The Imposter Syndrome in Design

So, you’ve landed your dream designer job. Suddenly, you’re resolving briefs, working on low and high-fidelity prototypes, even updating your portfolio to match the newly acquired skills. But, something feels a bit off.

Occasionally, you find yourself thinking: “They’ll catch me soon,” as if you don’t belong here doing that. As if you’re someone who miraculously landed this job by sheer luck. 

Deep down, you believe you don’t have what it takes.

Yes – that’s the infamous Imposter Syndrome.

Guy wearing a fairy suit and feeling excited

What is Imposter Syndrome?

The Imposter Syndrome is an unpleasant feeling of inferiority and unworthy of your achievement. It makes you believe what you have is by chance or coincidence, and it’s only a matter of minutes when someone will catch you and take it all away.

Psychotherapists define it as “the psychological experience of assuming that one’s accomplishments came about not through real ability, but as a result of having been lucky, having worked harder than others, or having manipulated other people’s impressions.”

Imposter Syndrome, unfortunately, is a typical appearance in the design world. Many designers think everyone else around them knows more, is more creative, or has a better background. 

The case of the Imposter Syndrome isn’t new – the talks about it have been around for a couple of decades, and what’s even worse is that approximately 70% of people with creative professions experienced it at some point through their career paths.

What is the Imposter Syndrome in design?

Design is a field where Imposter Syndrome has even more fertile ground.

You tend to deliver beautiful, resourceful, and beneficial solutions when you’re a designer. To achieve that, you need to combine various techniques and apply decisions based on taste. 

You come across trends that come and go, and the whole branch is constantly expanding and evolving. 

It becomes easy to feel overwhelmed or incapable of grasping everything you could do or apply to deliver this perfect solution.

That’s when the imposter syndrome kicks in; 

If you cannot get ahold of all the trends and upcoming notions, do you even deserve to be a designer? If your style slightly mismatches with the others, what gives you the idea that yours should get the upper hand?

The imposter syndrome in design can also look like perfectionism.

You work overtime to deliver masterpieces or avoid any design reviews or feedback, all to dodge situations where someone could expose you or bring your authority into question.

What triggers Imposter syndrome in design?

Usually, the imposter syndrome is born with the switch of careers.

For example, you might’ve worked as a Marketing Designer so far, but you’ve decided to apply for a UX/UI job.

It is almost inevitable to come across thoughts where you ask yourself if you made the right decision or have what it takes to be a great product designer.

You’ll probably compare your work and backgrounds with colleagues of a similar rank, only to get an even deeper feeling of insecurity.

That brings us into another trigger – comparison.

When you compare yourself as a designer with other people, such as your colleagues or role models, you start to lose focus. When you hyperfocus on others, you tend to forget your qualities, which leads to feeling inadequate and undeserving.

Another thing that can cause the Imposter syndrome in design is getting too much praise.

For example, you’ve just finished a sketch that got excellent feedback and many compliments. When you’re battling with imposter syndrome, that can become suspicious.

Or even worse – you might set significantly higher standards for yourself to avoid failure after so much praise.

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What are four types of imposter syndrome in design?

There are several types of imposter syndrome in designers.

See if any of these might apply to you:

The Expert

This type believes they somehow managed to deceive people hiring them, so they constantly find new ways to expand their knowledge.

The Genius

This type despises mentorship because they believe that talent achieves excellent results rather than hard work.

So, they don’t try to improve their knowledge because they are afraid of finding out about things they might not know yet. 

The Superman/woman

They constantly feel like fakes around other designers, so they overcompensate with time and effort, even when they complete the task. 

The Perfectionist

This type of designer has abnormally high standards because of their fear of failure. If they work to meet their benchmarks, they’ll probably never disappoint someone else, right?

How to deal with the imposter syndrome in design?

If this article so far struck some familiar thoughts or patterns of behavior, you might be dealing with this pest of a syndrome.

Before dealing with it, make sure to recognize it and determine its effects on you. Try to figure out which of these destructive, bad habits apply to you and why they are there.

Also, be aware that almost everyone else around you feels or has felt this way. The imposter syndrome isn’t anything specific to you, and you are not worse than anyone else. 

Have trust in yourself and your skills.

Trust the team you’re working with, and don’t refrain from getting their feedback.

By familiarizing yourself with your strengths (and weaknesses, too!), you’ll be able to grow much quicker and overcome this pesky feeling of not being enough. 

Moreover, don’t be afraid of challenging yourself. Find ways to improve your creativity or problem-solving skills.

There is a certain beauty in not knowing everything and learning things for the first time, so make sure to chase that feeling.

To wrap it all up;

If you want to overcome imposter syndrome in design, you mustn’t stop believing in yourself.

And yes – we know how cheesy 🧀 this might sound.

But, let’s be honest. You are not here because you tricked people into believing you are a good designer; you are a good designer. 

You are creative enough, innovative, and have your way of solving things. Your array of skills is valuable for designing exquisite solutions. 

These are the things you have to remind yourself daily.  If you won’t, you won’t believe others as well. 

The good news is that the imposter syndrome will also start fading away as you complete your tasks while time passes by.

Eventually, you’ll ask yourself why you ever doubted yourself in the first place. 🤗

We wish you all the best with your design career!

Book a mentorship call with us if you’re experiencing imposter syndrome.

Our mentors are industry professionals with years of teaching and mentoring experience and will help you overcome it.

For other helpful content, make sure to check out our Instagram, or if you have a question or a remark for us, feel free to contact us.

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