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Overcoming imposter syndrome as a UX designer

12.10.2018

Do you ever feel like you’ve faked your way into a job? Or perhaps you feel inadequate despite obvious success? Don’t worry you’re not alone, there is no feeling as universally common yet isolating as imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a is a psychological pattern in which individuals have difficulties accepting their achievements and has a persistent internal fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

This is a completely natural experience in any professional industry and it’s important to accept that you’re not alone. When I was just starting out as a UX designer, that feeling was virtually preconditioned. There aren’t many jobs that are expected to have broad skills in research, design, strategic thinking, data and psychology.

“Imposter syndrome affects 7 in 10 people at some point in their lives.” Creative Review

Recognise it in yourself and others

Imposter Syndrome is genuine, and it’s affecting more designers, developers, and groups than you might think.

Insecurities play a large role in this negative mindset and will naturally slow down your growth. Its normal to feel insecure when you’re a beginner surrounded by experts — but in reality, we all experience struggles at various stages of our careers.

Self-awareness is important but you need to be realistic— comparing yourself to people who have been years in the game will not make you feel better. Learn from them, ask them questions and avoid the mistakes they once made.

“Some of the best work you’ll ever do is the work you don’t let others see”

4 things to consider when you feel like an ‘imposter’

 

A negative mindset affects personal growth
There is no value in sitting at your desk over thinking that you are out of your depth — focus on the positives, talk about how you feel to your manager and I guarantee there will be a solution to your worries.

By sitting at the desk you’re feeding your negative mindset and not adding anything to your skill set which effectively stops personal growth.

“The first step to overcoming it is to realise that it’s not something to define yourself by”

You can’t always have the right answers
It may seem like there are some people that always seem to get it right. But, even they don’t know all the answers all the time — you just see their highlights.

Successful people aren’t worried about failing. They will trial and error tasks, ask questions and sometimes fail but they don’t allow this to define them. Instead, they learn from their mistakes and keep going.

 

Perfection is an enemy
Perfection is unachievable in UX design. There is no such thing as the ‘finished’ or ‘perfect’ design, there is always that one edge case that fails. Its all about learning from the issues and creating the solutions — pretty similar to avoiding imposter syndrome.

Related article: Every design you make, expect change.

Remember that the solution doesn’t need to be perfect, and particularly if you’re just starting out in UX, but it must be a solution. A valuable piece of advice here is to ask for feedback, do not try to crack the code in solitude.

 

Stop comparing yourself to others
This is one of the hardest things for us humans to do but in this scenario, it is so important to focus on yourself. There is no right or wrong when it comes to UX design because each project is so largely different.

Focus on your own goals and the ways you can achieve them. The person who you compare yourself to will have followed the exact same process and found his/her own path. Focus on your own development and stop worrying about how far ahead something else might be.

 

You may relate to my journey

Ever since I was young, I have always struggled with the idea of natural talent but it’s clear now that everyone has their own individual talents. It was only when I got comfortable and started to focus on working hard to improve my skills.

It didn’t come easy initially, I had to push myself out of my comfort zone and take on any feedback I could get. The first project I got handed felt like the scariest thing ever— I was under a lot of pressure to succeed— but I quickly realised the good thing about the pressure is that it pushes you to work harder and learn more.

“If you’re feeling challenged, you’re in the right place” Becky Birch

I was always worried about ‘getting it wrong’ — As designers, we should fight this fear. When someone tells you that you’re wrong, don’t be afraid to ask why, you need to understand the perspective of the other person.

 

How I have come to fight-off imposter syndrome

Try not to focus on others’ success, and work harder on showing up and developing your best self. A great influence is Sean McCabe (@seanwes) — he has helped me to understand “showing up” means doing ONE THING today that gets you a step closer to your goal.⁣

“You can do anything you set your mind to, it just depends how much you want it” Becky Birch

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

 

Takeaway

At the beginning of your career it’s easy to lose your confidence but don’t give up — each beginner, with enough focus, will grow into an expert. Remember, everyone started as an awkward beginner once. No one is born an expert — that comes with hard work, persistence, commitment, and time.

“If you’re surrounded by experts, then you’re in an extremely privileged position”

Focus your energy outward instead of inward. This is possibly the best way to fight imposter syndrome. Turn up every day and do your work. If you want to build a career in UX design, you can take the first steps today.

It takes time to be successful! The journey matters much more than the destination. It takes time to build a reputation – everyone starts at the bottom at some point.