The Truth About Imposter Syndrome in Design and How to Conquer It

Learn to recognize and beat Imposter Syndrome

Do you ever feel like your design achievements are just a stroke of luck? If so, you might be a victim of imposter syndromethe pesky feeling of being a fraud despite your success. But fret not, as our tell-all guide will dive deep into the different types of imposter syndrome designers face. Whether you’re feeling like an outsider in the design community or constantly questioning your abilities, we’ve got you covered.

But that’s not all. We’ll also be providing practical tips and strategies to help you overcome imposter syndrome and achieve design greatness with confidence. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, this guide is an essential resource for anyone looking to gain a deeper understanding of imposter syndrome and conquer it like a boss!

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

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Imposter syndrome is a common experience, and there are ways to manage and overcome it. There are many indicators of imposter syndrome, and recognizing them can be the first step in overcoming it. We’ll dive into five key signs that you may be experiencing imposter syndrome:

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.

Let’s say you are a graphic designer, and you spend hours trying to perfect every detail of your designs. You might refuse to submit a project until it meets your high standards, even if it means missing a deadline. You might also obsess over small details that nobody else notices or cares about. This could be a sign that you are experiencing imposter syndrome, and that you are trying to compensate for your perceived lack of ability by being perfect.

2. You deny compliments

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

Imagine that you’ve just presented your portfolio to a potential client, and they tell you how impressed they are with your work. Instead of accepting the compliment, you downplay your abilities and attribute your success to luck or other people’s help. You might also feel like you don’t deserve the praise and that you have somehow deceived the client into thinking you are better than you really are. This could be a sign that you are experiencing imposter syndrome, and that you are struggling to accept that you are talented and capable.

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. Perhaps you have a review meeting coming up, and you feel sick to your stomach at the thought of someone critiquing your work. You might be afraid that they will discover that you are a fraud and that you don’t belong in your role. Even positive feedback might not be enough to calm your nerves because you feel like you have somehow tricked people into thinking that you are better than you really are. This could be a sign that you are experiencing imposter syndrome, and that you are worried that your lack of ability will be exposed.

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. For example, let’s say that you are a web developer, and you spend long hours in front of the computer, working on your code. You might feel like you need to work extra hard to keep up with your peers or to prove that you belong in your role. You might also feel guilty if you take breaks or if you don’t work on weekends. This could be a sign that you are experiencing imposter syndrome, and that you are trying to compensate for your perceived lack of ability by working harder than anyone else.

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. Imagine that you have been promoted to a managerial position, and you are now responsible for a team of designers. Instead of feeling excited or confident, you feel like a fraud and worry that your team will discover that you don’t know what you are doing. You might feel like you don’t deserve the promotion and that you have somehow cheated your way into the role. This could be a sign that you are experiencing imposter syndrome, and that you are struggling to accept that you are capable of being a leader.

Imposter syndrome is a common experience that can affect anyone, regardless of their level of experience or skill. By recognizing the signs and learning how to manage it, you can overcome imposter syndrome and learn to accept and appreciate your talents and abilities.

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.

For example, if you’re experiencing imposter syndrome because you have become a perfectionist, you may feel like no one else has the same level of attention to detail that you have. But, by acknowledging that imposter syndrome is common in the design sphere, you may find that your colleagues and peers also struggle with this feeling.

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.

For example, if you find that you always feel nervous before a design review, you can try deep breathing exercises to help calm your nerves.

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.

You may have gotten to your current position because of your hard work and dedication. For example, if you’re putting in overtime because you feel like you’re not good enough, take a moment to reflect on your accomplishments and successes. This can help you build confidence in your abilities and reduce your imposter syndrome.

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.

image 1
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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