Surviving Boot Camp When Doubt Looms Large

Hack Upstate
5 min readMay 24, 2024


The following is written by Careers in Code’s career coach, Laura Thorne.

Embarking on any type of boot camp journey can be both exhilarating and daunting. Coding boot camps are particularly scary because, unlike a physical challenge, the promise of acquiring new skills and advancing in your career is often overshadowed by the challenges that come with it. Doubt creeps in, making it hard to maintain the unwavering belief that you can conquer the hurdles ahead. But fear not, truly believing in yourself and cultivating an “I can do this” mindset is not only possible but crucial for your success.

Here’s how you can nurture and sustain a positive mindset, even when the going gets tough:

Use Mantras: Harness the power of positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are simple yet powerful statements that you repeat to yourself regularly to reinforce positive beliefs and attitudes. They serve as a form of self-talk that can significantly impact your mindset and behavior. Repeat phrases like “I am capable,” “I am resilient,” and “I have what it takes” daily. These mantras serve as anchors, grounding you in confidence and reminding you of your inherent strengths, because you can do it and you do have what it takes to get to the finish line.

Celebrate Small Wins: When you’re faced with daunting tasks or complex concepts, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and become unmotivated. Celebrating small victories provides a much-needed morale boost, reminding you of your progress and accomplishments. Each small win serves as evidence of your capabilities and progress, fueling your motivation to continue pushing forward. Confidence is built through experience and positive reinforcement. By celebrating small victories, you reinforce your belief in your abilities and build confidence in your capacity to overcome challenges. Every time you successfully complete a task or master a new concept, you demonstrate to yourself that you are capable and competent, strengthening your self-assurance in the process. Celebrations can be something like, if I get through this concept, I’ll take myself out for ice cream or call your mom every Friday to tell her you got through another week.

Nix Comparing Yourself to Others: In the fast-paced environment of a boot camp, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of comparison. Amidst the collective pursuit of mastering new skills and overcoming challenges, it’s natural to glance sideways and gauge your progress against that of your peers. However, this comparison can be detrimental to your mindset and overall experience.

“Comparison is the Thief of Happiness” — Theodore Roosevelt

Everyone arrives at boot camp with unique backgrounds, experiences, and learning styles. What may come easily to one person may present a significant challenge to another. Recognizing and embracing this diversity is essential. I once hiked an incredibly difficult trail with a friend who always blasted past everyone on the trail up; I felt like a wimp compared to her. On the way down, we encountered snow banks that I was able to fly down, leaving her behind. You might find that the person who’s ahead of you in module 3 can’t keep up with you in database concepts. It’s not a competition, we each have our own natural gifts.

By focusing inwardly on your own growth and development, you free yourself from the constraints of comparison and judgment.

Make It Fun: It’s all too easy to get dragged down into negative thoughts when overwhelmed trying to juggle a maybe not so great full time job and staying up until wee hours of the evening trying to practice the coding lessons you’re struggling to absorb. By approaching tasks with a positive attitude and a genuine love for learning, you can transform the experience from an obligation into a fulfilling adventure.

“Work joyfull, not hard” — Sadhguru

Embrace creativity as your ally, exploring innovative ways to make learning not only effective but also enjoyable. Whether it’s gamifying study sessions, engaging in group activities, or simply infusing a sense of playfulness into your approach, find what sparks joy and run with it. When you genuinely enjoy what you’re doing, perseverance becomes second nature. Challenges are no longer burdens to bear but opportunities to grow and thrive. By working joyfully, you not only enhance your learning experience but also cultivate a mindset of resilience, curiosity, and passion that will serve you well long after boot camp has ended. Other ways to make work fun are listening to music, checking out a new coffee shop, going to a coworking space, using your hotspot in a park, sip your favorite coffee or tea, or taking a break to watch some cat videos on Instagram — just don’t get sucked in for too long!

Ask for Help When Needed: There are a lot of reasons students avoid or hesitate to ask for help. They may feel insecure about it; they may think that if they have to ask for help, they aren’t actually learning, or that they don’t want to bother the instructors. However, true strength lies in vulnerability, in the willingness to acknowledge when you’re struggling and to reach out for support. This act of reaching out is not a display of weakness but rather a testament to your courage and commitment to growth. Whether you’re grappling with a difficult concept, feeling overwhelmed by the workload, or simply in need of guidance, don’t hesitate to seek help. Instructors are there to support you, offering clarification, guidance, and encouragement along the way. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand, ask questions, and lean on others when the going gets tough. In doing so, you’ll not only overcome obstacles more effectively but also forge deeper connections and emerge stronger than ever before.

Maintain a Social Network: Groups can be a gathering of your fellow students, a book club, or a valuable source of camaraderie and collaboration. Together, you can share insights, tackle complex problems, and offer each other support during challenging times. Beyond the confines of the classroom, the internet offers a vast array of online resources and communities where you can find answers, guidance, and inspiration. Embrace these opportunities to learn from others, to leverage their expertise, and to collaborate towards shared success. By embracing vulnerability and seeking support when needed, you not only lighten your load but also foster a culture of mutual support and growth that benefits everyone involved.

Maintaining an unstoppable mindset is not about denying the existence of challenges but rather about confronting them with unwavering determination and self-belief. By incorporating these practices into your journey, you’ll not only navigate boot camp more effectively but also emerge stronger, more resilient, and ready to tackle the pending career search and whatever else lies ahead. Remember, the power to succeed lies within you.

Looking for a coding bootcamp? You may be interested in our 24-week, full stack bootcamp. You can learn more and apply for our waitlist here!

Laura Thorne is the Career Coach with Hack Upstate’s Careers in Code program. Careers in Code is a bootcamp for women and minorities. To learn more, go to