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Imposter Syndrome In Design: The Tell-All Guide

We’ve put together a guide to understand what different types of imposter syndrome you may be experiencing, as well as how to deal with it. We focus on Imposter Syndrome In Design, but this article has tips and tricks for everyone that it might apply to.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

As a designer or someone within the creative sphere, you may have come across this term before. Imposter syndrome is defined as a feeling that others around you possess more knowledge, skill or experience than you do. Although that was put quite simply, the concept is in fact rather complex. Imposter syndrome also causes you to feel that you are not deserving of your accomplishments and perhaps landed your job by pure chance.

Essentially, an uncontrollable feeling of insecurity ensues, a common problem amongst designers and other creatives. Imposter syndrome is not limited to only highly skilled people, but everyone! One of the most likely causes of imposter syndrome is our inner voices. Sometimes we can feel apprehensive to ask questions which fuels self-doubt.

Because we know ourselves best, our flaws, or imperfections, our struggles – we tend to get caught up in our inner monologue and disregard the fact that others experience the same thoughts and doubt.

It can be difficult to grasp the idea that others are just like us because we don’t get a glimpse into their thoughts. Sometimes, imposter syndrome can propel us forward into doing more however it is important to be able to identify it and deal with it in an effective way, as it can begin to hinder your growth and hold you back.

Signs You May Have Imposter Syndrome

There are a number of things that can indicate possible imposter syndrome, so let’s dive in.

1. You have become a perfectionist

Do you refuse to turn in work that is not perfect? Do you spend unnecessary time trying to perfect every pixel of your design? Sounds like you’re concerned about other’s perceiving you negatively, and prevent this experience by meticulously checking and perfecting your work.

2. You deny compliments

Do you disagree with people when they complement you on your design work? Are you overly humble?

3. Design reviews are your biggest fear

Whether it’s a good review or a bad one, you might dread any form of critique on your work.

4. You spend the majority of your time working, even putting in overtime

Overcompensating for your perceived lack of skills can manifest in dedicating too much time to your craft.

5. Being a leader or in a position of power makes you uncomfortable

Do you feel like you cheated your way to your position? And that stepping up will expose your ‘incompetence’? This too is another indicator you might be experiencing imposter syndrome.

Types of Imposter Syndrome

Surprisingly, imposter syndrome isn’t one clearly defined experience, but can take on many forms. Head of Design Transformation at InVision, Stephen Gates outlined the 5 different types of imposter syndrome that is most commonly seen in designers and others in the creative sphere.

1. The Perfectionist

Perfectionists are increasingly occupied with the ‘how’ of the design process, often hung up on the details and setting unrealistic, high goals. For the average perfectionist experiencing imposter syndrome, anything less than perfect is regarded as a failure. For a lack of better words, these individuals are control freaks who have an inherent tendency to obsess over feedback. In addition to this, when 100% is achieved, it is likely still unsatisfactory.

2. The Superwoman or Man

The question for the Superwoman or Superman of imposter syndrome is ‘how many’. The maximum amount of projects, tasks, relationships or roles they can juggle – the higher they regard their success. Because self-esteem and self-worth is linked to success in this case, it can become problematic. Prioritising quantity over quality is often the Superbeings go to move, also tending to prefer external, interpersonal validation over the actual design work itself. 

3. The Genius

The Genius is often consumed with the question of ‘how’ and ‘when’ of creative projects. If this individual is not achieving at the maximum level, they are likely to feel like a failure. Heightened ease, speed, quality and quantity is what the Genius looks to as validation of their skills, usually undervaluing the ‘grind’ or struggle towards success. The saying ‘practise makes perfect’ is seemingly not in the vocabulary of the Genius. Preferring to do things on their own with limited help is usually the type of approach these individuals like to take in design projects.

4. The Individualist

The Individualist or Soloist is concerned with the ‘who’ of matters. Usually, the ‘who’ is actually themselves, as they prefer to work solo and without the help of others. These individuals also seem to have a hard time asking for help. They view asking for help as a sign of failure, in which case they would feel like an imposter. In addition to this, the individualist often prioritises work, takes work home and leaves little time for themselves. This is perhaps the most damaging form of imposter syndrome, as group work and collaboration are essential in the design world.

5. The Expert

The question for the Expert is usually ‘what’ and ‘how much’ they can accomplish or do. These individuals often feel as though they have somehow tricked their employer into offering them the job they have. They constantly live in fear of being exposed as incompetent or unskilled, and will often take part in numerous training courses and classes to improve their existing skills. Within an industry that is changing constantly, its important for Experts to acknowledge they can’t know everything and will likely learn something new every day.

Tips and Tricks to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Succesful woman beating imposter syndrom
Tips and Tricks to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Although there are a number of different types of imposter syndrome, there are a set batch of techniques that you can adopt to help you overcome this syndrome.

Let’s take a look at these 5 tips and tricks to overcome imposter syndrome:

1. Acknowledge you’re not alone

Although it can often feel like you alone are dealing with this problem, it is definitely not the case. Imposter syndrome is incredibly common especially within the design sphere. Firstly, you’ll need to acknowledge that you are experiencing imposter syndrome. Talk about it with a friend, family member or co-worker. Sometimes, just speaking about it relieves some of the guilt and will allow others to share their stories too. You’re likely not alone in this at all, and might feel liberated.

2. Fake it till you make it

There’s not too much to say about this one. It’s just known to be an effective method of positive habit building. By tricking your brain into believing you are in fact capable, knowledgeable and highly skilled, you will slowly begin to realize the extent of your potential, as this intention becomes a habit.

3. Note the Feeling

If you catch yourself experiencing a moment of imposter syndrome, make sure to note it down. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be an incredibly cathartic experience, and crucial in overcoming your imposter syndrome. Once you’re able to distinguish these feelings from others, it will be easier to take action and make a change.

4. Have faith in yourself

Despite feeling as though you have reached the position you’re in simply by chance or luck – that’s not very likely. Your talent, hard work and dedication have gotten you this far with a team of co-workers, friends and family that support you.

5. Be aware of your surroundings

There will be many moments throughout your career where you feel like an outsider or that you simply stand out. Embrace these moments and accept that you may not be like everyone else – and that’s a good thing. Being different does not mean you are an imposter.

Books & Courses to help you tackling Imposter Syndrome

We have found this course from Mel Robins: How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence that can help you with developing the techniques you need to get more confident about yourself and take care of that Imposter Syndrome.

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Watch the trailer of How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence and see if it can help you.

If you’re not that much into following a course, then make sure to check out any of these great books! Make sure to read their reviews as well!

Make sure to remember that this is a common feeling amongst designers and creatives around the globe. We hope this guide has been informative and helps you in tackling this problem!

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