Evidence based imposter syndrome

The other day I was chatting with a recent design graduate, she felt like she is not a real UX designer yet because her course was not 100% focused on UX. She wasn’t sure whether she should be considered a UX designer — she had an “imposter syndrome”. As designers, we are no strangers to this.

So how do I handle Imposter Syndrome? Here is what worked for me and what I told her:

I want you to turn your feelings into action. You are not allowed to feel incompetence unless you can prove it.

I call this the “Evidence based imposter syndrome”

Why did I say that?

The principle is simple: Innocent until proven guilty. Feeling alone doesn’t help you solve the problem.

Maybe your portfolio suck. Maybe you are not a real designer. Maybe you don’t know anything about design and you are faking it.

Who knows? Until you find data to backup your claim, you don’t know what is the reality. You can do this by either talking to someone senior or look up what is the expectation for the next role online.

If you found out that you are are actually incompetent — an imposter — NOW you can feel sad, but you should also be excited. Why? Because now you have a tangible goal. You can close the knowledge gap if you know what they are, but you can’t act on “feeling competent” when there is no substance.

This simple framework worked for me for my whole career. From becoming a Senior all the way to becoming a Design lead. Each step of my career I always felt like I weren’t ready for these roles. So I asked myself: What does a competent Senior/Manager/Lead does? Let me find out! Am I there yet? If not, how can I close those gaps?

The Imposter Syndrome will always come to you. Expect it. When it does, try this “Evidence based imposter syndrome” framework and turn your feelings into action.

Comment and let me know if this method works for you!

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Tim Chan

UX designer from Hong Kong. Obsessed about Micro-interactions and Product Design.