What To Do About Your Imposter Syndrome

June 18, 2019

What would have happened if Matt Groening decided he wasn’t a good enough artist to make cartoons?

What if Stan Lee convinced himself he wasn’t a good storyteller and stopped writing comics?

Remember when Tyson Fury got fat? What if he gave up then and resigned that he wasn’t right to be a boxer?

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. You cannot let the inner doubts and demons, or the negativity of others, stop you from pressing on; even when you feel like you’re not cut out to make it.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological event in which you feel like a fraud or that you aren’t deserving of doing what you do, sharing the thoughts you have or gaining recognition for your work. It’s a fear of acclaim that only comes naturally as you grow and worry you’re not as good as others think, but I’m here to tell you a little secret:

Absolutely everyone else feels the same.

Every day I, like many others, share my work online (be it writing here on Medium, or design over on Dribbble), do I think I’m “qualified” to do so? Fuck no, I think I’m an imposter like everyone else; I just learn to get over it and push forwards towards the next step, rather than spending too much time overthinking and being terrified of a failure that might never come to pass. Even if that failure does come, it might not be as bad as you think — in reality, failure is the starting point and foundation for most successes.

Feedback vs Criticism

If you’re sharing your work often, it’s vital to know when to take on the thoughts and feelings of others and when to ignore them and move on, for the sake of your own sanity.

Do you think Jony Ive sits reading the comments and negative thoughts shared online about his life’s work?

Probably not.

However, you can bet that if fellow respected designers and creatives offered him constructive and relevant feedback, he would definitely take it on board.

Make sure to strike a distinction between the kind of feedback that has an impact on your work and the end user, and asinine criticism for the sake of making noise online.

Keep Getting Up

Sometimes people slam your work, either from a critical standpoint or even sometimes a user feedback perspective (remember that Snapchat redesign?); the key is how you roll with the punches and keep getting back up.

Unless you’re something exceptional, you are going to get hit and knocked down, but it is during the hardest times that you learn and grow the most.

So even when you don’t “feel like it” or get demoralised by negativity or a reception less than you expected, get up and keep fighting. Giving up and languishing in your misery is how you let imposter syndrome take hold, and that is not what you want at all.

Never Stop

A large amount of internalised negative feeling stems from having too much time to think about things; given a long enough period of time, your brain can make even the most beautiful things into dark and miserable storms of worry. To avoid this paralysis through analysis, you’ve got to continually be pressing forwards and always have the next goal to be working towards; it’s why I write and share every day; I can’t get bogged down in the past if I’ve always got something else to be doing that focuses on the future.

By sharing in this quickfire nature, you’re able to get thoughts and opinions on ALL the work you do, not just what you decide to show. When you’ve got to get something out the very next day, there’s no time to scrap ideas that only half work in your mind and that concept you dislike could be loved by hundreds of others online if you’d only just release it.

Defeat the Demons

There will always be times where your internal monologue takes over and tries to drown you in excuses or negativity; it is inevitable. To counter these demons, keep a Daily Log of your activity, so you can chart your progress and show your inner doubts just how far you’ve come.

Just keep going, outrun the doubt.

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