Oct 10

Combatting Imposter Syndrome as a UX Professional


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Imposter syndrome: An internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be — a persistent feeling that you have lied or conned your way into your job.

If you’re looking at that definition and thinking: “Hey, that’s me!”, then this blog is for you.

Though it’s not a diagnosable mental illness, it’s incredibly common among professionals (especially in the UX field). It’s not a good feeling. It impairs your confidence, your ability to own your creations, and your willingness to learn and grow.

You went through the interview process, proved your skill set, accepted your offer, and turned in some amazing projects. But no matter how much good work you do, you still can’t help but feel like two kids in a trench coat trying to sneak into an R-rated movie. 

Let us give you some reassurance before we show you how to face your self-doubt:

  • You are not alone! Up to 82% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point. Even the best UX designers in the game have experienced feelings of inadequacy before.
  • You earned your job. Either through years of hard work or an impressive portfolio, you were chosen for the job for a reason.
  • When you get harsh feedback or feel like you’re turning in subpar work, just remember that one bad project does not mean you’re a bad UX/UI designer.
  • No one goes into a job knowing everything. Even the top-earning UX designers still run into trouble.

The CreateApe team is full of experienced and accomplished UX professionals with some impressive projects under our belts. But that doesn’t mean we’re safe from doubting our skills.

Here are just a few ways we fend off imposter syndrome at CreateApe. If you ever catch yourself feeling like you don’t deserve your job, keep these tips in mind for a little self-confidence boost.

Tips for Combatting Imposter Syndrome

Be Transparent

“What helps me is being self-aware when it does happen. It’s usually the case when I’m being challenged and in a space of growth. I think it also helps to be transparent about it and talk to someone whether it’s another fellow designer or lead. At some point, designers will and do go through this at all levels in their careers.” Sheryl, UX Designer at CreateApe

When you can’t will yourself out of imposter syndrome, talking to someone about it always helps. One of your teammates could have some insight, or just be willing to lend a sympathetic ear.

Speaking your thoughts out loud is a great way to put things in perspective. We have thousands of thoughts a day, and they’re not always rational or organized. Give yourself some grace and realize that everyone gets overwhelmed and needs help.

It also helps you build trust and deepen relationships with your design team. Chances are that someone is willing to offer their experience and support to guide you through project pitfalls and further your UX skills.

Keep Practicing

“Something that really helped me was keeping in mind that everyone was once a beginner. Nobody is born with incredible UX skills. It's just like any other skill - you can only improve by practicing and dedicating yourself to learning as much as you can about it.” Aarin, UX Designer at CreateApe

It may be cliche, but everyone starts somewhere. When you have a solid foundation for a skill, the only way to go is up! 

Don’t view your weaknesses as shortcomings. See them as room for improvement. When your imposter syndrome tells you “You don’t know how to do this? You must not be a real UX designer.” reframe your point of view to say “Learning how to do this will make me so much better than I already am.”

Be Open to Change

“I feel I’m going to keep learning for the rest of my life. Even when you master something, there will be new trends and more things to always keep you busy, so it’s more about continuous learning other than really mastering something.” Bea, UX Designer at CreateApe

UX is iterative by design. New technologies, new best practices, new things to learn. Don’t beat yourself up too badly if you’re not up on the latest trends. Every designer needs to catch up at some point in their career.

Keep an open mind and welcome change. Follow design publications or even social media profiles to keep an eye out for trends and think about how they can improve your designs. A fresh eye never hurts.

Take Baby Steps

"Some people aren't able to take these kinds of problems head-on, and that's alright. Taking a step-by-step approach would be much healthier in this case, because if you try to force yourself to change in an environment you're not familiar with, it will eventually lead to burnout." Chris, UX Researcher/Writer at CreateApe

When some people feel overwhelmed at work, they find the best way to meet the challenge is to just charge ahead. But, we all don’t work the same way.

You absolutely need to take a breather when you need it. To help yourself feel more organized before taking on your next big task, sit down and think about the specific things you need to do. Write them down if you must. This will help you visualize everything you're responsible for and hopefully make everything seem more manageable.

Professional burnout is no joke. Not only does it affect your performance, but it also has serious physical symptoms that impact your work-life balance. Remember that no one is invincible and that everyone needs to take a step back every now and then.

Understand That You Don’t Know Everything

“I love learning, I will inhale any tutorial that seems cool for motion topics and learn pretty fast (including interaction design, character design, and such). I think my impostor syndrome comes from the understanding that I can’t know everything there is to know and I can and will make mistakes that can alter other people’s perception of my knowledge.” Ellie, Interaction Designer at CreateApe

Think of the smartest person you know. No matter how knowledgeable they are, chances are that you’re better at something than they are. Elon Musk can build a rocketship, but would you trust him to cook a stunning 5-course meal or sew a dress for a big, fancy gala?

There’s no way for us to be good at everything and no one expects us to be. Trust your skills, but accept that there are always things to learn that will make us better at our jobs. You will never reach that all-knowing status (and that’s okay)!

Focus on Positives

“I actually keep a “Kudos” book on my desk. Whenever a client or a team member compliments my work, I write it down to remind myself that I’m on the right track. Whenever I’m feeling down on myself, I look back on the positive feedback I’ve gotten and it gives me the validation I need to move forward.” Rylie, UX Writer for CreateApe

Everyone needs a pick-me-up now and then to pull themselves out of a funk. It’s hard to not dwell on the negative when imposter syndrome rears its ugly head. Try to reflect on past successes and remind yourself that there will be plenty more down the line.

Remember that imposter syndrome is just a temporary state of mind. It comes and goes just like the weather. Give yourself a break, focus on your favorite projects, and get excited for the next one coming around the corner.

Imposter Syndrome is Creeping in, What Should I Do?

Relax, take a breather, walk outside, get some coffee, and (above all) be kind to yourself.

We take mental health seriously here at CreateApe. Because when we feel good, we put out our best work (and vice versa).

Whether you’re an industry newbie or a senior UX designer with tons of projects under your belt, imposter syndrome can creep up anytime, anywhere. Just remember that you got your job for a reason. No one can pull a random person off the street and have them do what you do.

When you’re feeling underqualified, reassure yourself that everyone feels this way from time to time. Keep these tips in mind, and as the British say: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Does CreateApe sound like your kind of place? Think you’d be a great fit for our Jungle? Check out our open jobs and start your UX career today!

Want to brush up on a few UX topics? We have a beginner's guide for how to become a UX designer, a directory of our favorite UX/UI design courses, a comprehensive UX writing guide, and much, MUCH more! Our team is all about sharing our knowledge, so check out those resources and others on the CreateApe blog.

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