The Modern Software Developer Newsletter

Wellbeing & Performance

Issue 3 – Are your Beliefs holding you back?

What is a belief?

In last month’s issue, we looked at hydration and how it can impact you as a developer, both physically and mentally. 

You can catch that issue here.

In this issue, I want to touch on your belief; what is it? Where does it come from? And how can it influence you as a software developer or software development leader?

Before you dive in, consider this, what is a belief, and how do YOU define it?

No googling; just think about how you would define belief – without using the word belief or believe!











The definition we’ll move forward with is this:

A BELIEF: “Something YOU accept as TRUE or Real”

How do your beliefs influence you as a software developer or software development leader?

When we look at belief, we can roughly break things down into what we believe about ourselves – our self-belief – and what we believe about the rest of the world around us. 

Let’s start with a scenario in which our belief plays an important role in the decisions we make and the actions we take; then, we can explore how our beliefs are formed so we can be more careful about the beliefs we take on.

What am I worth?

When I had just a couple of years of software development experience, I started looking for my next developer job. Two years experience seemed to be the magic number for new jobs at the time. (It now seems to be about five years…)

I remember scanning the job boards and believing there was an upper ceiling to what a company would pay me based on my age and current salary.

Unfortunately, this upper salary expectation I’d selected for myself was based on my existing salary, which was low, rather than simply being based on my experience and expertise.

The impact of this for me was that even when I read a job advert and it was a perfect match for my skills and experience, if the salary were greater than my self-imposed limit, I wouldn’t give that job a second thought.

Sometimes, I would see the salary first and instantly dismiss it, even though I could have matched the skills and experience…

I’d created a self-imposed limit for myself based on the thoughts of a few developers who were more experienced than I was and it may have cost me numerous opportunities.

It’s vitally important to remember that believing something doesn’t make it a FACT.

What am I capable of?

We also form beliefs about what we think we are capable of or not capable of.

Earlier in my career, I would always keep my opinions to myself. I didn’t believe that anyone would be interested in what I had to say; I believed that because most people were more experienced than I was that they would already have thought about any questions I had or any ideas I thought of.

Again, this just held me back, restricted my learning opportunities and contributed to a lack of confidence. I’d later go on to pass up promotion opportunities and shy away from taking on new projects…

So, where do our beliefs come from, and how do we form them?

How do you form Beliefs?

Given the power of your beliefs and the influence they have on your life, you’d probably think that we’re extremely careful about the beliefs we take on…

However, what if I told you that many of your beliefs were actually formed when you were a much younger, maybe somewhat less wise version of yourself, and you formed them with very little validation, if any at all?

It sounds alarming when you put it like that…

It’s important to understand the origins of your beliefs, how you formed them and how you can form new ones.

There are three main ways that you form beliefs:

1. From emotionally charged events

Your emotions can amplify your beliefs. Some of your strongest beliefs are formed when you experience an emotionally charged event. 

Situations involving emotions like excitement, pride, happiness, love, fear, anger and sadness could all contribute to you forming strong beliefs around those situations.

For example, as a junior developer, you could have been shot down and ridiculed by a senior developer for not knowing something. You might then think all senior developers are like this and shy away from asking questions.

2. You take on other people’s beliefs

The most obvious example of taking on other people’s beliefs would be taking on the beliefs of your parents and those people you spend the most time with. 

This can make its way into the workplace too. The more you respect someone and think they know what they’re talking about, the more likely you will take on their beliefs without questioning them.

You might find yourself favouring a particular framework because someone you think is an excellent developer suggested it was a good framework once.

3. Repetition

The third way we adopt beliefs is through repetition. Repeatedly being told something or repeatedly seeing something can morph into a belief without you even realising it.

And the biggest repeater of all is YOU!

The things you repeatedly say out loud to other people and, more importantly, the things you repeatedly say to yourself start to make their way into your subconscious, and before you know it, you’re acting upon them as if they were facts that have been set in stone.


Your beliefs are so powerful. They play a massive role in your decision-making; they often define how you see yourself, what you think you’re capable of or not capable of, and what’s more, you’ll often treat your beliefs as if they are facts.

If you’re not careful, this can lead to many disagreements as we often protect our beliefs and want to defend them.

Knowing this and realising that everyone feels the same way about their beliefs, only their beliefs are slightly different from yours, can go a long way into understanding why many discussions descend into arguments or get people defensive.

Remember that beliefs are not necessarily FACTS. You CHOOSE what you believe. The key is to look out for the beliefs that are holding you back and choose to believe something more helpful.

We’ll touch on how to go about that in a future issue.


It’s not selfish to put yourself first; there’s nothing more important than your own wellbeing!

Please share with your network if you found this useful.

Until next time…

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