too.” Maybe that is the friend’s underlying sentiment, but they may be letting their own insecurity get in the way. This might just be my read, but if I were the letter writer, I’d focus my energy on helping people who aren’t so rude.

      1. I think the response assuming it was well-meant works either way, though — if they were just envious/curious/looking to improve their own prospects, it’s kind; if they’re negging/insulting/snarking, it takes the wind out of their sails because they were looking for a slightly hurt response.

        1. I love doing this. If they actually did mean well and are just really awkward, no harm done. If they didn’t, it completely upends their script in a way that is often hilarious to watch.

    3. As someone married to a game programmer for 15 years, I’ve noticed that people REALLY do not understand what it takes to develop games. It’s become a joke with us how often someone will say something like “well I’ve done some coding, and I know it would only take two programmers a week to add multiplayer to this game.”


      1. Heh, I have done various types of scientific code based on 3-d time-domain dynamic equations and finite signal speed — ocean modeling, astrophysics, electromagnetics.

        And I’ve done a lot of rendering of 3-d results to bring out the hidden features of the data no one knew was there.

        And people are always blown away by what can be seen this way, and yet there’s always the one dudetwerp who announces he’ll do that too now, since people are so impressed; he does 2-d work, so going to 3-d will be trivial (for one of his brilliance, it is heavily implied).

        And those of us who actually know what’s going on politely contain our snickers until dudetwerp is out of earshot.

          1. It is; I have been part of and witness to some amazing discoveries, which is a hell of a privilege.

            Which is a stark reminder to me of what privilege means. White men simply get to do things like that. I had to risk my life for it, but I still get to do such things. I can do the math — there are a great many girls scattered all across the globe with every intellectual gift I ever had and more, who tower over me in raw brainpower, and yet few will get my chances. #thingsthatmakemepissy

  6. I make and sell ceramic buttons that people buy and sew onto things that they make. Or they put them into jars with other buttons. Or maybe they just put them into their pockets and carry them around. Whatever they do, they give me money in exchange for things I make.

    It sounds insane that this is something I do and that people give me money for it, but I have found success. I have also lost at least one friend because this infuriated him to the point that he could no longer come over to our home because his attempts at success in his own fields haven’t worked for various reasons. That people give ME money for something so STUPID (his words, not mine) just drove him to insanity. But it’s my success and perseverance and lack of fear that drives him nuts. It could be anyone, not me, that would drive him crazy. You would also drive him crazy because people that let their fear hold them back have a special little disgust and hatred for those of us that just keep going forward when the tide turns.

    I’m fine that people find it odd that people pay me for this because some people that don’t know that making buttons and making games for money is a REAL LEGIT THING. I answer those with “handmade is popular and beloved, and I’m happy to be the maker”. You could answer “how did you think games were created? With magic?”. The legit jerks, like the people downplaying your success, are the ones that I can’t stomach. I like to follow the Captain’s scripts. I also like to turn the tables and ask about THEIR projects to focus on what they AREN’T doing because I’m a mean bitch. Don’t shit on my success when you’re sitting around staring at your bellybutton, haters.

    Keep doing you, and don’t let them doubt yourself. Keep grabbing the opportunities and explore your talents. You’re doing it right. Screw the dicks.

    1. I like you, The Potter ( and not just because I’m a seamstress that will pay money for a really eye-catching button). Whenever anyone tries to rain on my parade like this, I also turn the tables and bring up the one thing I know they’ve been saying they’ll do, but haven’t. Or if they were particularly mean, I’ll bring up something they’ve been working on for a long time but failing miserably at.

      It’s mean, but sometimes the end justifies the mean. No one’s going to stomp on my success!

      And congratulations! I love sewing but, like everything under the Maker umbrella, I know that it is really hard to be both successful and profitable as a Maker. You did it! I hope you have continued success and leave your naysayers in the dust!

    2. I lost a friend when I got accepted to grad school. It got more and more awkward to talk to her because every conversation started with me having to ritualistically perform shame and humility that I was going to grad school and she had never finished undergrad, and reassure her that she wasn’t stupid or worthless. After a few months I realized that I was fucking exhausted by what our friendship had become and I slow-faded, never to be seen or heard from again.

      I think that if someone is in a place in their life where they’re going to be angry and hurt by other people’s success, it could literally be anything that sets them off, and it’s best to just keep on trucking and being awesome. Preferably without their negativity.

      1. I have to admit I feel a tug of low grade jealousy for people who finish grad school, because it’s something I always wanted to do, but you know what? I’m doing other things, and I’m good at those things, and happy with those things, and maybe I wouldn’t be as happy if my life had taken that other trajectory! I try to be happy for anybody whose happy in their profession, and not let my jealousies color my reaction to their happiness. The bottom line for me with my friends is “Are they genuinely happy?” If so, then so am I.

        Im in my forties and been a loner for most of my life, with no close friends and I have one now. I am just really learning how to be genuine friends with her. I’m still learning how to behave, what to say, what to do, because I didn’t learn this stuff when I was younger. I’m trying to approach all my her according to WWGWD! What would a grown woman do?

        1. Yeah but the feelings aren’t the behaviors. I might feel jealous of another persons accomplishments but it’s way different if I make them do any emotional labor over that. Your feelings are normal.

    3. OMG this is so great: “Don’t shit on my success when you’re sitting around staring at your bellybutton, haters”. If you have that on one of your buttons I will buy like a dozen of them and give them to everyone I know.

    4. You know, until I read this, I kind of didn’t consciously realize *anyone* made buttons. I mean, obviously they exist and if you had asked me I would have said they’re manufactured somehow, but I never put a moment’s thought into the fact that buttons…get made.

      So thank you for making me think about something new, and kudos for finding your niche in something many people would never have even thought of!

      1. Yeah, I really empathize with “Wow, people pay money for that? Really?” because, well, yeah. Who would’ve thunk?

        And before I had a friend in game software development, I’m not sure how I thought games were made either even though my day job is in IT AND I am a gamer. I guess I think all things are just made with magic until I know someone who actually has a hand in making them. The world, how does it even work?

        1. I’m more like “Woah, making buttons is a JOB people can HAVE? That is SO COOL.” I think I just assumed all buttons were expelled from a factory in Asia with minimal human intervention.

          I just spent a weekend with someone who works in TV/film costuming and whose entire job is making film costumes look realistically aged/dirty/bled on/shot/etc. I had no idea that was a job! How cool is it that that’s a job???

          Every job I’ve had since I left graduate school has been some weird job I didn’t even realize was a thing people got paid to do until I got that job. I work on language recognition systems and none of my jobs even existed when I was in high school. There is more on heaven and earth etc etc.

          1. I often think about jobs like this. How do you get this job doing this weird thing? I drove past the Space Needle the other day and I was like “How do you get the job of ‘guy who puts a flag on the tippy top of the thing’?” Or … writing clothing care labels. Or manufacturing fake fur.

        2. I took my girls to a design center for a field trip (they are 11). People get paid to:

          -mold prototypes out of clay
          -design fonts by hand, letter by letter
          -choose interior fabrics and colors for new products
          -program machines to make pieces that just the day before were only sketches and clay
          -paint and color and draw and sketch

          This was all for one company, and they were all women engineers. This is one of my favorite things I’ve done with my girls, because they had the exact same reaction – “YOU GET PAID TO PLAY WITH CLAY ALL DAY?!? HOW DO I GET TO DO THAT?!? THAT IS MY DREAM JOB!!!”

          And later, relaying the story to my cousin (who went to art college):

          “I wish someone had told me these jobs were available. I know all these things, and they’re not hard.”

          They’re not hard *for her*. I could not do these things. I am a planner and a scheduler. I follow order of operations and lists and that’s it. I live by structure. The rest of my family are all creative and makers, and they are some of the best people I know. I love them and am incredibly jealous of their skills and abilities.

          This is an incredibly long way of saying we all have different skills and abilities, and please embrace yours and give us all the video games because Stardew Valley is eating all my spare time right now. ❤

      2. I knew someone who had a nice sideline of making and selling reproduction knobs for vintage radios. Who knew?

    5. Wow, as a crafty person who loves sewing interesting buttons onto things I think your job is awesome and would totally love to pay you money for buttons! I recently clicked on an ad from Instagram for the first time EVER because it was for an online button shop, and I practically started drooling. And that was just selling machine manufactured buttons; handmade ones usually make me get the grabby hands far worse!

      Meanwhile, right now I’m really glad I haven’t actually lost any friends over my job. I have to admit I was really really worried when I first got into this field (it also involves video games and other nerdy entertainment that a lot of my friends love, some even much more than I do) that it would get awkward for exactly these reasons, but fortunately all the people closest to me have been super awesome about it, even the ones who probably ARE jealous but keep it to themselves.

      I DO get these ugly comments from acquaintances pretty often, who hear what I do and basically instantly say that they COULD be doing that too if they didn’t have a REAL job or something like that, but that just gives me a good reason not to bother getting to know those people any better. It’s amazing how often I get remarks like that from people I’ve JUST met! I’m usually really polite about it, saying things like, “It’s actually been pretty difficult building up the skills and connections I need, but I love my work and am glad I’ve stuck with it,” but I think in the future I might start going with blunter scripts from the Captain’s list, because what do I owe these rude people?!

      1. I’d be really tempted to say “yeah, it’s amazing being so well paid to do something I love”. Thereby implying all kinds of nasty things about their “real job” without actually saying any of those nasty things.

    6. I love your story! Congratulations!
      And now I’m contemplating getting a jar with random buttons, that sounds great (even though I never felt the need for one before).

      1. My mom had an old canning jar (the kind with the zinc lid) filled with buttons. Not sure where they came from, since she didn’t really sew; may have been from my great-grandmother. But we kids liked to open the jar and sort through all the buttons and stare at the colors, the shapes, the designs… Now I have to go online and look for button artisan websites.

        Once I interviewed a woman who did “lampworking,” or making beads by hand with rods of colorful glass and a supercharged blowtorch. The craftsmanship was ASTOUNDING — and, sadly, she can’t charge what they’re worth because the average person says, “What, $20 for ONE BEAD?!? Do you know how many (plastic, made under oppressive conditions in a foreign country) beads I could get for $20?????”

        (I loved being a newspaper features writer. It let me go into so many situations and say, “How did you do that?”)

        1. Same with me and knitting. When people see my lace, they often compliment me by saying I should sell it, and then I have to explain that $30 of nice yarn for 40 hours of entertainment plus a pretty shawl is great economic value for me, but no-one’s going to pay $30 + 40x(any reasonable hourly rate) for a fancy scarf.

  7. One of my favorite quotes ever is about modern art. It’s something like, “Modern art is ‘I could have done that’ plus ‘yeah, but you didn’t.'”. I’m going to set the first statement aside, because anyone can claim they have the ability to do something and then take a nap instead of proving it. I think the second statement is the most important. The willingness you have shown to put yourself out there and try something difficult is how you know you’re not an imposter, and that those jealous, commentating d-bags are really only that.

  8. I have been a working programmer for twenty-five years now. Before that I took pictures, another business that had a lot of people who were self-appointed deciders of what subjects and tools made someone “real” or not. Someone told me something valuable about that business and I’ve found it true in the computer world as well: when you encounter someone who wants to spend a bunch of time categorizing the work or the tools used to do it, you’ve found someone who’d rather argue about that nonsense rather than actually do the work. Pros don’t have time to be precious about that junk: they need to get stuff done and they’ll use whatever it takes to do the work.

    Good for you on finding something you like doing and putting in the work to learn it. The best and worst thing about this business is that the need to keep learning and practicing never ends. So don’t waste time listening to purist jerks, you have things to do.

  9. LW, it might be time for a moratorium on work talk with friends (or at least, with the ones who are in the same industry as you), or a straight cull of them. My friends have been happy for me (or at least faked it well enough) about each of my personal and professional milestones, and equally, I’m thrilled when things go well for them, even if I’m not feeling so great about things in my own life. Friendship should not be competitive.

    I’m not suggesting you cut anyone off for one shitty comment, but if you start seeing a pattern in certain people where your success and happiness are met with these undermining responses, then you should not feel bad about making less space in your life for these people so that you can have more space for the people who react positively to your successes. If you value the relationships enough to want to try to preserve them, you could call the consistent underminers out, “It seems like every time something goes well for me, you have something negative to say about it. Why?” but in my experience, people who engage in this kind of behavior are generally not even willing to admit to doing it, much less the reasons why they do.

