Updated: May 20
It is, without a doubt, a completely terrifying experience to walk away from your safe, well-paid corporate job and all its benefits to pursue an entirely new career in a field that you know extraordinarily little about. However, that is the exact journey I decided to embark on in late 2018, deciding that I did not want to spend the rest of my days as an executive chef; I wanted to become a designer.
Despite having established myself in the food and beverage world and working my way through the ranks, I realized that I was dissatisfied with my position. I realized upon reflection that my job was not nearly as creative as I thought it would be and that being creative was a vital component to my prolonged happiness. I discussed this dilemma with my incredibly supportive spouse, and we decided that I should take the leap and change my career path for the better. I built a new PC, purchased a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud and started absorbing every tutorial I could.
Two years have passed, and I finally feel like a skilled and creative designer who is well on his way to establishing himself as a professional within the industry. That is, until the imposter syndrome kicks in.
Along this journey I have had many run ins with imposter syndrome. Sometimes it came along as I obsessively rearranged tiny individual pixels on a screen after staying up way too late, trying to prove myself as a precise and hard-working designer. Other times it reared its ugly head when someone gave me a genuine compliment on my work, which I would immediately dismiss as false praise. Presently, it comes in very strange moments, often when I am learning something new, and it makes me feel like I am miles away from reaching my goals instead of inches away. I now know that I am not alone in experiencing this feeling, in fact, many people do. I take comfort in that solidarity and continue to develop my own tools for dealing with imposter syndrome as time goes on.
My personal secret weapon in the fight against imposter syndrome is the 30-day reflection. At the end of each month, I put some time aside to review and critique the person and designer that I was exactly one month ago. How am I different? What do I know now that I did not last month? Where have I improved? Almost every single month I have come out of this reflection with the realization that I have clearly improved as a designer. Remember, you can absorb so much new information in one month. You can also practice your craft quite a bit in that time period. At first, the results were very drastic; I was catching on to new concepts quickly, evolving my style, and learning at a very rapid rate. The hard work clearly showed. As time goes, reflection becomes more abstract and your improvements are smaller, specific and niche. However, the improvement is still there if you look hard enough. Change is a good thing, you will always experience these ebbs and flows throughout your design journey. This reflection exercise simply reminds me that I am not stagnant, and that my progress is growing bit by bit. Sometimes that’s all you need to keep moving forward.
There does not seem to be a definitive way to permanently rid yourself of the mind malady that is imposter syndrome. Even established designers and some of the world’s best and brightest have admitted to having battled with it, but you can fight against it by discovering the right tool for you. Try experimenting with the 30-day reflection or researching other tools for helping with imposter syndrome to see the difference it makes for you.
There is no shame in self-doubt, you are not alone. Just try your best to relax and let your work speak for itself.