How to overcome Imposter Syndrome as a UXD internship seeker by Young Kim

by Interaction Design April 7, 2022
B&W sketch of a young girl wearing a safety cone over her head. B&W sketch of a young girl wearing a safety cone over her head.

Illustrated by Young Kim

Imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony. You feel as though at any moment you will be found out as a fraud — like you don't belong where you are and like you only got there through dumb luck.

Even as I write these words, I still struggle with Imposter Syndrome. However, as the time comes for graduate students to seek internship opportunities, I think it is a critical time to discuss this phenomenon. It comes at every stage of our career, whether you have no experience or years of experience. I've talked with some students who have no experience in the UX field. They are worried they are not qualified because they have only finished one semester. Even as an experienced designer, I am still concerned about my qualifications.

Here are three suggestions for overcoming imposter syndrome, which I try to keep in mind when facing my bouts of imposter syndrome.


1. Accept your weaknesses and focus on your strengths.

You must have searched other candidates' portfolios, and many of them are stunning. After you admire them, it's tough to be struck by the realization that they are your rivals in the harsh internship market. It would make you think your portfolio is not enough. I often see people drawn to shiny portfolios with stunning interactive effects and beautiful designs. At first glance, it can seem like these are the best on the market. It can be paralyzing for someone who excels in strategy, research, or writing — but is still growing in their visual skill. Resist the urge to compare others' strengths with your weakness. There is always something you can do to demonstrate your strengths, no matter what they are. You can always do something, so consider how to best bring out those strengths in your portfolio.


2. It is okay to be vulnerable.

Many perfectionists suffer from imposter syndrome as they have high expectations of themselves. Perfectionists find it hard to be vulnerable because they believe they should always be perfect. They think being vulnerable would be shameful and make them weaker, not stronger. However, being vulnerable would give you more opportunities to learn from failure. When I got an interview invite, I made a presentation deck and practiced it alone, not asking for mock interviews with other designers. I wasn't ready to get harsh feedback from them and thought it was embarrassing to show an incomplete presentation. But I decided to be vulnerable this time. I reached out to my designer friends as much as possible and asked them to give me feedback. I got a lot of valuable feedback from them and used their notes to strengthen my presentation. Now, I'm delighted with the final version of my deck.


3. Move your body.

It might sound out of the blue, but exercise is crucial to overcoming imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a feeling. To control your emotion and mind, you need a healthy body. Whenever I feel I'm not enough, it makes me depressed and demotivated. To deal with these feelings, I head to the gym, walk, and run on the treadmill. I do this because I know it is a fake feeling. There is tons of scientific evidence that exercise relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being by releasing endorphins. When you are suffering from Imposter Syndrome, move your body. You'd be surprised by how much it helps.

Let's not allow imposter syndrome to hold us back from our dreams. