Navigating UX Design Imposter Syndrome

Taste & The Self Fulfilling Prophecy

DEFINING IMPOSTER SYNDROME

“The impostor syndrome or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.”
— Wikipedia

In the two awesome weeks I’ve spent at the User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) course at General Assembly in San Francisco a troubling insecurity has been discussed among my peers — UX imposter syndrome. UX imposter syndrome in a group of about 60 Junior UX designers is understandable… we are all granting ourselves a professional title which usually requires years of mentored training and harsh critiques to earn. Who are we to grant ourselves this distinction after a mere 10 weeks?

This is something I struggled with as well before the course started, but I believe I’ve momentarily quelled these fears by reminding myself of the joy I get every time I am inspired by a clean interaction or come up with a meaningful solution to a person’s problems.

Lauren Bacon has also written eloquently about topic this at length here and goes more in depth about why its so critical that we get past this syndrome.

THE SELF FULFILLING PROPHECY

“The best way to accomplish serious design … is to be totally and completely unqualified for the job.”
— Paula Scher

Through years of competing in team sports I have come to know the importance of positive interpersonal chemistry. Your mood effects everyone else’s and is critical to the mood and success of the team as a whole. Sometimes we really don’t want to be there at the game or at practice, but as Amy Cuddy describes in a wonderful TED Talk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”, your body language can change the way you feel and act. I believe this lesson applies to solving imposter syndrome as well. It’s easy for us as junior UX designers to second guess our place in the world of design. It starts by believing in yourself — believing that you are a designer. Believing it yourself allows you to be able to fake it until you make it.

WHY I GOT STARTED IN UX: TASTE

One of the biggest barriers for me getting into a creative field is that I never considered myself an artist. I’ve always done creative things; carried a sketchbook, done ceramics, and played a musical instrument. And I’ve always been able to recognize the difference between shoddy and quality work. But when you grow up the son of a professional calligrapher and musician with an artistic sister and many creative friends you begin to think being creative is a sort of all or nothing thing. I’m very happy to now report that I no longer view creativity this way. For me the turning point occurred after watching a video narrated by Ira Glass (below).

I’ve watched this video many times to reassure me that a famous artist (creator) — who is not an imposter — was at one point disappointed about their own “gap” between their taste and skills.

Accepting the ‘gap’ was paramount in my decision to take on UX as a profession. I realized it was okay if I couldn’t always produce works that would measure up to my standards, but that by trusting in the design process and tools at my disposal I could achieve what I was after. While I’m still a novice in the world of design, I know that my taste and drive will cause the ‘gap’ to shrink and shrink.

www.devonsanderson.com