Imposter syndrome is real

It happens to many people. Many people are facing it too.
Imposter syndrome is real

When I first heard about the term imposter syndrome is when I was working in Vietnam. And it’s a good-to-know for me because I’ve never faced that problem.

I was very confident in my works. I was the only designer on the team. I didn’t have a chance to compare to anyone else. So I’ve never known that I was not good.

Things changed when I moved to Singapore last year, started a new job at a big company where I had more than 10 designers to work with. They are very talented and confident. Then I experienced the monster imposter syndrome.

I couldn’t introduce myself on the first day of the new job. I didn’t give any feedback during the designer’s meeting where all designers presented their work and got feedback from other designers. Because their work was so good and perfect for me.

I didn’t even ask any questions at the meeting. I was scared of speaking in English with my Vietnamese accent. People would judge me as a bad designer with weak communication.

I didn’t raise my voice even though I had different thoughts. Because I didn’t think that my opinion was better than the others.

It took me more than three weeks to adapt and start to talk, debate and give feedback. And I realized that imposter syndrome is real.

How do we get over it or what is good advice for new designers who’ve just started a new place where there are many good people? It absolutely will get better over time, after we understand more about the team, business, technical constraints and people in the office. To ease the effect of that syndrome, you have to know that:

  • Imposter syndrome is real. And it happens to many people. Many people are facing it too. That’s why so many people talked about it. From Kenny Chen’s lessons after a year at Google to Tobias van Schneider and Julie Zhou…. You’re not alone. It’s a fact of life.
  • If you face it then it’s a good sign. It means that you are in a place that’s challenging. There are many people are better than you and you have chances to improve yourself by learning from them. You will learn not only from designers but also from other people: engineers, product managers,… I got a wise reminder from the engineers I’m working with
“Learning is about challenging yourself, not sticking to your comfort zone.”
  • Focus on the strengths of being different rather than weaknesses. The company hired us because of some reasons: we have potential and we’re different. They don’t want all team members to have the same mindset, skill, and styles. We will fit the team with our differences.

Be brave my friends. Or at least fake it until you make it. In a 1:1 conversation, my manager said it to me that he hadn’t known what he was talking about during meetings. He had just talked and faked it likes he was very confident. We would get used to it.

“Fake it till you make it.”