Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

Imposter Syndrome

As a designer I am quite aware of the problem of Imposter Syndrome and see many articles about how it can be overcome.

Imposter Syndrome is where you feel that you are not good enough at the thing you do to really call yourself said thing. So as a new UX Designer I do sometimes find myself in meetings and with issues to work on, where I feel completely out of my depth and wonder how on earth I will come up with a design.

But it was with some surprise that I saw an article about Imposter Syndrome on a running site recently! Surely if you put on trainers and go out and move at a speed above walking pace then you are a runner. But while someone might not feel out of their depth like I do as a designer, they might feel that they are not a runner if other runners over take them or they do not take part in races.

And there is the argument about whether jogging and running are the same? Apparently some runners look down at their slower counter parts but I have never experienced this and remember all too well how slow I was when I first started to ever look down at someone else.

"There will always be people who are better at these things than you"

So it seems that Imposter Syndrome might not just be a design thing, although this is where I have seen the most references to it.

As to whether you can overcome Imposter Syndrome I am less sure. There will always be people who are better at these things than you, better designers, faster runners, things to make you question your ability. So I think 'overcome' is maybe the wrong word.

All you can do is use it to your advantage. As Sarah Doody of UX Notebook put it ‘I decided that I would embrace my novice-ness because it allowed me permission to be wrong. My lack of knowledge somehow made it more acceptable for me to ask questions, request clarifications, and offer up ideas that I was half confident in.’ I really like this idea of accepting the feeling of being out of my depth and just trusting in the process. And although Sarah says it allows her to be wrong, I would argue that there is no wrong, just an iteration of a design which will lead to the final design.

As they said on a recent podcast I was listening to - make sure you surround yourself with clever people and you will learn lots. But for this to work you need to embrace that feeling of being out of your depth then really listen to what those around you are saying.

However remember to trust yourself too. You need to remember that you know more than your think you do, and if you do not agree with what other people are saying, there might be a good reason for this.

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