My struggles as a feeling-type, emotional and highly-sensitive programmer

Unlike many in the tech industry, I’m one of the few who see the world through the emotion lens and intuition. Gut feelings guide almost every decision I make. Whenever I set down to do something, it must feel right or I just don’t do it. Sometimes, I consciously know that it will be painful for me in the future if I don’t do anything right now.

But often times, gut feelings just doesn’t cut it in the tech industry. You have to convince people of why you think or see things certain ways. After all, it is an industry that is predominantly numbers, logical and pragmatic.

So I found myself struggling quite often to articulate why I feel so strongly against or for something or explain my decisions. It is also a struggle to explain why I know a certain thing will happen or not. And when I finally do find the right words to use to make my stand, the arguments in hindsight are weak most of the time. At the end, people will not take you seriously since you can’t convince them and will brush you off if not reject you.

Rejection hurts. A lot. Then there were times when I’m just outright angry with that. I’ll admit, I did take it personally because deep down, I am really trying to help to make sure you don’t go through the same pain by getting you to be more conscientious and put in place mechanisms now that you can use easily in the future. It also lead me to feel disappointed with myself for failing to convince anyone more than anything else.

That’s not the say I lost perspective. I do know projects are time-sensitive as the customer wants the product out fast and good. Nobody got the time to wait for you to lay down the foundational properly now. I know recognize that people at the management level are pulling their hair out trying to manage the whole project and deal with the customer. I also know that some of my colleagues are swarmed with work while some just didn’t want to expend so much effort.

Ability to multi-task is expected of you when you work as a programmer. I don’t know about the other roles in other industry because I have never worked in those before. But what I do know, from the perspective of a highly-sensitive person, multi-tasking is very expensive in terms of energy use. Then you have to juggle with a whole bunch of demands, go for meetings, eat, and mingle with other colleagues. So by the end of most of my work day, I always feel so drained.

Those are the things that make me feel like just giving up working as a programmer or engineer. I just don’t feel like I belong in this industry because of my highly-sensitive and emotional nature. I just no longer have the same conviction I had when I was younger. My colleagues, despite my efforts to explain my nature, don’t seem to get it. It means that I don’t get the kind of support I need to get through my day or do my work properly. Then, there is the self-doubt. It is also my biggest enemy and leads me to suffer from higher amount of anxiety.

Until the day I finally snap and quit software development, there are a few tips I can think of to help one go through his or her day better. I have to admit I tend forget about them when I’m overly stressed or anxious:

  1. Remind yourself that there is nothing personal at work unless it is obviously a personal attack by your colleagues. Everyone is there to do their work and fuck off at the end of the day.
  2. Be mindful of how you are feeling. Walk away if necessary, collect yourself and try again.
  3. Let it all out at the end of the day by going for a quick jog or run or exercise. Go for screaming therapy if need be. Punch a punching bag or do high-intensity workout.
  4. Avoid any form of chemical stimulants like caffeine. I know as programmers, caffeine is your best friend but if you are highly-sensitive or emotional, caffeine will send your nervous system into overdrive. That will put you at higher risk of anxiety attacks or feel more restless than usual. I have been there. If you really want something to drink that is not water, try mint, chamomile or ginger tea.

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