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What to do when you feel like an imposter

What to do when you feel like an imposter

imposter May 11, 2019

I don't usually do this but last week I received an email asking for career advice. The question touched a nerve and I wanted to share my thoughts about feeling like an imposter.


Issara - Thank you so much for this content. I'm a total newb - and I mean newwwb. I have zero experience in motion design but I'm determined to find myself elated in a UX motion career in the nearest possible future. Your content is the best I have found when it comes to motion design, specifically for UX.

I purchased your courses and loving them so far. My approach is to keep going and not get discouraged by a lack of experience.

Any tips for imposter syndrome? I feel like I'm up against people who have been deep in this work for years.

Thanks again, keep this stuff coming!

My answer

Hey Alexis, thanks for reaching out and I hope this finds you well.

I really appreciate the kind words.

It’s funny you mention imposter syndrome. I deal with this every day. Every single day I feel like an imposter. For years.

What I’ve learned is that it’s an emotional state that has no reflection in reality. I acknowledge it and get back to work.

The thing to keep in mind is that every single person you look up to, started off somewhere. They probably sucked for a while. But they kept at it. They probably felt like imposters as well.

The way I hack through this emotion is to come from a place of adding value. If that’s all I focus on, if that’s all I do is add a little more value to my project, my client, or my team, than I call that a win, regardless of how I felt about myself doing it.

That’s the gold standard I hold myself to. It’s what allows me to get up and write another article or create another tutorial.

Without this, I would feel like a fraud if I was calling myself an expert. I’ve never felt like an expert. Put another way, I’ve never had the experience of myself being an expert.

Instead, I focus on sharing what I learned, helping folks, being a good person (respectful, appreciative of my journey and the journey of others), and try to deliver value however I can.

The other piece of advice I can give (because I live this as well), is that when you find those folks who are so good they blow you away, you make friends with them. They can become your mentors. If they give you feedback and you follow it, they become invested in your success. It’s a natural process.

I know it can feel intimidating, but people who are extremely good are usually also extremely humble and enjoy providing feedback (providing that it gets followed). If they tell you to read a book, read it, then let them know you did, and ask them what you should read next. Be hungry. Offer to buy them lunch to pick their brain about how they approach projects. More than anything else, these relationships can last you your entire career.

Thirdly (because I also practice this as well), I would encourage you to start sharing what you’ve already learned with people who have less skill than you in this area. Teaching others is how you get better. Sharing what you learned expands your community. It doesn’t have to be a major class, you could just share a simple technique with someone. I always look for opportunities to share, even when I’m not completely confident in my own ability to master a technique or problem. Through this sharing process, you become much more connected to the steps involved, the tools, and more efficient ways of working.

I hope this helps, and causes a shift in your ability see yourself not as an imposter or a competitor, but as someone who is in the perfect place in your learning/skill acquisition journey, and that everyone around you is an opportunity to learn and develop yourself to be a talented human being who can enrich the world around them.


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