As a designer, or as anyone focussing on creating things on a daily basis, you probably have experienced what is called the ‘imposter syndrome‘.
Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which people doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments and have a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as frauds
I am no different. Every so and so it hits me and then I have to handle it. I have read many heartwarming blog posts by others going through just the same. But I’ve rarely had personal conversations about it and about dealing with it. Most of the times, I just let it rage, don’t act on it and it passes by. Until it’s back again.
Getting older, and still going through these phases, I start to take a different look at it. Why is it coming back again and again even though I do feel more confident about what I know and do.
Partly it’s a good thing. It prevents me from getting too self confident, keeps me on edge, striving to do better. (read, I wrote do better, not be better). But partly it’s devastating because it eats at you a little every time and you have to make sure to handle it somehow.
So I recently decided to have a helicopter look at myself and admit, there’s just a lot I’m not good at. And that’s ok.
I recently was going through some job descriptions for UX designers. I concluded that we came to a point where companies are looking for the full-stack UX designer, or rather, the UX design Unicorn.
You’re supposed to be good at everything. You preferably have a degree in psychology and have a degree in computer science, you must be good at research, good as user testing, good at building prototypes, good a leading workshops, good at communicating with stakeholders, with clients, with developers, with sales, with marketing, you must be good at brainstorming and quick sketching, good at writing (UX) copy, good at making wire frames and high fidelity designs, good at documenting your work, good at presenting and defending your work, good at customer experience design, at service design, at UX advocacy and at creating change in your company, good at what not. The list is endless. And if you look at it in all honesty, every aspect can be a specialisation on its own.
For a person with a hang for perfection, it’s frustrating to realise it’s just impossible to achieve being excellent let alone reach perfection in every aspect.
Now, I know I’m good at a lot of these things, my (ex-)colleagues will tell you so. But I’m also not good at a lot of these things and/or I have less enjoyment at doing them. So here we go.
For starters, I’m not good at reading books, which is a real problem for me. I can read alright, but I read extremely slow. I like to “taste” every sentence and reading 1 book can take me years. Literally.
It means I need other ways of processing new information. Articles, short studies, summaries are fine. Podcasts are fine, but only on the train, when I can’t do anything else. Damn my husband who does the household while listening to tons of podcasts ànd actually remembers things.
Listening to a speaker and taking notes is fine but takes up a lot of focussed time. Whereas avid readers devour tons of books in their spare time (what spare time?) and also process and remember everything. Doesn’t work for me, unfortunately.
So I’m not the designer that’ll whip you with quotes from the best books out there to make my point. That’s a problem. Because every conversation with people that do, gets easily broken.
I’m also not good at documenting my work. I never take the time to do it properly. There’s just always other urgent work to be done and taken care of first. But documenting later on is so much harder than while you’re in the project. You just can’t dig up every detail from memory and (even the best of) notes might be hard to re-interpret afterwards. I try to incorporate the documentation in my routine. Because it simply is essential, you’ll find out later if you don’t properly do it. And that’ll be a problem.
I’m not good at taking my time. I have a tendency to rush into the next project as stated previously. I do not take the time (read, I wrote take time, not have time) for essential parts of the process like documenting all phases. This makes me miss out insights that I gathered and that will help me next time. This also makes it harder for everyone working with you to also learn and understand. That’s a problem.
I always doubt. That’s just who I am. I have always been an observer. I have always watched others, what they do, how they do it and learned from that. It allowed me to not do things myself but learn from others. But every person is unique and as an observer, if you aspire full knowledge, it means you have to observe more people and notice all the differences and the similarities. Knowing that, you’ll always doubt. There will always be an exception to any rule. There will always be another way to achieve a goal. And to find the best way, is basically impossible. No matter how extensive your research is, there will always be doubt. Because there are always variables that make insights an decisions valid in only the exact same circumstances. But that doubt, makes me vulnerable. I’ll always leave room for new insights, I’ll always be open to suggestions, and for changing my decisions based on these new insights. As a designer though, that might make you seem uncertain and that’s a problem. But doubt is not uncertainty.
I easily feel like bugging people. When people have a question, I always try to be ready and available. When I have a question, I feel uncomfortable like I might take up too much of their time for something that’s not rewarding for them in any way. And that too is a problem. Especially when part of your research is talking to people and asking questions. While in the course of a conversation, I am comfortable and it tends to works out well. But at the same time this is extremely energy absorbing and a very intense task for me to do.
And then, there’s also a thing called life. I live, I am a mother, a wife, things happen every day. Life sometimes gives you lemons.
Apart from that I am also a person who loves to watch movies and tv-shows, loves to do some work in my garden, loves wasting time playing slither link or some low-paced rgp/adventure game, loves to walk the dog or just do nothing, has the need to be bored. Not doing enough of these things, is also a problem.
Basically, it’s ok to not be good at everything.
What’s important, is that you know your “weaknesses” and work with them. See if you can find a way to turn them into strengths. But if you can’t, it’s ok. Focus on what you like doing and most probably do well because you like it.
There probably are unicorns in some universe. People who are / seem good at everything they tackle. People who have energy all the time for everything. That’s not me and maybe also not you, and that’s ok.