    1. I agree – either avoid talking about this subject with them, or avoid them entirely.

      This reminds me of my dad, who for as long as I can remember would say “well, why didn’t you do better?” whenever I showed him my grades. Seriously, it happened all through high school and college, and when I went back to college in my 30s. I remember I got 103% on a math test, and he asked why I didn’t get 104! I asked him politely not to do that, I asked him not so politely, I even yelled at him. No dice. I’m not going to stop talking to him altogether – so I stopped telling him my grades. Peace at last.

      To this day, he denies ever doing it, though, and your friends probably will, too.

      Congratulations on your success and good luck with whatever you decide!

      1. I had a parent who did the same thing, so you have my heartfelt sympathy.
        I’m dying to know though, how did you manage to get more than 100%? Was there an extra-credit component?

      2. I’m so sorry your dad did that, it’s so obnoxious! There was a period in my life where all the guys I dated asked me, unprovoked, what score I got on my SAT’s (college exams). I tried answering at first, but despite feeling fine about my scores the act of answering made me feel awful no matter how I put it or the reaction I got. So whenever someone asked I just said, “I don’t discuss that. Ever.” To one particularly insistent person who demanded to know WHYYYYY, I told him “because I find it distasteful.” Which was the honest truth. I think it was the first time I realized I could do that.

  10. Real Programmer, you’re doing great! Keep rocking it.

    I’m in the crowd of “Someday-ers” – I want to be a published author so badly it hurts. I am terrified of what I’m doing, there is this middle step of querying that nobody tells you about, and success seems like a combination of magic and stick-to-it-iveness that I have yet to master. But I want it so badly that sometimes thinking about it paralyzes me. When my friend got an agent and then a book deal, I was both so elated for her that her dream is coming true and so mad that I’m not in the same place that I had trouble letting the two feelings coexist. All I said to her was, “Congratulations! I’m thrilled for you!” but what I meant was, “Congratulations! You’ve found the magic combination, please teach me everything you know because you have what I want.” My reaction to her success was entirely selfish. I wanted.

    I wonder if your friends are in the same headspace about programming. You have done something incredibly difficult and you are so good at it you are both being paid and invited back to do more of the same. Your friends are handling it badly. I do not think that you have to accept them handling it badly, nor do I think you should put yourself in a position where you have to deal with it. But if there is that middle step between “wanting” and “getting paid to do” where you interact with the gatekeepers and kind of…level up? It’d be kind if, when people are kind to you (or even kind-ish if you’re feeling generous), you talk about that part.

    In my case, that looked like my friend – in a later conversation – saying, “It really is the query letter that makes the difference! Nothing changed in my submissions except that, so just keep trying different ways of approaching it.” Maybe for you it’ll look like saying, “Thanks, I went to this networking event and talked to people about things I am excited about,” or, “I made a point of telling my boss this was something I’d like to learn.”

    But no matter what, please do not let these reactions keep you from taking pride in what you’ve accomplished.

    1. This actually highlights an interesting point. The thing about that quote – “I could have done that!” “Yeah, well, you didn’t” – is that “you didn’t” actually means “you didn’t do that middle step, the step between vision and execution.”

      That middle step, though, is always the same. It’s perseverance. It’s hard-ass WORK. What separates the LW from the people saying “I could have done that” is that she was willing to do the work. She was willing to do it when it didn’t pay, when there was nothing in it but all her insecurities and imposter syndrome and doubt staring her in the face demanding she give up – what everyone sees who tries to make things. Most people look away from that. Most people can’t face it. Most people envision the artist’s garret with the blank canvas, and then the gallery showing, and none of the days and nights of eating Ramen and schlepping around social media and getting insulted by 14-year-olds on Twitter in between.

      LW, you did what they can’t do: you stared all of those things in the face and decided that the thing you wanted to make was worth all the trouble and misery. THAT is success, because it’s the thing that will allow you to succeed for the rest of your life, while the people trying to bring you down right now always wonder what the secret is that you learned. You learned that there is no secret. Just work. Just trying, every day, even when it’s completely unrewarding. It’s the same thing that people say about dieting – “What’s your secret?” There’s no secret. Eat right. Exercise. Hard, daily work that will never, ever reward you… until the day when finally it does, because you were willing to slog all the way there.

      1. I agree with your main point, but can you please not use dieting as an example? Diet talk is very fraught for a lot of people. Thanks!

  11. Congrats, on success, LW!

    I, too, often have horrible impostor syndrome made worse by assholes who wanna bring me down. How dare I try to be successful when they cannot?

    To this, I say, anytime someone makes you feel low, not worthy, inadequate, or undeserving- take it as a notch in your belt as a way to show you’ve done so well, beyond all expectations, even your own, that you make others mad enough to try to bring you down. That is your measure of success.

    You’ve done it 🙂

  12. “Wow, people pay money for that? Really? *I* could do that – I should start doing it too.”

    That’s pure Dunning-Kruger right there, someone with only the faintest idea of what’s involved in software development, but assuming they know a lot more than they do. They are speaking out of ignorance, but may also be speaking out of entitlement and privilege. A lot of guys can’t imagine a woman being more technically adept as they are at anything, so they assume if a woman is doing it then it can’t be too hard.

    They are wrong, and whether they are doing it on purpose or not, they are being toxic to you. Which SUUUUUCKS, but don’t let them make your impostor syndrome worse than it already is. Software development as a career field is already rife with impostor syndrome. As we learn more and more about how much there is to know in the field, the sheer weight of it all can feel crushing. It took me a while to come to terms with the certainty that no one person can know it all. Just pick your specialties and continue to learn and grow.

    It sounds like you are doing all the right things, OP. Do your best to keep your friends’ and acquaintances’ opinions in perspective, and keep doing what you’re doing.

    A fellow dropout self-taught game programmer

    1. A lot of guys can’t imagine women doing anything even adjacent to technology. I once had a job in the phone dept of a jail, and one duty was swapping out phones when they got broken. Every time I did it, some dude expressed amazement that I could do that task. It involved loosening 5 screws and unplugging a phone cord.

      1. I went back to school 7 years ago, and I bought myself a remote to use during the ridiculous number of PowerPoint reports that we had to give in class. They’re literally plug-and-play, but some guys were astounded that I could switch slides without walking over to the computer. One told the professor I was “cheating.” I still haven’t figured that one out.

    2. “I could do that” is the motto of the real impostors.

      I’m not a programmer, but a professional artist/illustrator. I’m good. I got good through years of hard, dedicated work. Because of my field I also know a lot of professional, successful authors. I bring this up because both art and writing are things that a lot of folks will say “I could do that”.

      And yeah, they probably could. Maybe they do! But they either are NOT doing it, or are not putting in the work and time to do it WELL. And are certainly not putting in the extra effort it takes to *make a living from it*. They like it, they want it, but they don’t want to actually follow through.

      Instead, they sit in cafes and talk about their book to anyone who will listen–but never finish writing it.
      They declare music is easy but never learn how to compose or play an instrument *well*, and never bother to keep a band together or finish their music and put it out into the world.
      They draw for fun, but never bother to put in the hard work and deep practice it takes to improve.
      They declare learning programming is easy, but never seem to finish a game.
      They think they have a great idea and tell everyone about it but never actually create anything from it.
      …or they learn the skills but have bad ideas so never see success. They never collaborate or network successfully with people it takes to get them to the finish line. They don’t approach their hobby as having any kind of actual business potential because *it’s too much work*.

      Often, they don’t try any of those things at all. It’s a pipe-dream they will never, ever pursue. So seeing someone actually do it makes them resentful. Or maybe they did try, but didn’t put in the work to make it. And you did. Again, that is resentment speaking. People view creative fields as hobbies, aka not having much intrinsic worth. So when they see people getting paid to do their “hobby” they get mad.

      The long and short of it is this:

      People who neg their friends and family for being successful in a creative field are JEALOUS that you get to do something fun and creative and passionate for a living. It doesn’t matter why they are salty; just never forget that’s what it boils down to: jealousy. From where they stand, you are living your dreams. Not a lot of folks get to do that. Don’t let anyone de-value that for you, LW. It is awesome and you are awesome.

  13. Hang in, this story is relevant! I had a boyfriend in high school who was great, understanding, kind, smart, my parents liked him, etc. And all was good until I stopped being in crisis mode all the time and began to get things more together. Then he STILL wanted to talk about my angst, problems, help me and whatever. But I did not want or need that any more and he couldn’t cope with the stronger healthier me. I broke up with him. So, I’m wondering whether these friends 1) Really need you to be broken for their own sense of self worth. Or 2) less harmfully, do care but don’t yet get it that you are doing better and having success. 3) Don’t know how to relate to you in your new better place.

    BTW I worked in high tech for many years, did QA, release, and mostly documentation. I’m good on concepts and could write documentation that was useful to really techy MIT-type programmers. But coding, no. I always had to have someone else write my code examples even though I could explain exactly what I wanted them to do or demonstrate. You have a real skill Yay! and own it.

    And yes, there may be some misogyny here too. Read a bit about Gamergate.

    1. This was my thought too. Yes, for sure, these comments are coming out of jealously and probably many also out of misogyny. But also, sometimes people get uncomfortable their friends/family go from “person who needs my support in order to get by in life” and “person who has their shit together and is happy and successful.” I suspect that some of these people were used to feeling superior/more successful than you, and now suddenly you’ve found your footing and are climbing higher than they have. They’re trying to tear you down so that they can see you in the role that they were comfortable you being in.

      Of course, this is all their flipping problem and they are out of line making snarky comments about it. They are showing you that what they valued most in your relationship was the fact that they could use you to feel better about themselves, either because they could feel superior to you or because they felt like you needed them. People like that really don’t deserve your awesome friendship. I bet soon you’ll find some people who find what you do super cool and will be happy about your successes. Spend your energy on those people.

      1. All of this. Also, if they’re gamers, there’s a big contingent of gamers who have some knowledge of coding (but little to no specific knowledge about the coding in a particular game, because that shit’s proprietary) and LOOOVE to yell on the internet about how stupid the game devs are and they would have done this or that differently or that such and such limitation – not even bugs most of the time – is a sign that the developers are bad at their jobs and not that, say, there is a real physical limit on processing speed and network ping and so on.
        It’s always bullshit. Dunning-kruger bullshit.

        So many factors, same garbage result that LW shouldn’t have to spend so much time with.

  14. I think programming is becoming one of those fantasy job escape things these days. They think if they just put a little effort in they could create this amazing app and Microsoft would buy it off them for millions and they could retire to the beach. And they will get around to it, eventually, once the house is clean and they lost that 10 pounds they want to as soon as they finish this cheeseburger. Like the people who have never written a short story, but they have a high typing speed and know they could kick out a bestselling novel with this great idea they had once, but they just don’t have time right now. Which doesn’t excuse any of this behavior – they are being big jerks – they don’t want to acknowledge how awesome you are because they don’t want to acknowledge this is a hard thing to do and you need a rare talent to pick it up quickly.

    My oldjob once asked me to do some programming for them, and I told them I would try because I took a class in Basic wayyyy back in the day (not on my resume, they asked because I was decent with a computer). I gave it the old collage try, but I eventually had to go back to them with a big ‘nope’ and told them they would need to actually pay someone to do this. It was very hard and being competent with a computer and amazing at excel and having passed a high school class on programming that is now over fifteen years out of date was not enough qualifications to just pick it up on the side. So, LW, you are awesome and amazing and your friends should tell you that. If you can’t remember any of these friends ever telling you that you are awesome at something – then maybe see about better friends (a friend of mine told me I put together an amazing resume this morning and I am still riding a tiny high from it). If they have and they are just being weird about this one thing – then maybe quietly roll your eyes when they talk about how awesome they will be at it one day and then change the subject to puppies.

  15. I do full stack web design on the side, so I get this a lot too.

    One thing that has been helpful for me with the “Really? *I* could do that – I should start doing it too” comments is to respond with a cheerful, “You should, if you’re interested! If you’d like, I’ll send you a link to the courses I took.”

    That returns the awkwardness nicely to sender because you’re essentially pointing out, “Yes, you can do it too! Do you want to?” Then they can either decide to Learn A Thing, in which case, yay, more programmers! Or they can decide not to. But it tends to deter further comments, because you have (a) agreed with them that they should do it if they want to and (b) pushed the ball off to their court and walked away from the game.

    There’s another thing I personally find useful. Most people *could* learn to program if they really wanted to. Most people could also learn to sew all their own clothes, change their car’s oil, and bake bread from scratch. Some people choose to do that. But most people decide that they prefer to pay more to have someone else do that work for them. Fundamentally, programmers get paid because most people would rather pay for a finished product rather than spend a huge amount of time learning how to make the product themselves. (Not to mention then having to make the game itself–given that in games, even a simple indie release from a bedroom programmer usually represents years and years of time.)

