The impact of imposter syndrome on designers

18 September, 2019

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As you suffer from the effects of self-doubt in spite of possessing the required knowledge, and expertise to execute your job well within the standard parameters, you fail to credit your accomplishment.

What is Imposter Syndrome

It has often been seen that individuals fail to give due credit to their performances. They tend to attribute their success to their good fortune, destiny, chance, and any other factor under the sun. It is a psychological phenomenon where people belittle their achievements. It’s a perception where skilful professionals suffer a paranoid mindset of being unable to relate their success to their abilities. Despite possessing adequate relevant knowledge, skill, experience, and expertise, some professionals have a common tendency to ascribe their successes to numerous external factors refusing to believe in their competence.

History of Imposter Syndrome

In 1978, the term ‘Imposter Syndrome’ was first used while doing a study on successful, accomplished women in the education sector. Initially, it was believed to be applicable in the case of women achievers only. However, according to recent research, Imposter Syndrome is no longer a gender-specific phenomenon. It affects males as much as it affects females. Further studies revealed that Imposter Syndrome is very prevalent among the designers as well.

Design is a comprehensive term embracing several, ever-changing categories. It is one of the fastest moving disciplines, which is growing and transforming constantly. Several sub-categories of design are regularly surfacing with inborn complexities and varieties. The job of designers is complicated and poorly defined. It is also one of the most misunderstood disciplines. This is particularly true about UX design. You cannot measure the quality of a UX design objectively. All these complexities make UX designers more exposed to Imposter Syndrome.

Impact of Imposter Syndrome

As you suffer from the effects of self-doubt in spite of possessing the required knowledge, and expertise to execute your job well within the standard parameters, you fail to credit your accomplishment. When such things happen, your self-confidence takes a beating. A bout of inferiority complex engulfs your personality. Your performance may make you eligible for a decent pay hike. However, as you feel the impact of imposter syndrome, you tend to shy away from asking for such a well-deserved raise. As you no longer believe in your abilities, you may skip applying for a new job citing non-compliance of their requirements.

Too much attention on evaluating your work with a self-critical, negative mindset will affect your mental and physical health. Such negativity can cause havoc to the professional life of a person. It will deter you from developing further new skills and give rise to a stage called analysis-paralysis. You may also experience a perceptible decline in your already possessed skills as well.

How to Get Away From Imposter Syndrome

Acceptance and Conscious Effort

It is imperative that the person suffering the consequences of Imposter Syndrome, recognize the onset of it at the earliest. Once diagnosed, one has to accept it as a way of life and will have to strive consciously to overcome the syndrome. If you can motivate yourself to change your work ethic, your attitude towards it will undergo a sea change. While there is no limit of further learning, sharpening of skill sets and accomplishments, we all have to reconcile with the fact that there will always be someone who knows better than me. At the same time, there will be many more who know less. You may stumble while executing a job for the first time. It doesn’t mean you are supposed to know everything. It is completely natural not to know everything at a time. That doesn’t make you an imposter or rather a fraud. Life is a continuous process. You will get better with time, provided you try to improve sincerely.

You are Not Alone

Remember, you are not the only one suffering from the consequences of imposter syndrome. There are many others. Once you decide to mingle freely with other people, you will, to your utter astonishment, find that people who seemingly look so confident are in the same boat as you. When you realize that you are not alone suffering from this psychological phenomenon, the grip of it over you will automatically loosen. You would soon be in a position to recognize that so many people at a time cannot be imposters or hoaxes and that there is nothing abnormal when we sometimes feel like an imposter.

Consult Your Peers

To clear your doubts about your skills, it is suggested that you communicate with your colleagues comprehensively. They will be of great help in enlightening you about your past accomplishments and support you in boosting your confidence.

Self Assurance is a Must

Given all the above, a person suffering from imposter syndrome can find a way to deal with the menace of it. Having carefully evaluated all these aspects, a person has to encourage himself about his talent. The past good performances and the process of consultation with his co-workers will go a long way in reassuring himself. The best medicine for dealing with imposter syndrome is kindness — being kind to yourself.

Footnote

To help you glide smoothly through your design career, here are a few more important reads:

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: Habits that will make you a better UX Designer

Biggest Career Mistakes in Design