A Short Note on Imposter Syndrome

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Imposter Syndrome is a prevalent issue in and outside of the design industry, infecting the hearts of the ambitious. I've encountered it numerous times across my career, both for commercial and non-commercial projects. It has crushed my excitement and motivation, dissuading me from one opportunity after another, and has never failed at informing me of how egotistical, ill-knowledgable, and naïve I am to believe myself worthy of doing 'X'. It is a plague of the mind that often begins from logical and well-meant investigation before mutating into a heavy smothering cloak of doubt.

To question yourself is healthy; it is a sign of intelligence and care. Am I educated and experienced enough to write about this? Am I competent enough to produce a product of good quality? Am I doing this from a place of ego and frustration, or of consideration? All are worthy questions to ask yourself. But there comes a time when logical questioning drifts into becoming illogical, and critique becomes a growing self-doubt.

In my humble opinion, the trick is not to linger too long in this self-barrage of questions and build a collection of individuals whose opinions you trust. Ask the questions, make the changes you believe are needed, and then act. After this, only review those initial questions once you have made substantial progress and can ask your trusted advisors their thoughts. To do else wise seems to only lead to Imposter Syndrome.

Like many before, I've had to learn this the hard way. As I've grown older and more experienced — though I'm undoubtedly still young — the grip Imposter Syndrome has had on me has weakened. In part, thanks to experience but also to historical biographies. Your potential seems infinite once having read the experiences, thoughts, and failures of historically important figures. It's also incredibly beneficial to have this backlog of historical evidence to help you combat the emotions that will no doubt appear again and again.

However, at this very moment, I'm experiencing a lot of imposter syndrome, all for publishing ideas and thoughts online. I guess it's a mix of doubt, both in myself and the outcome of my actions. I question my motives, my abilities and the end result of writing and publishing all of this. I question whether my writing skill is good enough or how others may perceive me as a whole for the topics I have and will touch upon. Will they think I'm egotistical, and perhaps they're right, and I should stop all of this? What if I spend all this time writing, and it's all for nothing? What if nobody cares or reads? I know this is most likely a stupid lack of faith. I've had lots of wonderful people compliment me on my writing style, so I really shouldn't allow my thoughts to dissuade me from continuing. But that persistent "What if" is always there. And ultimately, it separates those we consider Great or successful from those we don't.

I try to tackle this by reminding myself that I'm not perfect and nobody expects me to be. My job is to persist and attempt to make the next thing I do equal to or greater than the last. That the worries I have are just that and rarely nothing more. People will dislike me, my thoughts, and my work, but there will be those in equal measure who like all those things — unless I'm genuinely a distasteful piece of work which I don't believe is the case. It may take a long time for anyone to care about what I'm doing — Rome wasn't built in a day — and by holding on and moving forward, I could potentially create something interesting, and if not, at least I dared to try. Lastly, for the large number of people who deal with imposter syndrome, what good would my quitting do for them? I may only make a minuscule difference in the world, but surely, persisting and being an example of someone who combats this affliction is the more noble route to take. All of this, too, applies to you.

What's more, I'm often surprised when talking to someone incredibly experienced or talented to find out they feel the same. For some, it seems, it is a life-long affliction. It is a curse that continues to eat away at you the more you let it; a sister of fear — another manifestation of the sickness of self. I encourage you to ask those close to you or those you admire if they often deal with imposter syndrome. I think you'll find yourself surprised by just how prevalent it is, even in those you'd never expect.

Ultimately, you learn there are two options: 1) to give the imposter syndrome the time and attention it craves from you, to reward its manipulative nature and give up on your dreams, goals and actions; or 2) continue forward, and in times of weakness, return to the reminders, the notes you make and the people you trust to ground you. If you find solace here in this article, I hope you may return when you require it — and more so that you don't need to.

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