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.