Imposter Syndrome: Your Experience With It as a Designer and Tips To Manage It?

Question 8: How to overcome feeling like a fraud

Guy Ligertwood
Nov 3, 2017 · 13 min read

20 Designers, 20 Weeks, 1 Question Per Week

This week we dig into ‘Imposter Syndrome’


Previous articles in the series (so far)


“The struggle is real! I don’t think you can be a designer without imposter syndrome. It comes with the territory of inventing the future because there are no rules. Once you discover that everyone feels like a fraud from time to time, it doesn’t feel so bad” (Cheech)


“Worry less about others’ success, and work harder on showing up and developing your best self

You are a real designer” (Simon Pan)


Simon Pan — Senior Product Designer at Medium, San Francisco, USA

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

When I started to teach myself design, this self-loathing, impostery rhetoric magnified. I didn’t feel like a real designer. It made my pursuit of design more intimidating and made me more vulnerable.

Things got more comfortable when I focused on working hard to get better. I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and pursued any and all types of feedback. Over time, as my designs got better, I learnt to trust myself.

Worry less about others’ success, and work harder on showing up and developing your best self.

You are a real designer.

Where can people follow you?


Andrew Doherty — CEO, Another.ai, Berlin, Germany

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

Google tends to hire people who are prone to imposter syndrome, rather than hire assholes who think they are the best.

Why? Because who wants to work with a know-it-all asshole? Know-it-all assholes leave little room to learn new things.

To those suffering from imposter syndrome, my advice to you is this:

Do not try to convince yourself that you’re the best designer in the world. The cure for imposter syndrome is to realise that the best designers in the world are all faking it, just like you.

The only difference between you and some famous designer is that they stopped worrying about the fact they were faking it for long enough to let themselves be amazing.

Where can people follow you?


Adham Dannaway — Senior UI/UX designer, Contract/Freelance, Sydney, Australia

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

The scariest time is when you’re just starting a new job, and your boss hands you a big project.

You’re under a lot of pressure to succeed, and there’s always some self-doubt that creeps in to make things even harder. The good thing about the pressure and self-doubt is that it pushes you to work harder and learn more.

Over the years you solve more and more different problems, and your confidence grows. You also realise that most other people feel like imposters to some extent, so you’re not alone.

The fact is that no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn. And that’s the thing that makes being a designer so much fun.

Where can people follow you?


Ben Huggins — Sr Interaction Designer, YouTube, San Francisco, USA

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

I think what most people consider imposter syndrome is a feeling of learning — of growth. It’s the discomfort that comes with being responsible for a difficult challenge with no clear path to success.

Rachel Smith wrote an interesting piece recently exploring that distinction.

There are many days when I feel that discomfort. But with time and work, they tend to give way to a feeling of accomplishment — like I overcame an obstacle.

I try to keep perspective during those tough days:

  • This is a feeling of growth.
  • It is an investment in getting better.
  • You’ve worked hard to get here.
  • You’re more capable than you feel at this moment.
  • If you’re feeling challenged, you’re in the right place.

Where can people follow you?


Chirryl-Lee Ryan (aka Cheech) — Head of Experience Design at Isobar, Hong Kong

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

The best thing I can think of to manage imposter syndrome is to be open and share your feelings.

I make myself available to listen whenever a designer needs me, and I remind them of the great stuff they’ve done to break their negative head-talk.

Where can people follow you?


Charbel Zeaiter — Chief Experience Officer, Academy Xi, Melbourne & Sydney

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

As a UXer, that’s what I know I did with my clients and project teams, and now, as I have transitioned into being an educator, it’s what Xi is all about.

So regarding managing my feeling of being an imposter; it’s there to keep me grounded, and when I look at why I exist, the self-doubt that emerges from feeling like an imposter is easily outweighed by my drive to bring out the best in people.

Where can people follow you?


Audrey Liu — Director of Product Design at Thumbtack, San Francisco, USA

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

The shadow side of this is that I often find myself taking that same critical lens inward, which results in a disproportionate focus on my shortcomings rather than strengths.

I try to overcome/manage it by:

  1. Reminding myself that everyone experiences some form of imposter syndrome,
  2. Having 1–2 close friends who can talk me out of it (a good “you’re being ridiculous” does wonders).
  3. Keeping a rainy day email folder with notes of encouragement that I’ve received over the years.

Additionally, I think it’s vital to have a cohort of peers (other designers, other design leaders, etc.) who you can bounce ideas off of and chat about work with.

Having these cohorts will not only give you a more realistic comparison to base your critique off but will also show you that you’re doing a great job.

Where can people follow you?