    That shouldn’t make you feel like your work is less valuable. Instead, realize that what makes your work valuable is that you’ve spent the time learning something a lot of people never bother with, so that you can get paid to do it. Sure, other people can learn it too, but realistically, most won’t.

    1. I took one programming class when getting my AAS in Networking over a decade ago. Nope. Can’t do it. I still don’t know how my test program actually passed because there were several things wrong; it shouldn’t have worked at all.

      1. Eh, fair enough. I mean it more in the sense of… Mm, for example, I have no natural rhythm, have trouble telling right from left, and generally lack coordination. If I really wanted to (and had the resources to) spend the time, effort, and money on coaches, I could probably become a competent tap dancer–though I’m certain I’d never be great.

        Obviously the amount of work I would have to put into it is far greater than, for example, someone with natural coordination, balance, and rhythm. But I have no doubt I could become adequate.

        That’s what I mean with programming. A fairly large share of the population could learn it, given enough time, training, and most of all determination, but most people lack the natural skills to get started and don’t care enough to invest that kind of effort into it. And that’s okay! It’s perfectly okay for me to decide that I don’t actually care about being able to tapdance and it’s okay for you or anyone else to decide they aren’t interested in programming.

        That said if you’re going to sit around talking about how you could do something but you never actually even try to do it, that’s obnoxious.

        1. My brother’s a web dev and he’s pretty constantly frustrated that I won’t learn Python at least because we have very similar skills with language and logic – but I’m not as INTERESTED as he is, and learning something like a language when you’re highly incurious about it is pretty well impossible.

          One thing I can say from our conversations, though: it’s not just the hard skill, it’s the how and why of using it. I mean, in my softer-skills field I mostly make spreadsheets and send emails. Anyone can make spreadsheets and send emails, and yet I still know how to do my job better than other people.

    2. Oh, I really like your suggested response. It’s kind and positive, and on the off chance that Real Programmer is talking to a well-meaning person who word vomits stupid things from time to time (hello, past me!), it offers them an opportunity. In the much more likely event that they are a jealous, belittling asshat, having to take responsibility for their direction in life will shut them down.

      This is good.

  16. I wonder if it would also be a good time for you to try to meet some new people. You say that your “peer group is Very Sad All The Time,” and that can be a lot to deal with. I’m not saying you should drop people who are genuinely your friends, but it might be good for your own mental health to also make some friends who are Generally Cheerful or Dealing With Stuff But Optimistic or Out Kicking Ass. Caring for one another through rough times is of course part of friendship, but so is sharing joys and it sounds like you might enjoy some friends who currently have more capacity for that.

    1. Agreed!!!

      When I was in my late teens/early twenties I had a wonderful group of friends, and we supported each other through some difficult times. I’m only Facebook friends with them now, which if you had asked me then would have seemed impossible.
      It’s not that they were secretly awful people or anything like that, they are still lovely. But they were content with themselves as they were, and I wasn’t. I had the drive to keep pushing and striving towards…something. As a young person, it wasn’t at all clear what that something was, but I just couldn’t settle down, and they could.

      After a while discussions of our problems and successes came down to them telling me to settle, and me telling them to strive. I’m not the good guy here, we all ended up leading productive lives. But we had incompatible approaches to life, and so we ended up drifting and finding friends who fit us better.

      Even if LW’s “Very Sad All The Time” friends are good people with good intentions, it sounds like they may have different ways of living than LW. She needs at least a couple friends who see what she’s doing and just get it, because that’s what they’re doing too.

    2. Yes, I thought the same thing! Getting some positive energy to recharge and look after yourself is important too. That doesn’t mean stop talking to your other friends, but equally you can have other friends as well.

  17. Congratulations on your success! As others note, whether these people might technically be capable is irrelevant – you did the work, they didn’t, and you deserve to be proud of your success.

    I’m going to suggest that maybe these people aren’t particularly good friends if their MO is tearing you (or people generally) down to try to manage their own insecurities. If you can re-frame your interpretation of their comments as commentaries on THEM (they’re insecure and jealous) and not commentaries on YOU (pay attention to the fact that you succeeded and excelled, as evident from the fact that the client hired you again – if what you did really was easy/worthless, someone wouldn’t have paid you for it in the first place and certainly wouldn’t want to do so again), that might help you in the moment in terms of how you’re reacting to the comments. In general I’d say that friends are supportive and build you up; friends are happy for you when you’re doing well. I wouldn’t consider people who tear me down to be friends, I’d start to think of them as toxic acquaintances.

    I know that when my friends have success with, say, carpentry projects (a field in which I worked for eight years, gaining a skill set where I probably could do a lot of what they do, given the time and inclination), I don’t say it’s really easy and dismiss it, I recognize the skill and effort it takes from my own experience and acknowledge that to compliment them. These ‘friends’ had the opportunity to say something like, “Wow, that’s great! I’ve done some hobby (or even professional) programming myself, so I know how difficult it can be to get a complicated piece of software running bug free. You obviously have a talent for it, and this sounds like a great career opportunity!”

    You’ll know better than we if this is a one-off of professional jealousy that you might be able to work through or a toxic pattern, and you might be able to get past the former if they can chill out about it after unfortunately voicing the initial jealous reaction (and maybe even recognize you as the expert and ask for advice for themselves if they’re trying to break into the field). If it’s a pattern, I think it’s time to reevaluate what you’re getting out of these relationships versus what you’re putting in and whether these people really are friends.

  18. People who try to make you feel bad about your success are not your friends. Some people are what I call foul-weather friends–they’ll be there for you when things are hard and you are unhappy, but they can’t celebrate or appreciate your success. Maybe they like feeling superior, or as if they are helping, and so when you don’t need their help, it upsets the dynamic of the friendship? I dunno. That’s their problem, not yours.

    Let go of the people who can’t stop doing this, and find some all-weather friends. They’re the best!!

  19. How many of your nay-sayers are dudes?

    With dudes, what is often happening is their mad that a GIRL not only dared entered “man’s donain” but is performing better than the men. It’s the ManPride™️, bro! You don’t damage the ManPride.

    And trust me, you don’t need dudes like that in your life.

    1. When I got a book contract my boyfriend at the time kept telling me how my approach was all wrong and I should be doing this or that. I finally told him to get his own damn contract and leave me alone.

      1. I’ve seen this behaviour from women too, both in a women dominated hobby, and a male dominated field. Its not just dudes.

        I honestly don’t know if in software it seems like its just men because men so drastically outnumber women, or if men are more prone to this, or if its a power dynamic thing and nonbinary is at the bottom tier. But, it coming from a woman and it hurting her WomanPride doesn’t make the behaviour any more okay.

        1. I am not saying that women tearing other women down is ok (in fact, I find is just as if not more abhorrent because we should be in solidarity).

          I’m just saying that some dudes have this whole macho ego bullshit going when a woman is more successful then them — especially in some “male oriented”.

          Funny enough that in the beginning, I believe women were employed to handle computers and calculations.

    2. This! LW, if you’re wondering on any level if there is misogyny behind those belittling comments, I think it’s extremely likely that there is. As a female programmer myself, I have seen plenty of men get weird about a woman outperforming them. It’s more than a little bit sad, but some of them seem to be convinced that the field of programming is their rightful domain and just can’t cope with a woman being good at it, let alone better than them.

      It’s entirely possible your friends are being jerks for other reasons, or a combination of reasons, but if that’s the reason, I want you to know it’s about them and their insecurities, not you. You didn’t do anything wrong by being good at a thing, and good friends would be visibly happy for you even if they’re jealous on the inside.

  20. afab enby programmer here.

    You got this!! Your achievements are something to be proud of. The tech field (especially games) is full of insecure, gatekeeping dudes. Their reactions aren’t about *you*. It’s about their own jealousy or anxiety or whatever. Not your problem, except when they try to make it yours by belittling your accomplishments.

    I would recommend building a network of under-indexed folks and allies in tech/gaming to celebrate your successes with you. It makes it easier to brush off the icky stuff. Having a therapist is invaluable too, and you’re already on top of that, so yay.

    1. I wanted to jump in a boost the idea of spending more time with other folks in your field (especially ones that are under represented)! It sounds like your team/ employers think your work is essential, interesting, and awesome, so they might be able to provide a nice counterpoint. Reaching out to other people like you who are ACTUALLY doing the thing might help you brush off these comments or even find new (better) social circles.

      I know that can be hard (imposter syndrome is an asshole!), but maybe try to have some coffee/tea/beer/lunch meetings with cool people you like and see if there’s potential to move from work friend –> real friend!

  21. Congratulations, Real Programmer, you’re doing so well, and your success is down to your talent, your perseverance, and your hard work. Fantastic!

    The Captain’s advice is spot on. When people are getting snarky with me or trying to undercut my achievements, or trying to sow doubt in my mind about my abilities, I remind myself of a quote by Ted Williams, which I read in a Wendy Cope poem one time: ‘don’t let anybody mess with your swing.’ It’s short, it’s helpful, it’s got rhythm, and I walk around campus reminding myself of that when I need to. It’s helpful too as a reminder not to let my inner doubts interfere with my work processes either.

    Keep on the way you’re going 👍!

  22. One thing I’ve found effective when people get on my serious DIY lifestyle about “oh I could do that I saw a pinterest once” (as someone with lifelong, debilitating mental illness making it incredibly hard to do things) is to say in a very, nike-ad way “oh I just decided to do it so I did it”. nothing about how hard it was, or the process, just airy and casual. “what, like it’s hard?” If people are trying the “oh but it’s easy i could do that”, embrace it to the point that they look stupid for not having done it themselves

  23. The CA’s scripts are great. I am also a woman in this career field (I do UI/UX design).

    I went on a date recently where the dude asked what wireframing software I use. I said “honestly, I just send up using Word a lot” and he literally scoffed and said: “and do you think you are any good? I just can’t imagine a *real* designer using Word.” I replied: “well my boss keeps paying me 6 figures a year for my work, so he clearly does.” He immediately back tracked and said he just takes his work really seriously and maybe he can get some advice from me since he’s still learning.

    I spent the rest of the date ordering the most expensive things I could find on the menu (he paid) while low key trolling my date. Then blocked him as soon as I got home. But I am also petty and quietly enjoy destroying dudebro’s egos over Manhattans and creme brulee.

    1. Oh man, somebody on Twitter recently said that some guy *very generously* offered to look at one of her scripts to give her pointers. Except, you know, she writes for TV already and could literally point to episodes of a very popular TV show that she’d written and he was still trying to break into the industry.

      Oh, to have that kind of confidence…

      1. As Sarah Hagi has somewhat famously tweeted: “DAILY PRAYER TO COMBAT IMPOSTOR SYNDROME: God give me the confidence of a mediocre white dude.”

      2. A friend posted some comments about mansplaining on her Facebook wall and linked to an essay by Kate Harding. In the essay, Kate told some anecdote of a time long past when she did thing X because she wanted to be a writer — all well and good.

        A dude saw my friend’s post, followed the link, and then came back and added a very, very long comment telling the rest of us in the conversation which of our own points we were allowed to be sure of, since he had weighed them and decided for all the little ladies, followed by a few paragraphs of his advice to whoever that Kate girl was on how to write, which he congratulated himself was very kind of him to do since he had taken some English comp courses or something and was willing to help the poor little dear out since she said that she wanted to be a writer someday.

        I commented something like, “Wow, he’s really asleep at the wheel, huh?”

        Others began to chime in:

        “Should we fix the punctuation in his mansplaining?”

        “I noticed he can’t seem to figure out how to use Google. You’d think his English comp teacher might have told him about search engines, since he doesn’t know what they are.”

        He started to grumble, at which point the owner of the wall spoke up, “Dude, Kate Harding is a professional writer. A famous one.”

  24. In my (now mid-late 30’s) experience, these are the responses of immature, insecure people who lack empathy and are in no way self-aware.

    Before this was clear to me (teens through late twenties) I used to respond verbally and reflexively to defend myself, but now I can see these comments for what they are, and I think to myself “Oh, gotcha, that’s who you are. Thanks for the insight into your character. I will proceed to discount everything you say now and going forward.”

    This helps take the sting out of these comments, because they are gross and unhelpful.

    Captain gives great verbal scripts. Definitely whip them out in times of need!

    You are rocking your early career. Keep it up!!

