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Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome?

I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, the stress of everything we’ve had to endure over the past year. But lately, I’ve seen more and more designers struggling with Imposter Syndrome. I’ve seen it in the Resourceful Designer Community. In Facebook groups. And just talking with people, I know in the design space.

I don’t know what’s causing so many people in our profession to doubt themselves and their abilities. But if you’re one of them, let me tell you a little secret that may make you feel better. Although everyone feels Imposter Syndrome at one time or another. It’s most often felt by high achievers who have trouble celebrating their success, no matter how large or small. So if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, there’s a good chance you’re a high achiever. That’s a good thing and something that should make you feel a bit better.

In case you are unfamiliar with the term Imposter Syndrome, it refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. In other words, you don’t think you’re as good as other people think you are.

Imposter Syndrome

An internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be

I suffer from Imposter Syndrome when it comes to illustrations. If you’re a long-time follower of Resourceful Designer, you’ve heard me on several occasions say that I am not an illustrator. And yet, the truth is, I can draw. I’ve been drawing my whole life. Maybe not regularly; I haven’t honed my skills, but it’s not like I’ve never doodled before with some degree of success. And I’ve had many people over the years tell me I’m good at it. But in my mind, I’m not.

I look at what others like Andrew or Kat, or Krista from the Resourceful Designer Community can do, and my skills pale compared to theirs. In my mind, the only reason people tell me I’m good at illustrating is that they don’t want to make me feel bad by telling me the truth. That’s Imposter Syndrome.

And you know what? In this case, it’s ok. It’s ok because I’ve never wanted to be an illustrator. So if I don’t think I’m good enough, so be it. I’m ok with that. But that’s not the issue I’ve seen lately among fellow designers.

Imposter Syndrome becomes serious when it involves what you are trying to do to earn a living. What I’m seeing is a lot are people with the skills, talent and knowledge to do something well but who feel they are not good enough to be compensated for what they’re offering. People who are competent web designers but don’t think they’re good enough to charge $5,000 or $10,000 or even $50,000 for a website. Or people who are talented logo designers who have never charged more than a couple of hundred dollars for a logo project. That’s Imposter Syndrome.

These people have this idea in their head that if they charge that much, others will think they’re a fraud, and they’ll be exposed. These people are afraid to approach clients they really want to work with because they don’t think they’re good enough to work with them.

Is that how you feel? Are you unable to internalize your success because you’re afraid of being outed as an unqualified fraud?

Let me tell you something. You are not alone. In fact, everyone battles imposter syndrome at one point or another—even those who seem to have it all.

Actors Tena Fey, Emma Watson and Tom Hanks have all said in interviews that no matter how well they do, they always feel inadequate and that at any moment, someone’s going to find out they are not good actors and don’t deserve the success they’ve achieved.

Best-selling author John Green, who’s won several literary awards and whose books have been turned into major motion pictures, says he feels like a fraud all the time. He’s said that he doesn’t feel like he knows how to write a novel and doesn’t think he ever will. He finds pleasure in the process of writing, but he thinks everything he writes sucks.

If talented, successful people such as this suffer from imposter syndrome, what chance do you have? The truth is, you have as much chance as them and as everyone else.

To overcome that feeling, you have to realize that everything you’ve done in your life so far, every achievement you’ve achieved, no matter how small, was something you were not qualified to do before you actually did it. You weren’t able to walk – until you did. You weren’t able to ride a bike – until you did. You weren’t able to use the software you use daily – until you did. You weren’t able to complete a design job for a client – until you did.

You are the person you are today because you’ve successfully achieved thousands, if not millions, of things you were previously not able to do. That’s life. It’s how we grow. It’s how we mature. And that means that everything that you don’t think you’re qualified for right now is just something you haven’t achieved yet.

I want to share something with you, and I wish I could remember where I first heard it to give credit where credit is due. But I heard this many years ago, and it changed the way I look at life.

Somewhere, right now, there are people who are less skilled, less talented and less knowledgable than you are, doing the exact thing that you don’t feel you’re qualified for.

Think about that.

Regardless of your abilities, there are designers out there who are not as good as you, who are succeeding at the thing you want to be doing. When I first heard that statement, it changed the way I look at life. It helped me breakthrough my inhibitions and become the person I am today. I no longer look at obstacles as something I’m not good enough for. I look at them simply as things I have not achieved yet. That mentality has helped me grow and achieve things I once thought impossible.

I faced Imposter Syndrome before starting the Resourceful Designer podcast. I thought, “who am I to be talking to you about running a design business? Many other designers are much more successful than I am.” But I pushed through anyway and launched this show. And even though I know I’m not the most qualified person to instruct you; I still have something to share. And the thousands of people who listen to each podcast episode must think so as well, or they wouldn’t keep listening. And neither would you.

You don’t have to be the best at something to overcome Imposter Syndrome. It just means you have to be willing to try. There is no such thing as perfections. What there is, is good enough. Nobody can ask any more of you than that.

If you can design a $200 logo, there’s no reason why you can’t design a $2,000 logo. If you can design a $1,000 website, there’s no reason why you can’t design a $10,000 website. It’s not because you are not qualified. It’s simply that you haven’t done it yet.

Work, just like life, should be a challenge. You need to reach if you want to get anywhere. Because you too can succeed. And you know that’s true, because of all the less qualified people than you who are doing just that. Succeeding. Don’t let them show you up.

And you know what? If you try something, and you fail. Chalk it up to a learning experience and then try again. You’re only human, after all. Remember, feeling incompetent isn’t the same thing as being incompetent, and I know you’re not the latter because if you were, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

If you’re feeling Imposter Syndrome. Find someone to talk it out with. Sometimes, all it takes to overcome Imposter Syndrome is to talk it through with others. Especially people who understand you. That’s where places like the Resourceful Designer Community are great. We’ve all been there and know how it feels, and we’re more than happy to guide you through it.

In case you are suffering from Imposter Syndrome right now and what I’ve said so far hasn’t helped you, I want to share something from Valerie Young, an internationally recognized expert on imposter syndrome.

As Valerie puts it in her TED Talk. “The only difference between people who feel Imposter Syndrome and those who don’t is that the same situations that trigger imposter feelings in some trigger different thoughts in others. That’s it. That’s the only difference.”

That's why Valerie says, “The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter.”

For example, someone who suffers from Imposter Syndrome might think they are not as good as the others in their group and be afraid they’ll be discovered as a fraud. Whereas those who don’t suffer from imposter Syndrome know that even if they are not as good as the others in their group. That’s OK. They can’t be the best at everything, after all. Valerie has literally written the book on Imposter Syndrome. I highly encourage you to watch Valerie’s TED Talk. It’s only 6 minutes long and well worth the time. And here's a link to Valerie's 10 steps to overcome Imposter Syndrome, which you might find interesting to read.

But if you take one thing from this today, I hope it’s what I shared with you before. The statement that made such an impact on my own life.

Somewhere, right now, there are people who are less skilled, less talented and less knowledgable than you are, doing the exact thing that you don’t feel you’re qualified for.

So get out there, and do it.

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I want to help you.

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 feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

 

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