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Day 80: on pridefulness

Posted on 3 mins read

Last week, I wrote about how we, Software Developers are not really that special. At the time, my approach to our own perceived specialness was based on an industry issue. An industry that had convinced us that we are, indeed, special. But that’s probably too reductionist, and a bit conceited: it’s not our fault, you made us that way. So, today I’ll look into the more personal aspects that sometimes plague our life as developers.

Sins

Today, I came across a quote from Wikipedia’s definition of Pride (the cardinal sin):

[…] it is irrationally believing that one is essentially and necessarily better, superior, or more important than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal image or self […]

I started writing code because it made me feel empowered. With it, I was able to shape worlds that reacted to the movements of my fingertips. When I read that definition, I realized that same feeling of empowerment can make us feel smart, clever, better. In short, when left unchecked, the ability to write code will make us feel powerful and that power could lead us down a path of pridefulness. But code won’t stop empowering. In fact, it’s one of its best features: it brings that power to anyone with an interest to wield it. So, how can we avoid being prideful?

It’s not the same as proud

prideful !== proud. Feeling proud of ourselves allows us to see the value of our actions and is indispensable in having a healthy sense of self worth. We become prideful when we start valuing ourselves above others, but that doesn’t mean we have to put ourselves below others in order to avoid it. What we need to remind ourselves is that we’re not necessarily better than anyone. We can do this by avoiding absolute value judgements. I have come up with an idea to try this:

  • Whenever you say something is bad, think about it for a second. Can you really objectively say that? Is that thing entirely, 100% bad in all cases, under all circumstances and in all contexts? Some things are, for sure. But most things aren’t. And stopping for a second to think about them will help you be a bit more empathetic with the context.

We’re really lacking in empathy nowadays, so in the worst of cases, this won’t hurt at all.

Why is empathy useful again?

By making an effort to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, you’ll know what it’s like to not be you. You’ll gain a vision of the privilege that surrounds you and how that relates to other people. In short, empathy makes us all more decent human beings. And if that wasn’t enough, it can also help us with solving communication issues in our daily jobs!

It’s too easy to get stuck in our own minds. Things can be crystal clear to us and we struggle to figure out why they’re not clear to someone else. What we often forget is what the process of making it clear was like for us, and we assume everyone else is already there. Training ourselves to take a step back can help us see ourselves and our ideas through the eyes of the person across the table.

Software is capable of amazing things. It has the strength to empower us and those around us. But it can also blind us to our own situation and that of others. It’s up to us to use its better version. We can do better. We need to do better.

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