  25. Somewhat related – my husband and I are techy people (I’m a database developer and he’s a network engineer), so we’re well-versed in many computery things. I also did web and graphic design for several years. We get this kind of crap when people ask for our help with something, typically something really complicated. My go-to response was, “Well, then why did you call me?” If someone is going to say to me that *they* could have easily done it themselves, then why did they call me in the first place?

    Depending on your mood, you might respond in some way like that to the nay-sayer. Captain has some scripts up there already, but I’m thinking of a response something like, “Welp, what are you asking for exactly?” or “why are you telling me this?” Put it back on them. Make them tell you their true intentions, and if they don’t want to (most likely they won’t) they will probably back off.

    1. I work in a helping/advising role and I get this as well. Clients make appointments, ask for my feedback, and then push back hard against anything they’re not already doing. If it were working you wouldn’t be here, friendo.

      1. “If it were working you wouldn’t be here, friendo.”

        I love everything about this statement. I’m also going to try to keep it in mind when I’m the friendo who’s pushing back against help.

  26. Thanks, everyone. I was really excited to see this posted and I’m going to save it so I can go back and reread it later when I’m feeling wobbly. 🙂 I didn’t want to add too many identifying details but some of the comments here have really hit what I’ve been feeling on the head. (I am also, as suggested, working on adding new friends to my friend-repertoire so that the ratio of “Very Sad All The Time” to “Usually Functional Enough To Be A Friend” is closer to where I like it.) I appreciate all the kind words – Game #1 is pretty much done and Game #2 is getting there!

    1. I’d just like to add some more context to what everyone else has been saying: I am a (female, if it matters) computational mathematician with a PhD working at a prestigious institution. And, if one of my friends told me that they had programmed a game that was now being released to the public (to be sold! for $$!) my reaction would be “That’s amazing!! Programming is so fucking hard!! What game is it and when does it come out??”

      Because, well, programming is hard. I work in algorithm development and I am definitely not a good programmer (I’m acceptable, I don’t do anything production level). I get imposter syndrome but I also know enough about the tech industry to know that there’s no way you would have been rehired if you weren’t doing great work!

  27. I think it is more normal than any of us like to admit to feel professionally jealous of friends. We meet a lot of them at school or work, after all, where we are trying to do similar things. Real friends will find a way to not make it your problem.

    One of my very best friends is someone I met when we had the same job, in a terrible environment where people really were putting both of us down and playing us off each other. There are still times where a project she’s working on now, or a relationship she managed to keep up from that time, make me feel small. And there are times I can tell she’s not quite being her normal gracious supportive self about something of mine. It is all worth it because 95% of the time we are bragging about each other. If I’m feeling bad, I remind myself that time was hard for her too and take a break if I can’t be nice. That is how real friends behave.

    I cut out a friend who was constantly talking down to me about topics she knew or should have have known I am an expert on. That stuff was the last straw, but once I did it I realized she was also inconsiderate in many other ways. Someone who sees no problem with being mean and unsupportive is probably falling down as a friend in other areas too.

    1. It might be normal as in common, but it isn’t healthy or pleasant, and worth trying to eliminate in ourselves.

      A number of years ago I made a conscious decision to focus on the “happy for my friend!!” reaction over the “what about meee” part of my emotions and brain, whether it’s professional or personal. It has made a great difference in my overall happiness. Yes I still feel the jealous feelings, but by focusing on the YAY GOOD THING FOR FRIEND PART, those feelings fade fast. And I don’t advocate trying to train yourself to not feel jealousy at all or berating yourself for “bad” feelings. Just positive reinforcement on the GO YOU AWESOME PERSON I LIKE side.

      This combined with friends that do the same makes a positive cycle for all involved.

  28. Hm, my original comment didn’t go through. Mods, feel free to delete if we end up with a duplicate.

    One additional thing as I reread the original post, in regards to talking about your peer group.

    I think it’s often difficult for people who are aware of systematic bias to talk about or enjoy success. On one hand, we’re aware of the difficulties we overcame, and how hard we worked. On the other hand, we’re also aware of the privileges we did enjoy along the way. It can make you question whether you have the right to enjoy success, and whether it’s tone deaf to talk about it.

    I don’t think there is a Single Best Way to Handle It, but this is what I try to do.

    1. Mindset towards yourself.

    I don’t think having privilege invalidates also working hard. I feel like privilege is like a multiplier in D&D–people still have to roll, but some people get more out for their work than others. You can be proud of the work you did without denying that other people might have to also work harder to get the same result.

    In addition, having prestige, or wealth, or power aren’t inherently good things or bad things. They’re just things that exist. How you get them and what you do with them are the ethical parts.

    2. Giving back.

    One of the benefits to success is that you can help others. In my role, I help develop procedures, and that means I can put things in place like a way to report sexual harassment and flexible holidays for people who aren’t Christian. I also have the opportunity to mentor others who might miss out on opportunities. I see this as giving back some of the advantages I got from great mentors in my life.

    In addition, if you choose and if your budget allows, financial success can mean having the money to donate to organizations that can help reduce big social problems you can’t fix on your own. For instance, I don’t have the knowledge, skills, or time to personally make any dent in long-term homelessness in my community, but I can donate to an organization that has shown a great track record of helping people break that cycle.

    3. Mindset towards others.

    I’m human, which means I fail at this a lot of the time, but I try to remember that just as other people can do things I can’t, I can do things others can’t. I *try* to avoid judging others even in my heart. I fail at this at least 80% of the time. It’s easy to think, “Well, if you didn’t spend 5 hours on Facebook, you might have time to find a better job.” It’s harder to remember, “You see that, but you don’t know what else is going on. You don’t know if there are issues with depression or other things that make it harder to do that. You are just as prone to waste time, it just happens to be on different indulgences.”

    That said…

    Because I’m very busy (full time job, plus contract work, plus a bit of a commute), I tend to limit how long I will let people complain at me if they aren’t taking any concrete steps to resolve it. I have compassion for it, and I understand everyone needs to vent sometimes. But if people repeatedly contact me only to complain and never take any steps to resolve it, I generally limit how much time I will give them and may gently suggest this would be better discussed with a professional. Being compassionate doesn’t mean you have to be a free therapist all the time.

  29. I think this is a field where… How to put this… The stuff that looks like “the hard part” isn’t.

    Like, say, gardening: sure, digging takes sweat, but a good digger does not a good gardener make! The real differences between a “good gardener” and “someone who is technically capable of gardening but is a bad gardener” are things like patience, and forethought, and diligence.

    Of course, people know that about gardening, so when they see a beautiful garden and ask how you made it, they don’t say “oh, you only had to dig out those two beds, prune the hedge, and then plant some bulbs over there? I could have done that!” They instead say “Wow, that’s all it took to make this beautiful garden? You’re really good!” because they know that it wasn’t the steps, it was knowing which steps to take.

    I am definitely a good enough programmer to write a game. I have for-sure never finished one! This is because I fall short in some of the more nebulous aspects, where you have succeeded. For me, I struggle with “closing the circle” and scope management. (I’m okay with this and not sad or anything: I get the satisfaction and stimulation I want out of my efforts. But you, LW, have skills and talents I lack and I am impressed!)

    I wonder if some of those dudes thought their failure was a programming-skills thing, and if only they could dig deep enough they could be great gardeners themselves. When they find out that you’re not The Shoveler, they’re confused and sour-grapesy.

    1. (Plus of course really good programming mostly looks like it was easy. There are exceptions, but for most stuff… Once you’ve written it, if you’ve done a good job, it looks like anyone could have done it. It’s only beforehand, when you’re sitting there staring at a blank screen going “how am I gonna tackle this,” and then later when you’re on your third totally FUBARed attempt, that you realize ‘nah, this bit is hard.’ Once you’ve got it working and clean, sure, of course that was easy.)

      1. I think the biggest thing people underestimate is how much patience it takes to debug something. The grinding patience of repeatedly trying something…nope, that threw an error. Why did it throw an error? Try multiple fixes until you determine what caused the error (and it’s usually you screwing up some non-intuitive way).

        Rinse and repeat ad nauseum.

        That to me is what stops most people from learning this stuff. Technical skill matters, sure, but most people don’t have or want to develop the patience to repeatedly go at a problem from different angles until you solve it.

        1. I really wish someone had warned me how *tedious* programming can be. Not ‘hard’ (it is that, sometimes, and it frequently annoys me that so much of the ‘hard’ comes from bad/nonexisting documentation), not necessarily ‘complex’ (it is that, sometimes, too, but most of what I personally do isn’t; the application as a whole is complex, the individual steps aren’t), but tedious. In order to set up a new feature I have to create two classes and copy/adapt three boilerplate methods and hook up five outlets and – an hour or more after I started, I can press a button and see whether I’ve done all of the steps correctly. If not, I get to troubleshoot.

          This is not to say that I wish to be the kind of clever programmer who only throws out marvellous algorithms and leaves everything else to other people, but … day to day programming frequently lacks rewards, is what I want to say.

          If I write a sentence, at least I have a sentence, even if it stinks: I can evaluate it immediately, I can change it, polish it, replace it with a better one or wait until I have a whole paragraph. In programming, I only ‘have’ something when it works, and I frequently can only find out whether it works when I hook it up with other code.

          1. See, and that’s why I like it — different strokes for different folks. It’s fiddly and engrossing, and unlike many other traditionally fussy detail-oriented crafts/professions, doesn’t require good hand-eye coordination.

            (Which is probably some of why it was originally seen as a feminine pursuit — it’s the same kind of fussy as quilting etc in a lot of ways.)

          2. @sb Same, and I find it a restful break in some ways from my main job. If your program doesn’t do what you want, you’ve done something wrong, and you have full control over fixing it. (Compared with, say, managing people where they may choose not too cooperate.)

            Also, fun fact, some programming for the Apollo mission was done via literal weaving. Look up “core rope memory” for more info.

          3. There was a really interesting thread on Stack Overflow Meta recently on that topic, about how the first generation of programmers were mostly practical–they got into it mostly by doing it (putting together homebrew computers, building mini games to send out as freeware, etc.), and the ones who didn’t like the day to day fell out of it before making a career out of it. But now, there’s a lot of prestige and job security associated with it, so some people go into it for what they *think* programming is, and not the day to day reality.

            There was an element of “get off my lawn, young’uns” about it but I think there is some truth in it as well. I got lucky because I saw real programming up close at an early age so I never expected it to be anything but grindy fiddly detail work.

            I think the hardest part for me is that since I work alone, I can’t really share the joy when I finally, *finally* get some bit of code to do what I want.

          4. @sb
            I’m not even sure yet that I dislike that aspect, I was just completely unprepared for it, because the tutorials/small exercises/simple apps don’t show this; and the larger project I’m working on right now suddenly created a shift change in the rhythm of everything, which surprised me, and I wish someone had prepared me for it. And I wonder what ‘coding’ looks like when you’re not just a single developer working on your own software, but a team member working on an established code base, because I bet that the rhythms are different still.

            ‘Full control’ is not my experience at all. When a program doesn’t do what I want, I may have made a mistake, or I may be doing the wrong thing, and frequently the only way I can tell that I’m working against the spirit of things is that my solutions grow more and more convoluted. Conversely, I don’t find ‘this works’ a great indicator of ‘this is the code I should have written’; I frequently can MAKE an app do something when I should (for the sake of the user and for the sake of writing sustainable code) gone down a different route.

            Working with an established set of frameworks in a very user interface-oriented environment is completely different from the BASIC programming I cut my teeth on or the mainframe programming my Mum did; I’m not sure she would recognise my workflow at all, so I don’t think it’s fair to blame ‘the youth of today’. Programming has changed.

          5. @litandnovels — My dad had a board of woven memory from somewhere when I was a kid. (Nonfunctional, just a conversation piece. I have no idea where he got it.) I wheedled it out of him as a little kid to stick up on the wall of a large cabinet in my bedroom I’d turned into a reading room/space ship. (And I feel likewise about code versus people, although I also enjoy the noncoding challenges of my job.)

            @Friendly Hipposcriff like litandnovels, I had the great luck to have a parent (my dad) who was a professional programmer, who owned his own business and worked from home, and was eager to have a student, so I knew what I was getting into. (Although I actually went into another field first, and turned out to be terrible at research and wanted to be in a production-type environment.)

        2. This! I’m convinced the most important personality trait to being a programmer is stubbornness, not intelligence. I like feeling smart as much as the next programmer but let’s be honest, most of us are not out there designing totally new algorithms to handle truly hard problems. Most of us work on perfectly average software that breaks in perfectly average ways and we just grind through the problem solving process until we fix it.

