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Do you ever feel like a fraud?Superhero Syndrome. It's when someone takes on more responsibilities than they need or should take on. Sometimes doing things they are not qualified to do instead of doing the logical thing and finding someone qualified for the task.
Today I’m talking about the opposite of Superhero Syndrome. And that’s Impostor Syndrome.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor Syndrome is a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
In layman's terms, Impostor Syndrome is the belief that you're an impostor and not qualified to do the things that are asked of you, even though you are qualified.
Several years ago, I talked about impostor syndrome on an episode Stuff I Learned Yesterday, another podcast that I shared hosting duties. That was the first time I had heard about Impostor Syndrome, and I had to do a lot of research before recording that episode. Since then, the term, and unfortunately the suffering, has become more popular.
Before choosing this topic for today’s episode, I decided to do a bit more research into the subject. After reading several articles and blogs on the topic of Impostor Syndrome, I've come to one conclusion.
Impostor Syndrome is B.S.
Not the syndrome, that's real, and I believe that many people, especially designers, suffer from it, including myself.
I release a new podcast episode every week. I do this to help you with your design business. But there are plenty of times when I think to myself. “who am I to be advising the people who listen? Why should anyone care what I have to say? I’m no superstar designer. I don’t have hundreds of thousands of followers like Chris Do does.” That’s Impostor Syndrome. And even though I know what it is, the feeling is still there. We all suffer from it at some point.
As designers, we’re expected to create things from nothing using only our imagination and creativity. Businesses stake their growth on the ideas we dream up for them. That’s a daunting task. What if we’re not up to it? That’s what I'm calling B.S. on, that view that people suffering from Impostor Syndrome have about themselves.
Am I the most qualified person to talk about the 170 plus topics I’ve shared with you on the Resourceful Designer podcast? No, of course not. There are plenty of designers more qualified than me. But that doesn’t mean I’m not qualified in my own way. I have over 30 years of design experience, 14 of which I’ve spent running my own design business. Everything I’ve learned over that time and everything I’m still learning, that’s what I’m sharing with you, and there’s nobody better suited to share my experiences than me. I’m the designer, and the person I am today because of the time I invested in myself.
When I start feeling Impostor Syndrome, I remind myself that you’re there listening to me. You’ve decided to press play on my podcast. You’ve determined listening to me is worth your time. And that gets me through it.
But what about you? Do you ever feel like you’re a fraud? An impostor?
If you do, then I'm telling you to stop. If you are at the point in your design career where you are working with or thinking of working with clients, trust me, you earned that right. Chances are, if you weren’t ready yet to work with clients, you wouldn’t be trying to.
It's a common belief amongst impostor syndrome sufferers that they only got to where they are by pure luck, or by somehow deceiving others into thinking they're more skilled and competent than they believe themselves to be. No matter the evidence of their competence, those with Impostor Syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and don't deserve the success they have.
Again, it's all B.S.
I don't want to sound mean or come off as impassive. What I'm trying to say is, unless you're trying to pass yourself off as a designer but never designed anything before, then you’re not an impostor. An impostor would be someone offering to create a website, but they've never done one before, or someone charging to design a logo without any knowledge of what a logo is.
Chances are you got to where you are in your design career because you deserve to be there, wherever “there” is. I believe a lot of designers should have more confidence in their abilities than they do. It’s that the self-doubt that gets to them.
You've earned that degree that says you’re a designer. When you were in school, you did the same projects and took the same tests as those around you. Sure some of your classmates may have done better than you, but that doesn't mean you didn't earn your passing grade.
If you didn’t go to school for design, then chances are you’ve spent time honing your skills and learning the necessary programs and techniques to be a designer. Don’t think for one second that just because you didn’t attend design school that you are not a designer.
The same goes for your career if you’re working somewhere as a designer. You were hired for your design position because you were the best candidate. Nobody hires a designer out of pity. They hire a designer because they see the desired traits, skills and qualifications they need.
Keep pushing yourself.
As long as you continue to learn and push yourself, you can never call yourself a fraud. Are there people better qualified than you? I can almost guarantee there are, but that doesn't mean you are not qualified yourself. Not every player on a team can be the star player, but everyone one of them made the team on their own merits. So stop looking at other people’s successes and keep working on developing your best self.
Impostor Syndrome is not a mental disorder, nor is it a personality trait. It's only a reaction to certain stimuli and events, and you can overcome it. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right.”
You know the term “fake it until you make it”?. That term applies to every designer who ever lived. Even the best designers in the world keep learning and improving themselves because they know they can be better. They keep learning because, in their mind, they’re not as good as they want to be. I know that’s why I keep learning. Because I’m not the designer I want to be. I don’t think I ever will be, and that’s OK. It keeps me going.
You need to get out there, do your best, keep learning, and you’ll be ok.
What can you do if you suffer from Impostor Syndrome?
If you think you suffer from Impostor Syndrome here's something you can try. A conventional therapy I found in several articles says that keeping a journal of your accomplishments can help you associate them with reality. By keeping track of those accomplishments, you'll alleviate your sense of inadequacy.
Keep all those “Great Job!” and “This design is amazing!” emails and comments you receive. They make great testimonials for your website and promotional material, but they also act as a reminder that you’re good at what you do. They let you know that people appreciate what you do and that you're not a fraud.
Another thing you could try when you’re feeling insecure is to find people with whom you can talk. Best of all, other designers who know what you’re going through. The Resourceful Designer Community is a great place to share your thoughts and build confidence in yourself.
You’re not alone.
In my research, for today's episode, I came across a lot of famous people that suffer from Impostor Syndrome.
Actress and Comedienne Tina Fey often feels people will realise she's not that funny.
Michelle Pfeifer is constantly afraid that people will find out she's not very talented.
Kate Winslett wakes up some mornings thinking “I can't do this. I'm a fraud.”
Even Tom Hanks suffers from Impostor Syndrome, in an interview he said ‘I still feel sometimes that I’d like to be as good as so-and-so actor,’ he continued. ‘I see some other actors’ work, and I think I’ll never get there. I wish I could.’”
Even someone as talented as Tom Hanks who is recognised as one of the top actors in Hollywood sometimes thinks he's not good enough. And yet he has the awards to prove otherwise.
You may not be as famous as those people, but that doesn't mean you don't deserve to be where you are.
If you feel this way about yourself, if you think you may suffer from Impostor Syndrome, let me tell you this. You've played a significant role in your success. It wasn't those around you, so stop comparing yourself to them. Nobody belongs where you are more than you do. You've earned your position. You are not a fraud. You didn't get to where you are by luck. Your accomplishments are yours and yours alone.
Once you realise this, there's no telling what you can achieve. So don't hold back. If you do, you're only robbing the world of the value you can bring.
Do you suffer from Impostor Syndrome?
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Questions of the Week
Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Tracy
How do you separate life and work?
To find out what I told Tracy you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
Resource of the week The Logo Package Express
The Logo Package Express is an Adobe Illustrator extension that allows you to create, export and sort hundreds of logo files in under 5 minutes. What would typically take an hour or more to do can now be accomplished in minutes. Think of all that time you can put to better use.
Do you want to see it in action? Here's a demo video I recorded using The Logo Package Express.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org