Nick Babich — Development Team Manager, Ring Central, Russia

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

As designers, we should fight this fear. One simple technique will help you to fight the fear, is an open discussion.

When someone tells you that you’re wrong, don’t be afraid to ask the person why they think that, you need to understand the point of view of the other person. Open discussion paired with active listening will make your design better.

Where can people follow you?


Paola Mariselli — Product Designer, Facebook, Menlo Park, California, USA

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

Within the context of design, this may translate to ‘I can’t work on this big assignment. I’m not experienced enough.’

Then, recognising this thought as a distortion — which takes practice.

Finally, challenging it with facts: ‘I’m highly educated. I have worked on similar projects before. Leadership trusts me for a reason.’

In the beginning, this series of steps take a lot of work, but eventually, it all happens semi-automatically. job.

Where can people follow you?


Alessandro Floridi — UX Manager at Deloitte, Sydney, Australia

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

If you are feeling like an imposter, probably your ambition overtook your knowledge, and you should learn fast what you need to do.

Another possibility is that you’re surrounded by people with humongous egos and little knowledge. In that case don’t feel like an imposter but run for your life.

Where can people follow you?


Leslie Chicoine — Experience Design and Product Management Consultant, Denver, USA

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

We are all works in progress.

I find that keeping this in mind, and actively working to improve as a designer and person, means that I’m never an imposter. I’m just a student of life like the rest of us.

Where can people follow you?


Buzz Usborne — Product Designer at Help Scout, Sydney, Australia

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

Personally I feel it a lot, especially now I work remotely — but I see it as something to be embraced, not feared.

For me, the feeling of being discovered as an “imposter” is a constant fire to over-deliver, always learn, and continually improve the ways I work and collaborate. While it’s not comfortable, I hope it keeps me humble.

Aside from appreciating that a lot of my peers feel the same, the best way I’ve found to manage it is to mentor — in sharing my experiences; I’m reassured that I’ve learned a thing or two worth sharing along the way!

Where can people follow you?


Kylie Timpani — Senior Designer at Humaan, Perth, Australia

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

My path into design was a winding one, filled with difficult decisions I had to address with a substantial level of conscious effort.

I started on the back foot, way behind those I considered my peers and had to work a lot of things out on my own to catch up.

It was freakin’ tough but I know the level of success I’m proud of at the moment is a direct a result of that journey. I remind myself of this regularly.

If you deal with imposter syndrome, I would recommend physically mapping your journey to the point you’re at right now. Stick it on your wall, be kind to yourself and use that physical map to remind yourself that you’ve done a lot of damn good stuff to be where you are.

Denise Jacob’s also said something compelling and reassuring about this very topic at a conference I attended:

“You will only experience impostor syndrome when you are competent and skilled”

Let that be validation enough.

Where can people follow you?


Graeme Fulton — Writer, coder, designer at Marvel Gibraltar, UK

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

I think this is imposter syndrome, and it happens because some of the others using this title can cling to it, and be elitist about ‘being a designer’.

This type of person has all the talk, qualifications and boxes ticked, making you feel that you don’t know enough.

They’re usually shit though.

Don’t listen to them — if you want to design, just do it because you can do what you want and be what you like. Good people will help you, and you’ll overcome it.

My own story on this is here: I’m not smart I just sat there for longer than you

Where can people follow you?


Kaiting Huang — Interaction Designer at Google, in Seattle, USA

Nationality:

Imposter syndrome: Your experience with it as a designer and tips to manage it

Now that I work at Google, suddenly more people are reaching out to me than people I reach out to for career advice. As I offer the best suggestions I can think of, I realise that everyone is just winging it.

No one has “figured it out”, no matter how it may seem. I still have my fears, self-doubts and frustrations, and so do the people I look up to.

The most important thing is to move forward anyway. “Fake it until you make it” is an idiom backed up by science. Imposters are just humans. There’s no need to feel like a fraud when you are just authentically living a human life.

Where can people follow you?


I think what most people consider imposter syndrome is a feeling of learning — of growth. It’s the discomfort that comes with being responsible for a difficult challenge with no clear path to success.” (Ben Huggins)


If you enjoyed this…

Intro Article: Get to know the designers
Question 1: How did you get into design?
Question 2: How your typical work day?
Question 3:What things you wish you knew when you started in design?
Question 4: What are the best ways for you to stay inspired?
Question 5: What do you want to see in my UX design portfolio?
Question 6: 5 important questions you need to be able to answer in the UX interview?
Question 7: (you’re here) 5 design books every UX designer should read


Thanks for the read, before you go

Guy Ligertwood

Written by

UX Designer. Scotsman with an English accent, married to an Argentinian, living in Australia.