          1. Definitely! I have a family member who works for Big Name Computers and he grumbles about how the powers that be insist on trying to hire the hotshots at the top of their class out of college, and then get surprised when those people quit within a year because being a hotshot, can-do-it-all programmer doesn’t translate well to working on one small element of one thing for years at a time.

          2. Mel, yeah, I’ve often said the key trait to getting an engineering bachelor’s in a top program isn’t so much brains as it is tolerance for pain and stress in pursuit of a goal.

            litandnovels, there’s a major research laboratory I used to work for that had a very active summer intern program. They’d overflow the place with vast numbers of undergrads every summer along with some grad students. Now the thing about undergrads is their limited utility in such places, so we were always saving up work that was low-level enough they could do it, but still worth doing and something good to report on at the end of the summer. “I spent the summer spreadsheet-bashing, but it was spreadsheet-bashing that needed to be done so my project team could achieve Amazing Thing X.” Most are justly proud at the end and know that their contribution was low-skilled, but it was still a contribution that mattered because it needed to be done to make good things happen.

            But there are always some egomaniacs. The program would state clearly that they were trying to recruit the best and brightest young minds in the country. Which was true; hopefully they’d get a taste of both the coolness and the drudgery of making great things happen. But there were always the ones who thought that there was a lab full of scientists out there just waiting for the day Undergrad Jones would arrive so that the real work could begin and they could assist while Undergrad Jones cures cancer. By the end of the summer.

            I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m understating, really. They’d get really huffy really fast, because for some reason people weren’t standing back in awe as Undergrad Jones took over. They’d reach a boiling point before too long and throw some kind of snit about how they were there because they’re the best and brightest! And they’d been asked to come for that reason! And someone actually told them to catalog a bunch of stuff in a spreadsheet! Anyone could do that, instead of amazing Undergrad Jones who had been importantly summoned by the US government because Undergrad Jones has the sweeping intellect to solve something a dozen experienced scientists with doctorates could not! So get out of the way already!

            Except Undergrad Jones doesn’t actually know how to do anything…but they’re sure if we all just explained things right and taught them to do the right things, they’d then be able to make the Big Discovery by the end of the summer that had mysteriously eluded teams of scientists around the world for decades.

            I just realized who the Undergrad Joneses of the world remind me of — they sound exactly like those dudes who wander into online discussions where a bunch of women are hashing out advanced feminist theory in real time, don’t understand a word of what’s being said, ask 101-level questions, and get all butt-hurt when they’re told to go read up on the basics and stop interrupting advanced discussions. They get really pissed, because they’re sure they’d have definitive answers on the complex questions being discussed if the women would just stop and explain everything. They’re positive their manbrain would solve things for the little ladies, so of course the women should stop what they’re doing to bring the man up to speed so he can tell them what the solutions are.

            It’s that same entitlement. That same bizarre idea that they can walk into work on something highly advanced that they can’t even comprehend, but still be sure only they can provide the missing piece, not all those experts.

            And the thing is, just having that delusion is enough to prove the person really isn’t that bright.

    2. Wonderful analogy. And on the other side, almost anyone can sit down and _plan_ a great garden on paper, of the ‘money no object, and we assume everything grows’ kind (though there’s definitely an artistic range there), but those plans don’t survive the reality of budget, soil, local climate, squirrels and slugs. The ability to judge what you can do with the tools you are given is a requirement in both professions.

      The vibe I’m getting is that those people look down on the tools the LW is using and tell themselves a story where they are better programmers because their chosen tools/language are harder to master, so it’s excusable that they haven’t actually finished yet.

      What the ‘if you’re not struggling, you’re doing it wrong’ crowd forget is that programming is a means to an end. Unless you’re in a very specialised field, users don’t care about a fraction of a second or the perfect pixel placement; they care about whether your software makes their lives better, and I don’t care how crappy a phone game it and how stupid the engine or that it’s derivative as hell; if it makes me smile in the supermarket queue, it has done its job, and I do not CARE that there are a million better or cleverer pieces of software out there: this thing here right now fills my needs and improves my day. The cleverest algorithm on the planet cannot do THAT.

      1. There’s also this really interesting phenomenon where when you imagine yourself achieving something, you can start feeling like you’ve already done something, and it can actually make you less likely to Do The Thing. (E.G. spending all your time fantasizing about being a published author and how you’ll feel signing autographs can give you the feeling of being published, which can make you less motivated to do the thing.)

        1. I’m almost tempted to say that if someone can gain satisfaction from that, can they PLEASE GO AHEAD, because it’s much more fun for them AND for everyone else than if they see writing novels as a means to get the fame they really want.

          I wonder how this ties in with seeking satisfaction in general. Crafters of any kind often spend a lot of time hunting down materials and lovingly building a stash; people who are into ebooks or music or video games build huge libraries that mostly sit unused, because _finding a bargain and building a stash/library/whatever_ seems to be almost more satisfying than actually _doing the thing you’re trying to do_. It’s certainly easier.

          And I’m now wondering what _successful writing visualisation_ looks like, for instance – I would guess it’s less about anticipated outcomes (my name in the NYT Bestseller list! Invitations to cocktail parties!) than *process*: you need to imagine the life of a successful writer either way, but in one case success means things bestowed upon you (you can dream! … if you need to acknowledge that it’s unlikely to happen) and in the other you’re visualising _habits_. Successful sports visualisation, after all, is about playing that match or skiing that run, not about medals.

  30. This makes me so angry. I grieve for you, LW, and also for my own past self.

    I got a job as a programmer when I dropped out of university because of mental health issues. I was completely self-taught (part of what I did rather than doing uni work) and I had earned a little money with it, but now someone paid me full-time for something I was at best mediocre at. Except I wasn’t, I turned out to be very good at exactly the things that mattered: Adapting to a totally messy code base, working through it calmly, developing strategies to rework the code and porting it to new platforms (learning several new programming languages from scratch in the process), thinking about new application scenarios for advertisement purposes, and most of all: staying calm while my boss panicked. Only much later did I realise that my work had basically saved the entire business. Sounds alright, doesn’t it? But: My boss was my father. My father gave me a job when I desparately needed one. On faith. I am dead certain that he knew exactly what he was doing and that he could totally count on me, but, oh boy, how many raised eyebrows and cynical comments did I get for ‘being lucky’ … I still often omit the fact that the business I worked for was my father’s when I tell new acquaintances about maybe the biggest turning point in my life. And even though I always felt pride in my level of mastery, I avoid like hell to mention the names of the programming languages we used (and had to use, there is no alternative) for the job — man, the burns I got from ‘real programmers’ … So my strategy was one of topic avoidance and keeping my pride inside.

    Not anymore, though.

    Now, more than a decade after dropping out, I have gone back to university, working on my third degree. I have a fixed-term job on third-party funding which I acquired in collaboration with a tenured professor for whom I had worked as a research assisstant. This was a long process, which I had initiated, and that it worked out was quite an achievement for a junior researcher on my level. The other day, a colleague (male, obviously) who struggles to find his place in academia asked how I got this job and when I told him he sneered that I was lucky to have ‘connections’ (there is an idiom in my native language which makes it sound like unfair coterie). And that was right after I had helpfully suggested ways for him to pitch his research to the powers that be to gain support. It made me so unbelievably mad, I told him to his face that he could go fuck himself and walked away. Haven’t talked to him since, don’t intend to. It’s not exactly a way to “gracefully defend myself”, like the LW asked for, but fuck gracefulness, this will be my strategy from now on.

    Go you, LW.

    1. Go you!!

      And also – fuck the crowd who would shit on you for using the tool of your job. Professionals don’t get to pick! The client does!

      They sound like those “”helpful”” responses to a tech problem with windows that go “get a mac”. (Or iphone problem responses that say “get an android phone” or whatever) Being able to work with the tools you have IS the skillset.

    2. There are times/occasions for a graceful response, and there are times/occasions to tell someone to fuck right off. Sounds like you read the situation beautifully.

      Also, to both you and LW, go on with your bad selves!

      Regarding programming (sort of), there are some things in life that are incredibly difficult for a lot of people, but markedly easy for others. It sounds like the specific sort of programming the LW has done for the game and has been hired to do for another game-in-development might be one of those things that’s just easy for her. Kind of the way English is easy for me but markedly difficult for my stepfather, but he can run circles around me with anything related to mathematics or spatial relations.

      If everyone liked/was good at doing the same things, the world would be not only boring but also not functional. Before my stepfather retired, his job sometimes required that he submit written reports, and because English is by a long stretch not his strong suit, he’d ask me or my mother to proofread for him. Conversely, when my mom or I need help with something math or spatial-relations-related, we ask him for help.

      Keep doing what you’re doing; you’re helping make the world go round. 😀

    3. Ah, all the old “real programmer” jokes.

      Real programmers don’t comment their code. If it was hard to write, it should be hard to read. (I tend to have more comments than code in mine because I’m lazy and don’t want to handhold newbs through the math more than I have to.)

      Real programmers program right down to the bare metal. (Hrmmm…I did wig out my profs in grad school by rewriting the assembly by hand — the technology was not mature and I was not impressed with the SDK. My stepdad REALLY programmed right down to the bare metal — his first programming job was back when a computer didn’t come with an operating system, so he was told to write one.)

      Real programmers don’t write in BASIC. Actually, no programmers write in BASIC, after the age of 12. (Can’t argue with that.)

      Real programmers don’t use emacs. (I’ve mastered the art of flipping bits with my teeth by gnawing on the registers.)

    4. Rock on, Helen. Isn’t it funny how with dudes like that, when you put in all the work and then some and triumph over incredible adversity, they sneer you were handed everything on a plate, but when golden boy who is handed things because he’s a golden boy can’t quite seem to make the grade, well then 1000 years of male affirmative action is nowhere near enough.

      Not everyone has your perseverance. It’s impressive. (And yet, she persisted.)

      Also having the verbal arts to gracefully defend yourself, but also knowing when to just tell someone to go fuck themselves is one of my favorite tropes on tvtropes.com — it’s a verbal skillset called, “Sophisticated as Hell.” That would be you.

  31. Yes, this! Like those people who claim never to be able to find time to do something. If you love it, and want to do it, you will MAKE the time, even if it’s three o’clock on a weekday morning when everyone is asleep and you know you gotta be outta bed in four hours! When my friends ask me how I find time to do what I do, I tell them, “ the time is there. You just have to see it. “ Do you love it? Do you want it? Then quit playing games on your phone, texting your friends, or scrolling through Facebook for several hours, and get to doing!

    1. This, exactly. A friend of mine recently got a book published, and to be fully honest, I’m super jealous. But I also know that I have only myself to blame– I haven’t made the time to write like I ought to. That’s on me. She did find the time to write and pursue publishing, and that’s pretty awesome. As much as I’m jealous, I’m simultaneously genuinely happy for her, because I know it is NOT EASY to get a book published. I make it a point to never, ever let my jealousy come out when we’re interacting, because she’s my friend and I really do think it’s cool. I’ve found that the more I remind myself that this is my issue, not hers, the less jealous I feel.

      It is not always an easy thing to accept, that you’re jealous of someone because they got off their ass and did the thing you want to do, but it’s important to realize that what’s really happening is you’re angry with yourself for not having done it, and that’s not your friend’s fault.

    2. Or you have depression or executive functioning disorders. By all means, push back at people who try to put other people down to cover their own laziness, but some people really do have trouble with making time to do stuff.

  32. Doing well is not a zero sum game. Your doing well does not mean that they can’t also do well.

    I agree with the Captain. Their responses are really douchy. Do NOT take them to heart and feel bad about what you have done. When you hear these comments, practice saying, to yourself at first, if you are conflict-averse, that that was sucky thing to say, and the friends are showing that they suck in this area. Eventually you can even say these things out loud. Make it awkward for them.

  33. In re: snarky asshole dudes a d their pernicious sense of entitlement, omfg, I think I mighta sprained mah eyeball, I just rolled it so hard. Dunning-Krueger + 20-something dudes = Entitlement x 10^23. My college boyfriend once smirked at me when I asked him to slow down on the winding mountain road and explained that he knew way too much about physics ever to get into a car accident. He and I were looking for jobs at the same time, and he was very offended that minimum-wage jobs–the only jobs he was qualified for–were only paying minimum wage. When I pointed out that he had no skills or experience, he said, “But *I’m* worth more than that!” He said, out loud, where people could hear him, that despite his lack of saleable skills or professional references, he should get paid more than other people, just because of who he supposedly was. Then, when I got a job abd he didn’t, it wasn’t because of my previous retail experience or because I’d done well in the interview, it was because the boss obviously just wanted to leer at me. (The boss never leered at me. He was fine.) LW, heed the good Captain. She knows whereof she speaks. Heed not these whiny-ass butt babies. Maybe they were your friends once, but you are soaring above them on your amazing, rainbow-colored iridescent wings. They are incredibly jealous, but all they can do is throw clods of dirt at you from their squalid cocoons.

