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    I have fought against this myself. It’s hard. What I found really helpful was to decouple my self-worth from my job. Nothing related to programming skill is related to peoples’ inherent value; almost nothing in programming is a moral decision (except being willing to say “this is a job I will not do”). Personally I have found it easier to find this from philosophical, theological, and moral texts than from self-help books; tastes vary.

    If you are interested, I recommend these books:

    • The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
    • Xunzi (translated into English by Hutton)
    • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
    • The Confessions by St. Augustine
    • The Seven-Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

    Several of them are “religious” (Mindfulness is Zen Buddhist and Augustine and Merton are both Catholic), but there is a common thread of self-critique and examination that runs through them that I found really valuable.

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      What I found really helpful was to decouple my self-worth from my job

      I will go one further, and say what really works for me (and what I’m constantly having to practice) is to decouple my self-worth from my own intelligence or talent, and to go on to admit that whatever I happen to be suited to, there’s very little credit I can take for it. As a programmer, I am entirely reliant on prostheses: documentation, yes, but also unit tests, type systems, and mathematics—these are all useful to me, and everyone else, specifically because they help fill in the gaps where my reasoning ability (supposedly the thing I am proud of as a programmer) is deficient.

      Nevertheless my mind does rush to judgment constantly; it’s been fine-tuned to always find a way to set myself apart from whoever I’m looking at. At then end of the day, when it comes to this profession, pretty much every single one of us would benefit from approaching it with a huge degree of humility.

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        Nevertheless my mind does rush to judgment constantly

        Programming encourages this, because code has to be right. Pointing out mistakes is something we frequently have to do as a result.

        Most of ‘the real world’ doesn’t need the same kind of correctness. Businesses run on approximation and best efforts.

        This is (to my mind) the most significant ‘Déformation professionnelle’ of the programmer. In the rest of society, maintaining a relationship is (often) more important than pointing out a mistake.

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          …every single one of us would benefit from approaching it with a huge degree of humility.

          This is the key point, I think. Humility helps you see where you’ve made a mistake; where you can improve; where you might be entering an area of weakness. It also helps you relate to your coworkers and colleagues. If you can come to recognize things as opinions, rather than subjects of Objective Truth, that don’t really matter very much, then a lot of friction is removed.

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            Humility for me is really hard when met by arrogance. Arrogance provokes arrogance in myself.

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              That is very true. It’s easy to get offended and act arrogant/negative in return. This is probably my primary failure mode! Still, it’s just something to recognize and work on.

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          Thanks for your comment, especially the small sentence “it’s hard.”

          I struggle with the concept of decoupling my self-worth from work. Sometimes, I think that this is the right path. Then I cannot perceive how something on that I spent so much deliberate time & energy should be irrelevant for defining my self? I am currently digging into mediation, maybe your recommendations provide further guidance. Thanks.

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            Consider these ideas.

            1. Imagine that there is an economic down-turn and you are not able to keep your job. You are forced to work, to make ends meet, as a cook in a restaurant.
            2. Imagine that you were struck by a car while crossing the street. You have a head injury and, while you are able to walk and talk, are never able to work as a programmer again.

            In either case, should your self-worth be damaged? I would say no. How we treat our personal obligations is what defines us as people, not our work. If you are meeting your personal obligations as best you can in the circumstances—treating the people around you well, taking care of your children, generally making the world better—then you’re doing fine.

            I really like Xunzi for this, because he sets out his goals plainly.

            The gentleman is the opposite of the petty man. If the gentleman is great-hearted [confident] then he reveres Heaven and follows the Way [i.e. follows social rituals and educates others]. If he is small-hearted [shy] then he cautiously adheres to yi [moral standards] and regulates himself. If he is smart, then with enlightened comprehension he acts according to the proper categories of things. If he is unlearned, then with scrupulous honesty he follows the proper model. If he is heeded, then he is reverent and reserved. If he is disregarded, then he is respectful and controlled. If he is happy then he is harmonious and well-ordered. If he is troubled, then he is calm and well-ordered. If he is successful, then he is refined and enlightened. If he is unsuccessful, then he is restrained and circumspect.

            In short, there is a way to be a “gentleman” (or “sage”) in every circumstance. Of course, nobody is perfect, so it’s better to be seen as a “process” than an end point.

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          I don’t have the “judgey” side of this - it’s been a long time since I thought I was the smartest person in the room, and I like this a lot, otherwise I’ll never learn shit. But I am always worried that I’m coming off like a gruff jerk and nobody’s bothered to tell me.

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            This bit really stood out to me:

            Compassion presents an optimization problem — it’s about understanding and minimizing suffering. It’s not the same as politeness or niceness, and it often involves speaking honestly and assertively.

            I need to do what’s best for the other person, not for me.

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              [I] took full credit for my “success.”

              The audacity!