If you’re not careful, imposter syndrome can keep you stuck. In the same place. For a long time.
I’ve spent ten years fighting this ugly monster. When I started designing in 2012, I had never taken a design course in my life. I have a degree in photography and art history, so everything I know about design is 100% self taught.
For the first few years I delivered logos as PSD files. It took me years to learn the basics of Adobe Illustrator, and to this day I still don’t know how to use InDesign. One time I thought I could learn calligraphy in a week (and failed), promised hand-drawn logos (and had to back out), and I’ve tried to master so many new platforms that in the end I just couldn’t quite get the hang of.
To this day I STILL have a hard time talking to my family about work. When they ask “how’s work” I quickly respond “Good, always busy!” and quickly change the topic to avoid talking about it.
Over the past ten years I’ve wondered, should I have gone to design school? Should I take classes at night? Why can’t I figure this out? Do I have ADHD? Do I really know what I’m doing? Are my services even worth the prices I’m charging? Hell, even writing this blog post brought on a twinge of imposter syndrome.
Why do we make ourselves small for other people? It doesn’t have to be this way!
Stop. Breathe. Refocus your thoughts, and approach your difficulties from a different angle. Here are 5 mindset shifts I’ve learned to make that have shaped my ability to tackle imposter syndrome in a major way.
- Everyone you’re comparing yourself to on the internet is comparing themselves to someone else on the internet.
- Don’t make yourself small for other people. You’ve worked hard, you’ve put in the work, and what you have to say matters. Literally, there is room for everyone at the table!
- You are in full control of your life and the person you want to be. If you don’t like where you are, only you have the power to change it. I hate to use a Mad Men reference (actually, I love to use a Mad Men reference)…if you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation. And even when it feels like nothing is working out as planned, remember that you are in the place you are today because of the seeds you planted in the days and years leading up to today. You ARE moving forward, no matter how stuck you feel.
- Often it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Use your voice. Confidence is KEY in the business world! I don’t want to say fake it till you make it, because that isn’t good advice, but don’t let fear keep you small. I know it’s hard to see sometimes, but there is ALWAYS something that sets you apart. Something that makes you unique. Find it. Own it.
- Don’t wait for other people to tell you they’re proud of you. The real world doesn’t hand out participation awards. You have to learn to be proud of yourself. The work you’ve made, the progress you’ve made. Everyone starts as a beginner. Think about where you started, and congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come.
And here’s an extra tip for you: only take on work you really, truly love doing. Yes, it’s always good to step outside of your comfort zone, but when you consistently take on work that is unfamiliar, difficult, and soul-crushing for you, imposter syndrome loves to rear its ugly head. It’s OK to say no to projects that don’t make your heart sing. Pick a lane that you feel the most versed in, and your confidence will soar.