  34. A friend invited me out to introduce me, his old friend who lived out of state, to his new girlfriend. She asked what I did. I told her. She, I kid thee not, WRINKLED HER NOSE and said “Ew, why would anyone want to do THAT?”

    I stared at her like she’d suddenly turned bright green and grown a few extra heads, because I was really young and it was so rude I had NO IDEA how to deal, and also one of my dubiously-charming “features” is limited control over my facial expressions. At the time I was embarrassed by my response but looking back… not bad, past self, not bad. Gawking in horror is a completely appropriate response to that kind of rudeness!

    Don’t feel the need to be graceful, LW. They’re the ones what made it awkward. Feel free to return the rudeness to sender. In addition to to looking completely bewildered by their mind-boggling rudeness, I also recommend “Dang dude,” “That was way harsh, Tai,” and the advice column classic “You must be so embarrassed that you said that out loud!”

    1. Lol, I did that once. I usually have very good control over my expressions, but this one time, I sat, mystified, as a friend of a friend tried to one-up someone’s story of their sudden heart attack with her tale of, I shit you not, a bad case of the sniffles. I was full of Bloody Marys and fresh out of fucks, and my wide-eyed mystification was all over my face. Her long-suffering spouse, who had checked out of the conversation several minutes before, glanced at me, did a double-take, realized how awful she was being, and gently got the conversation back on track. I *highly* recommend the honest reaction for sending awkwardness back from whence it came.

      I’m not really friends with them anymore. A big part of that is because seeing their reaction to my reaction helped me realize that my reaction was valid and correct, and also that I didn’t actually like them all that much. So. Score.

  35. Definitely sounds like these people are jealous of LW’s break, especially if they also want to work in the industry, and are being complete shits about it. LW I’m sorry you have to deal with people being assholes!

  36. I’m both a programmer and a programming manager. (I write the tricky bits of code and direct development, and tell the more junior developers what to do, and am their primary mentor). I’m on the hiring committee, and while I’m not solely responsible for hiring decisions, my word carries a lot of weight at work.

    I’m gonna say that a lot of people picture programming as just sitting down and typing out code, H A C K E R M A N style, and just doing that for however many hours a day then going home, maybe never having interacted with another human being all day. But I would like to mention that when I’m looking to hire a new developer, I look for so much more than your ability to write an efficient loop or how well you know the intricacies of prototype-based inheritance. A lot of programming time is spent on communication, collaboration, design, the ability to think ahead, the ability to contrast business needs with coding needs, and a million other things that AREN’T what people picture when they think of a job in programming. Actually having a career in software requires a lot more than just typing code – and the fact that you were hired back means that you probably have quite a lot of skill in these areas, in addition to your growing skill with the actual coding portion!

    So the people who think that they can do it… sure, they might be able to. But they might be underestimating the role that these other skills have in an actual career, and it’s also possible that they’re saying these things to themselves to feel better about their own failures. There’s a significant difference between sitting on your ass thinking you could do something if you tried, and actually working up the grit and putting your skills to the test.

    I’d personally say, the next time someone says “oh, I should do that” or “I could have done that…” well, why *didn’t* you? You’ll either get them to stop bothering you about it, or you’ll get to watch them flail for an excuse.

  37. Oh. This one was a little hard to read. Congratulations on your professional success!
    I feel for your crappy friends too though. I know how hard it is to have spent most of your life studying a thing, becoming really good at the thing and then seeing people who didn’t spend all that time and do all that work suddenly have the jobs you wanted. Because there were other skills that were actually more important and it turns out you suck at those skills.
    I’m great at designing and making clothes, people ask me all the time why I’m not making a living out of it. But it’s not enough being great at doing the thing. It takes a whole other set of skills, and a bit of luck, to be able to get payed for it. You have those skills, your friends don’t. And maybe they havn’t realised it yet. Or they are still to stuck in greiving the career they wanted to have to undetstand why they don’t and you do.
    Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t listen to the negativity. It’s about their broken dreams, not the actual great work you’re doing.

  38. I’m a female game designer, and listening to dudes minimizing what I do, making not-jokes about “real jobs”, or telling me they have a great idea for a game that I should make is literally the worst part of the job. Look to your completed game(s) when these guys talk, and remember if it really was so easy, they’d have done it, too.

    1. I went on a date with a guy who worked in game development (well, more than one, but this one in particular was just *kisses fingers*). The stuff he said to me about women in his workplace–with a straight face!–I was like “you realize that I am also a woman, yes?” I don’t know how the nice people I know in the industry work with the utter putzes.

  39. I’ve experienced this. I’m transgender and a victim of parental abuse. I didn’t graduate college until 25 and I often feel like I’m behind in life and it’s hard for me to take my successes seriously. I also work in the arts, so a lot of people don’t see what I do as “real success,” including sometimes myself.

    There’s this metaphor a friend of mine has used–if you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket, and one of them scales the wall and tries to get out, the others will grab it and drag it back down. Sometimes people are like that. Sometimes when you’ve been in a rut for a while, your “friends” have gotten used to you being that way; it’s become convenient for them. You don’t make them feel threatened. When they’re around you they get to feel competent and successful without actually having to do anything. Alternatively, sometimes support groups and Sadness Clubs become a toxic dynamic. You change your situation and start trying to climb out of the Sadness Bucket, and they don’t like that so much. They don’t want anyone else to improve; they want all their friends to stay at the bottom of the Sadness Bucket and be sad with them. In any case, there’s one constant: it’s about them. Not you.

    I’ve had these “friends.” In more than one case, I’ve been treated to the narrative of All My Friends Abandon Me When They Become Successful. And I’ve told them, wow, your former friends were assholes, no one should be treated that way. Then I got some success in my life and started feeling better about myself and optimistic about the direction my life was taking–and they turned nasty. Every conversation became an opportunity to put me back in my place, and I’ve realized why they lose all of their “successful” friends.

    It sucks when this happens, because these people are often very supportive, as long as you stayed at the bottom of the bucket where (in their opinion) you belong. All I can say is, don’t be afraid to cut them out of your life. Real friends support you in both good AND bad times. It’s a common thing to denounce fair weather friends, but frankly, I’m not sure friends who only support you in bad times are any better than the reverse. A good friend will keep you company through failure, but at the end of the day, they want to see you succeed. Your successes will give them hope in their own dark times, and ideally, vice versa.

    And sure, your acquaintance probably “could have done that.” One of my professors (I’m currently in grad school) hates people who go to modern art museums and says things like, “I could have done that!” He says, “Yeah, but you didn’t.” All of us “could have done” any number of things; we’re all full of unrealized potential, and the number of things we COULD do is limitless. You acquaintance “could have” done that–YOU actually DID it. And I bet you anything they’re not going to start doing it now, either, whatever they said at the time. It’s much easier to say “I could do that” than it is to actually do it.

    You’re doing amazing and I am proud of you.

  40. “But it made me feel really, really bad, like what I was doing wasn’t significant or valuable.”

    The people who pay you are telling you that your work is significant and valuable.

    Are your friends hiring? No? It’s easy for them to say whatever they feel like, if they don’t have skin in the game. You can discount their opinions accordingly.

  41. I would never fucking say that to someone, and it’s not because I’m a paragon of sensitivity and grace. It’s because I don’t suck.

    In addition to the Captain’s wonderful advice, I’d suggest maybe you’ve outgrown these Very Sad People and are ready to hang out with people who are mostly happy with their lives. You don’t owe it to your sad past to retain a sad outlook in the present/future.

    I started my degree at age 29, first in my family to go to college or live in a city. My first group of friends in that city were like nobody I’d ever met. I dove right in and considered myself lucky to be accepted by them. Years later, I don’t have much in common with any of them anymore and have only retained friendships with a select few. The rest.. if I met them today, I’d probably never want to hang out with them.

    You have an amazing, inspiring story. I think these petty-ass “friends” of yours are holding you back.

  42. LW, either you are my friend or in an incredibly similar position to my friend, and I just want to say FORGET the people who would say that kind of garbage! I know it’s hard when you have a circle of friends who are not doing great turn on you when things in your life start to improve. It sucks. But hopefully some of these responses will jarr them out of being negative. If they’re good friends then they do want the best for you, even if losing one of their commiseration pals is a let down. Bad friends won’t let it go, and you’ll have to think about cutting those folks loose.

  43. From one developer to another:

    Congrats on your game!

    Also, I’m pretty sure the horrible comments are misogyny (as well as jealousy).

    I don’t even know you and I’m kvelling

  44. You can try ‘yeah it really is easy, absolutely you should!’ Agree. Then when they do nothing with it, or when they ask you to help, just cheerfully remind them how easy it is and that they really don’t need lil ole you…
    Peopke do that to me also. Guys not girls. Bc they are intimidated that I’m a successful girl in a male dominated profession. I had raging imposter syndrome. Keep working on it, that you know it is key!!! Over the yrs I’ve come to enthusiastically agree with the minimizing. But I’m in my 40s now. I found the more dismissive someone is the more cheerfully I agree with them. It generally is a conversation stopper bc they’ve got nowhere left to go with that.
    Congrats to you though, your field is more male dominated than mine. As to friends who are feeling jealous we can hope they’re just feeling inferior and are expressing it poorly. Try to talk less about achievements with unsafe people as their negative vibes will bring you down. Begin to gravitate toward those less threatened by how fabulous you are. Relationships and friend groups are always evolving don’t be afraid to branch in new directions

  45. Damn, LW, congrats! That is super great for you and I hope you continue to enjoy your work and learning process. Rock on.

    On a related note, my best friend and I both write fiction. Recently, she has had a picture book published, and now she is nominated for an award. I have published fuck-all for a year. Is this awesome for her? YES! Am I happy for her? Also yes? Am I simultaneously CRUSHINGLY JEALOUS? Oh, you betcha. I sulk and I curse at the moon and I stalk the judge in my head into dark alleys to beat it badly enough to leave me alone.

    Here’s what I don’t do, though: I don’t belittle my friend’s accomplishment. I don’t undercut her joy and excitement. I don’t give her responsibility to manage my own insecurities. Because that is a shitty thing to do. The closest I will get is to humorously let her know that I am jealous of her; NOT so she’ll have to console me, but to underline what a big and cool thing this is.

    So shrug the comments off, use the Captain’s scripts, and know that friends of you can absolutely feel that insecurity and jealousy WITHOUT letting you take the heat from it. Good luck, LW.

  46. Another programmer/engineer here. You sound like you’re doing a good job, so keep going! Don’t let somebody else’s envy of your success grind you down. Focus on what you’d like to do next and keep yourself updated on new technologies etc. to extend your knowledge. You already seem to have that mindset, which is extremely valuable in this career!
    Something that jumped out to me from your letter was this: “… I already have a lot of survivor’s guilt for how well my life has been going the past two years, when a lot of my peer group is Very Sad All The Time, …”
    Not to minimize the (undoubtedly very real) issues these people are having, but from what you’ve written, you have worked on yours and gotten better, AND you have impressed others with your skill and hard work and talent, resulting in something you’re proud of, but they haven’t. You’ve put in all this time and hard work, but they haven’t. You don’t have to feel small because of your success or your accomplishments. And guess what, despite everything, sometimes your work will suck and it will be hard and you will hate it. And at other times, you will breeze through the work and it will feel amazing and fun and you’ll be learning a lot, because all of that is normal and part of the ride, and the naysayers just want to drag you down.
    Rock on with your awesome self! *jedi fistbump*

  47. You’re doing great!

    Something that helped me with my insecurity was the sentence: “that does not have anything to do with me”. Every time I felt that a comment was too harsh for me or that I felt offended I repeated it like a mantra. It helped me to distance myself from what was happening and view it more objective.
    Maybe it can help you to let not affect the shitty comments of your peers your inner peace.

    Don’ let anybody blame your success to dump luck. You have succes because you’re good in what you’re doing.

  48. You MUST be very good at what you do, LW, because that is one tough industry to break into. The indy movement has helped a little but game development still thrives on the economics (and image) of an NBA-economy: it’s a field where there’s the superstars that earn big salaries and the ones that get minimum wage to wipe the sweat off the court as Gamespy put it once long ago. So for you to have success, and get picked up on a paying project, too, you must be doing not just something right but a lot of things right. I know people in the industry, and the number of them that didn’t get paid for their first job, or first several, is a sizable number (and these are people whose credits are in games many people here will have played, not bragging just indicating I know what I’m talking about, here, I’m a computer science dropout with a half-finished visual novel myself but I’ve had a few professional game programmers as friends).

    So from the view of us plebs that wish we were that good (see half-finished renPy game, supra) you’re that person that seems to do everything right the first time. Some of the people speaking ill might just like the IDEA of being a successful person without the hard work, some may feel entitled to success, maybe they even made a go of it and realized that they didn’t have the chops, or the right instincts, or the dedication.

    It’s a lot like being a professional musician. You’re a touring band member right now, maybe a studio musician, in that analogy. Everyone has been in a garage band, or a half-finished screenplay, or the makings of the next great American novel kicking around in their head, or, for our generation (or my generation and likely yours too) that big creative project we pinned all our hopes on is a pile of spaghetti code, a Flash plugin that fails to even compile properly.

    You’re the successful novelist, you’re the touring musician, you’re the one that’s managed to succeed in that hard-to-break industry. And admitting that you did it because of YOU is admitting something about THEMSELVES too. And they might not be ready to admit those things, that they lack skill, ambition, talent or drive, or maybe that they just got a bad break somewhere.

  49. In my experience some people just want 10 minutes of bragging time. They want the awards or the congratulations but are not really interested in the work besides prestige. These people always compete in conversations and never really listen because they are too busy either trying to think of something they did better or even bring up someone else’s accomplishments to one up yours. Those people are toxic and best left alone.

    Congratulations on your game and best of luck with the next one too.

  50. I think it’s probably a few things at play here: jealousy over your obvious talent, and maybe angst because they did things The Right Way (finish high school, 4-year-college, internships) and it didn’t work out for them. You earned your success.

    I work in a job that’s desirable and kind of hard to break into (law firm pro bono). I often meet people who want to know how I got where I am, and the answer is mostly a combination of hard work and luck. I’m the only person I’ve met who has exclusively done this particular job.

  51. Congrats on your success as well as coming through the fire of your mental health struggles. You are forged steel! I think on top of the jealousy, you’re dealing with a reaction to you stepping out of your role. These people had you pegged as ‘poor RP {sigh} she really struggles’. And now you’re kicking a@@. You weren’t supposed to do that, you were supposed to be struggling. Putting people in our lives in boxes never ends well.

  52. Most people’s jobs are things other people can and do also do! That’s not an indictment of you, that’s just what an industry is. There are a lot of advantages to working in a larger field – you can move and get a job in another city, find mentors, choose from a variety of projects. Companies pay you to do things because they need to get done and you are good at getting it done, not because you are the God King of Video Games. You are the successful professional here, and these clowns are the ones being immature and bad at the work biz.

  53. Fellow female programmer here! I am always happy when there are more women getting into computer science and programming and such 🙂

    Another response to the “I could have done that” comments – the best coding solutions always look really simple when you figure them out. It’s easy to look at those and go “oh that wasn’t too hard, anyone could have done that,” but that skips the part where it was really stinking hard to come up with a solution that simple.

  54. Maybe you’re familiar with Wait But Why – they did a blog post on different types of friendships. And some of those friendships are well, past their sell-by-date. Like the cliched high school girl frenemies who are always stabbing each other in the back. Or the bros who continually screw each other over. https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/12/10-types-odd-friendships-youre-probably-part.html

    I’m not a programmer, but I’m a language teacher, and honestly a lot of dudes (not women; *dudes*) have told me how to do my job, or how they think they could do my job. And frankly, if they have the temperament and a little training and a lot of *time* – yes, they could! But don’t argue with me about a grammar point that I’ve spent 7 years teaching the finer points of, and you don’t even know the name of, or the grammatical distinctions I’m trying to explain to my students.

    And every time I talk about wanting to get fitter, or have a less squishy body shape, people are all like “YOU’RE NOT FAT” and “YOU DON’T NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT” or “BUT I FIND YOUR BODY ATTRACTIVE” or “OH NO THAT WILL BE VERY HARD I DON’T THINK IT’S WORTH IT”. No disrespect to those with squishy body shapes; it’s just that for most of my early life I was very thin, and pretty androgynous, and having big hips and ass is pretty weird and dysphoric for me. And I’m agender and already have some gender dysphoria, and my body just doesn’t currently match my self-image.

    The crap/knee-jerk nonsense is coming from a place of “but if you think you’re bad, I must be very bad” or “if you fix X thing in your life that’s bothering you, then ME failing to fix X thing in my life that bothers me makes me feel BAD as I have no excuse”. And frankly if you want to change, if you are driven to do the thing, you WILL put the time in, and you WILL do the thing. And if you’re not driven to do the thing… you won’t.

    1. As a translator, I feel your pain regarding dudes who think they can do any language-related job because hey, they speak a language! How hard can it be? After all, GIRLS can do it fuckoffanddie

  55. Hey-o. First of, yay! You have a thing you have talent for, have worked to build skill in, that you enjoy, and! that people are willing to pay for. That’s so bada$$ awesome – Like take a minute, or many minutes, or regularly scheduled minutes, to remind yourself if that and really enjoy it, because that’s seriously mega cool.

    Now, for these distractors from your joy – they’re jealous, but also they’re intentionally bringing you down to make themselves feel better. These are people that, for whatever reason, prefer to be “comparatively” happy (or successful, or pretty, or…). They only see their own successes if it is at the expense of someone else. It’s sad that these people suck the joy of of others, and for little reason but it is what they will do and will continue to do if you let them. So combat then by continuing to be super awesome, and giving them the uncomfortable stare of social awkwardness when they try to bring you back down.

  56. This has probably been addressed already but I’ve been where you are (dropped out of college, was basically a hermit for years, eventually poked my head out and have been trying to do something with my life) and it’s not only misogyny that rears its ugly head but also straight up classism. The fact that I don’t have a degree makes people feel like I’m stealing something from them by doing the work I do (design, photography sometimes), that I taught myself to do, and they think they need to take me down a few pegs. I’ve been told to get a job cleaning bathrooms so I can pay for a degree (since my family is poor and part of the reason I dropped out of college was that I couldn’t afford it anymore without a scholarship) so I can do exactly what I’m doing now. It’s truly ridiculous but I can’t lie and say it doesn’t hurt me. It’s mostly been strangers, thankfully, and I can block them as thoroughly as I desire, but I also have actual stalkers who think it’s in any way normal to contact my clients and “warn” them about how I’ve been unreliable in the past, and the whole thing is just deeply gross, and unsettling, and maddening, and anxiety-inducing…

    …and it doesn’t change the fact that I’m going to keep doing what I do, the way I do it, learning on my own, taking the opportunities I get, and now of course being much more private and censoring myself, which sucks. It sucks. But that’s the thing. That’s what they’ve done. They’ve made me less capable of promoting myself. That’s it. They haven’t pushed me any closer to quitting than I was before. Many of these people couched their comments in ‘helpfulness,’ and they have not helped. They’ve scared me, in fact. They’ve made my anxiety worse. They’ve succeeded at that. And I’m not in a very good place right now, so I’m not up for proving people wrong right now. I never wanted to, anyway. I just want to make a living.

    Anyway, rambling aside, that’s really my best advice. Change the subject. Don’t engage with the criticism, because they’re not interested in listening to you or debating; they only want to put you down to feel better about themselves. If you need to remove people from your life, do it. And keep doing what you do and being awesome at it.

  57. Letter Writer, I’m sorry you have some unsupportive friends. It’s okay for your feelings to get hurt, and if your feelings keep getting hurt it’s okay to let that person be a more peripheral part of your life. You don’t have to just “take” bad behaviour. Are their any networking opportunities for women programmers in your area? Or any opportunities specifically to seek out supportive people to add to your life? If not, just keep your eyes and ears open for the kind of person who will be happy for your success and whose success you can be happy for.

    I’ve absolutely been in the position of being professionally envious of friends. Particularly when they’re doing something they love. It’s because I want that too. I’m so hungry for it. But, you know what, that’s *my* effing responsibility. I own my shit. And I express happiness at my friend’s good fortune. Because if they are a friend, then I *am* happy for them.

  58. LW, I just want to say that your story is inspiring. I am anxious about my career right now and reading about your success despite the bump of weird people doing weird things is inspiring and encouraging!

  59. Yeah, that whole “I could do that” thing.

    I work in a totally different field: I am a doctor and work as a surgical assistant. This involves a high degree of technical skill (not all of which is obvious until you try doing it yourself*) and I am very good at what I do, to the point where it would be easy to think “I could be a surgeon”. And yes, I suppose I *could*. I could go back and study and train some more. A lot more.

    But the reality is that there are a whole lot of less visible skills and aptitudes which I simply don’t have, and quite possibly could not acquire even with a lot of practice: the physical stamina and ability to function at a high level even when sleep deprived, the drive to succeed, the ability to co-ordinate a team, the clinical decision making skills, the ability to work under pressure and react instantly to unexpected things happening and to come up with a workable solution on the fly, all the while knowing that it could actually be ‘life or death’.

    Knowing all of this, I have a great deal of respect for the skill of the surgeons I work with, *especially* the ones who make it look easy. Because it really, really isn’t. And I think this same idea applies across a whole lot of different fields, programming included.

    *here’s an example of something you can try as a game: stretch a long loop of elastic around two legs of a chair. Now, kneel down with a friend, and using your left hand and their right, tie the loop together tightly in the middle with a piece of string. But you can’t look directly at your hands while you do it – you have to use a webcam and watch it on a screen to see what you’re doing – and one of you has to use your free hand to hold the camera. Piece of cake, right?

  60. I like responding to quips about how someone could do my job with “well, good for you” and then walking away.

    I wish I could tell you that this would pass, but being a woman in software development means you end up dealing with men talking over you, not listening to you and insisting you’re not doing something right when you actually are.

    My advice is find people who acknowledge your ability and accomplishments and stick to them like glue.

    1. My hat is off to anyone who can code! My adventures in programming came to a quick end when I couldn’t understand the midterm assignment in the Intro to Programming class. I dropped that class before I flunked it and changed my minor from computer science to communications.

  61. In response to an “I could have done that” I would be tempted to give a very cheery “good luck, I’d be happy to give you pointers!” but sometimes I’m a jerk that way.

  62. You made games that other people out in the world can play! Sounds pretty darn real to me. Congrats on your successes!

    You might find these pieces interesting:

    Tech people can be suuuuuper gatekeepery and terribly judgemental about tools, with no particular connection to reality. It sucks! And it’s annoyingly contagious.

    Relatedly, one idea for responding to people who say this kind of thing is to ask them to explain what they mean. Along the lines of “what makes you say that?” “What makes you say this programming language / tool is easier to use than x other tool?” “Wouldn’t it be a good thing for something to be easier for developers to use?” “Are there specific features it is lacking vs. x other tool?” (not sure these are very good examples, but extreme/gatekeeper/mean statements can sometimes fall apart or reveal their true natures when gently probed for clarification).

    Also: I can super relate to feeling some guilt and imposter syndrome about having been asked to work on things that I didn’t know beforehand I was capable of. Surely they could have hired someone who was a more sure bet? Was it fair that I got the chance and others didn’t? But I now *suspect* what they did know beforehand was that I would be pleasant to work with, which is important! From your letter, you sound like you’d be awesome to work with…and I think you can give yourself credit for that part of your success, too. It’s not that you fooled anyone into hiring you when they should have been hiring these friends of yours who knew the “right” (giant quotes!) technical tools, it seems very likely that they knew you’d be good to work with, and then were thrilled when you turned out to be great at the work.

    1. @ Maia “I now *suspect* what they did know beforehand was that I would be pleasant to work with, which is important!”

      Yes, this! I work freelance and although I’m very good at my job, having a reputation for being easy to work with and a good team player has been HUGELY important, especially in terms of getting a foot in the door for new work.

  63. There are some things I do that look easy but aren’t. I’ve been met with “I could do that” comments like the LW. I’ve found an interesting way to disarm this is to reply enthusiastically, “you should!” Its never the answer they expect and sort of throws it back to the putter-downer.

  64. I wonder if there’s an element of ‘I hated university, I worked so hard and got so exhausted and burnt out and spent so much money etc etc and now you’re telling me maybe none of it was actually necessary’?

    When you’re making sacrifices to do something it can feel intensely psycholically necessary for it to be _absolutely necessary _ and _definitely worth it_.

    And in a lot of families and schools, that is the messaging around high school and university. I think on some half-conscious level I thought that if I didn’t get into the best university and get the best university my entire life would be ruined and I would end up in dire poverty and homeless all my life and my whole adult life would be miserable…

    And then as an adult I met people who had not been to university and their lives seemed… fine. They had jobs, sometimes better paid ones than I did, they had partners and children and hobbies…

    For me it was an immense relief to begin to realise this, but I did also feel a little bit like I’d been cheated out of my youth on a false threat and false promise, too. Of course that’s not entirely true, because I think I had enough genuine interest in formal education to have done many of the same things anyway. But the anxiety, the fear, the single mindedness… that was maybe all for nothing?

    If course none of this actually has anything to do with you. But that’s kind of my point, I guess. Things in your life may be bringing up all kinds of things from theirs, that they’re throwing on you unfairly.

  65. First of all, you are a badass! Not many people have programmed a game for $$. That is an awesome achievement and you did it and got asked back to do it again, wow 🙂 I agree with the Captain, if your “friends” can’t get over their jealously, you may want to start pulling back from them. Find others who are successful and excited about it and hang out with them. Hopefully your old friends will come around, but if they don’t, it is ok to pull back as much as you need to. Sometimes friendships run their course, but it can be hard to let go even when you might need to.

    Sometimes if a group is full of folks who aren’t having success, when one finally does the rest of the group fights against it for a lot of reasons. Their group is the unsuccessful ones, so if they are unsuccessful, that is ok and expected, but if someone from their group does succeed, that can blow a hole in all that reasoning and make them feel bad and uncomfortable. And yes, there is likely misogyny at play here too!

    Keep on being your badass self! And fight that imposter syndrome with some positive self-talk/affirmations or just reminding yourself of all the cool stuff you’ve done.

  66. Oh boy… I have a lot of feelings about this and they’re not super flattering to me in the way your friends’ reactions are not super flattering to them, but I can state for sure that this is about their (my) issues, and NOT YOU.

    I wasted five years of my life trying to get into game development, and I don’t mean just ruminating on “wow it sure would be neat-o to work on games one day” but actively pursuing it as best and aggressively as I could: taking classes, attending conferences/meet-ups, tailoring and re-tailoring my resume while I scoured job and project boards, attempting to figure out ways to leave my city where the industry was dead for a much more expensive one a thousand miles away where it was thriving… and I got absolute bupkis, beyond $50K in student debt. Oh wait, I also utterly devastated my mental health in the process, so I also got crippling depressive episodes that persist to this day and I’ll probably be medicated for the rest of my life. I was very lucky in that what I was doing during those five years to pull in a paycheck turned out to be a viable alternate career that I also enjoy, otherwise I’d probably be dead.

    So yes, if your friends have any emotional investment in wanting to work in games, they are definitely jealous! Because you are undoubtedly an amazing, skilled, driven, fabulous person, but you are also INCREDIBLY lucky. And that’s fine! There are limited opportunities in the world, and some people get them and some don’t, and it doesn’t have anything to do with “deserving.” The fact that you got the chance to do an awesome thing and it has opened doors for you is fantastic and you do NOT need to apologize for it. But there are more failed games than there are successful ones–people pour years of their lives and thousands of dollars into making their own games, and still fail. (This is especially obnoxious in that the number one criteria the industry looks for when you’re attempting to break in is, “have you made a game already.”) And while your friends’ failed attempts don’t necessarily say anything about their skills or commitment, it’s very much a toxic narrative in the industry and among people trying to break in that if you can’t hack it, it’s because you “didn’t love games enough.” (Also frequently used to justify bad working conditions. People who love games work 120-hour weeks and sleep under their desks! Chumps who want to sleep in a bed in their own apartment with their partner are outsiders!)

    It does sound like they are being quite rude to you, though, and I fully advocate using the Captain’s scripts to shut down any sadfacing on their part. Be matter-of-fact and let them deal with their feelings on their own. But you may want to also want to save your professional successes to celebrate with a friend group that is not so invested, because the reality is that they are probably not going to stop being bitter about this any time soon.

  67. Not sure if this helps, but look at the situation with a “bigger-pie” mentality. The field of programmers tends to grow, so there’s always room for more people who can program – no matter how they get there. I say this with hopes that it might help stem the feelings of guilt, for possibly taking another person’s job in the field of programming. Take the view that, hey! there’s always room for more programmers so, join me and let’s both be programmers! IOW, there is nothing, especially not you!, stopping those other people from being programmers. Call them out if you like by responding with I’m sure you could do it and there’s plenty of demand for people who can do it. After all, you, LW, are proof of that. Congratulations on your successes!

  68. Coming out of the lurkesphere to say HOT DAMN WOW WOMAN YOU ARE ROCKING IT!!! Fellow female-identifying programmer here and I know how hard it is to bust through the tech industry (especially GAMES OMG). I know how hard it is to sit there and have a dude laugh off your work as easy (work he didn’t do!!). And I just want to give you a huge high five for making it so far and doing so well, I’m so proud of you. When I left my super-competitive school program for the real world, I had the good fortune to be hired to an awesome company with good team culture, and I learned how great it can be to (a) have other women in tech around and (b) have dudes who recognize your work as awesome instead of trying to tear you down, so I’m also here to let you know that you can find people who will be awesome and supportive of you in this, it is possible. By the way, I highly recommend finding some women in STEM support groups/meetups/quilting buddies in your area, they are usually amazing for support and making you feel like the badass you are (saved my bacon in school). So congrats on your game, kick ass at the next one, and there’s another female programmer out here rooting for you! You’re amazing!!!

  69. I only read through comment 150 or so (LOL) whereupon people began touching on this vein, but I want to be very explicit:

    You have “permission” to stop being friends with people who routinely hurt you.

    Even if these folks were there for you when you were struggling, any debt you might have to them is cancelled the moment they start undermining your successes. Maybe cut some slack for that initial flash of envy, but I’d start implementing a three strikes rule.

    Someone introduced the term “foul-weather friends” above & it’s basically perfect. Just like fair-weather friends are self-centered and only there when it suits/benefits them, foul-weather friends are also using your life to fuel their own personal hangups. In a way it’s worse than when people abandon you in hard times because these mirror universe jerks tend to dig in their claws and drag you back into the darkness. Or at a minimum continually swipe at you.

    You’re at the start of a long journey, with two primary resources: time and emotional energy. If you start to find that someone is unfairly consuming your resources and you start to want to avoid them, you are totally allowed to do that. You don’t have to be friends with people who hurt you, even if it’s just an accumulation of micro-aggressions. You have finite resources! You should gift them to folks who reciprocate.

    Luckily for you, you are already planning to get more involved with people outside the Sad Group (ps—stop calling them “peers” and that’ll go a long way towards alleviating your self-perception as a “sad person”) just through taking classes and pursuing more education in the discipline. You’re already going to be in a position to build new relationships with people who are your actual peers: newish programmers who are seeking to advance further. Lord knows that grouping has its own toxic dynamic *cough* conceited white dude syndrome *cough* but at least it will be new people who are much easier to write off if necessary. Just don’t let the bastards grind you down—you belong there. Somewhere there is a healthy community for this new you and eventually you will find it.

    1. I made a similar comment, then saw that you’d done a better job of elaborating on this concept. Good thoughts, A+.

  70. I can’t help being bothered by what you say about your friend group being Very Sad All The Time. Obviously, life happens, sometimes it’s not fun, and sometimes it’s hard for people to be positive and/or joyful. However, as a fellow mental health warrior, I just want to say…watch out for the “friends” who are consistently negative, belittle your successes, and try to sap the joy from awesome things in your life. You’re allowed to find new friends who support you and rejoice with you, and to limit or quit contact with those who drag you down. I had a friend who suffered a lot from depression and frustrating life circumstances, but who seemed unwilling either to do anything to better her life (including seeking mental health help), or to find ways to be joyful in it as it was. As I slowly learned those skills, she first tried to drag me back into the mire of depression with her, then became resentful of the good things in my life, to the extent that she refused to come to my wedding and didn’t even answer when I wrote to tell her I was expecting a baby. Maybe she really couldn’t overcome her negativity and maybe that wasn’t her fault, but it was hurting my recovery so much that I finally had to stop trying so hard to preserve the friendship, and make room for happier, healthier friendships instead. I’m really glad I did.

  71. One passing comment LW made stood out to me: “I already have a lot of survivor’s guilt for how well my life has been going the past two years, when a lot of my peer group is Very Sad All The Time.”

    It sounds from the letter like the peer group/friend group is… maybe prone to insisting that everyone join them down in the dumps. (Been there, known those people, done that, got the t-shirt and lingering issues.)

    If that’s the case–LW, it is ok to be happy and thriving even if it seems like you’re the only one who is. Supportive friends want their friends to do well, and do not require them to perform sadness or self-abasement if they’re ‘too’ happy. If that’s happening in your social circles, it is Not Cool and this humble internet commenter encourages you to disregard that pressure.

  72. So there is one thing I want to point out – and I want to stress that this doesn’t excuse your friends rudeness – but as a socially awkward nerd who works in the IT industry (but not the games industry), I can see myself saying, “wow, you got that job just because you’re an expert in [whatever]? I should apply!” without realizing how dismissive that sounds. I’m glad I read this letter, though, so I can keep myself from doing that in the future!

    If it helps give some perspective on my native rudeness/thoughtlessness, I’m also the sort of person who says aloud, “I got this job even though I have no expertise in [industry relevant language or program], you should apply for this job too, friend!” (I’ve been trying to get some old co-workers from a toxic work environment to apply to my current IT position… hardly any of them have actually applied, unfortunately).

  73. My ex said some things like this to me. At first, he was really happy. I was applying to University and going through a long essay/interview process for a massive scholarship. Boyfriend made lots of comments about how it would be good for me to be more educated, because it would reflect well on him (Red flag, I know!). He also urged me to not get my hopes up, as competition for the scholarship was fierce. He was soooo supportive when I spent my nights rewriting all of my application essays and obsessing about interview questions. I should have realized something was off about him when I actually did get the scholarship. I was incandescent with joy. Him? Not so much. Boyfriend pouted like a three year old denied a lollipop.

    Boyfriend really changed when I was able to attend my university, paid for completely by the scholarship. He started complaining about how I was not as deserving as he was of such recognition and respect. He made fun of the speech I gave when I had to get up and accept the scholarship award in front of 400+ people (as if my social anxiety wasn’t bad enough!). He complained that my dorm room was so much better than the one he had when he was in school. He complained about how much nicer my possessions were than his when he was in school. Suddenly, there were a whole lot more negative comments coming from Boyfriend. So many complaints about how I had it easier than he did, that it just wasn’t fair. Lots of comments about how I was treated better due to my gender. I was given money and good grades and special treatment and respect because I am a woman. Riiiiight.

    To fast forward a few months, Boyfriend went from “no fair, poor me!” to “die, you evil man hating harpy.” Nothing like having your boyfriend scream obscenities at you while simultaneously whining about the sex you owe him, then trying to choke you, to make breaking up seem like a good idea. He was shrieking, “You don’t deserve to be in school! You would be nothing without me!” as I walked out of the house forever.

    I always knew that Ex-Boyfriend was a bit if a jerk, but didn’t realize what a violent, dangerous misogynist he was until I earned respect and success that he felt he was entitled to. What an asshole.

  74. I was a programmer for 40 years. It has enabled me to retire early with a nice retirement check and a nice amount of money in the bank. Good programmers get paid well. I’m also female. I can’t tell you what to do about your friends but I want to give you a heads up that, for some reason, guys don’t think women can be programmers. It boggles my mind sometimes. I mean it does not involve anything that most men are better at than most women, like lifting heavy things or being taller but almost every job I had I was the only female in the group. So some advice – look for your allies, they are there. Cultivate the confused look and the death stare. These are useful in meetings when you want to quietly single out someone as being an asshole. It is not necessary to bring it to the attention of everyone. You will need to win the guys over one at a time. Be humble but confident. I remember an issue at my last job. There were 4 of us trying to figure out what was going wrong with a program. As soon as I thought I knew the answer I asked a question to clarify. No it couldn’t be that they said. Four hours later when they had tried everything else they found that I was right in the first place. I didn’t get angry, didn’t raise my voice, just kept asking after every failed attempt at a solution. I got a lot of respect that day. And learn all you can. Good luck.

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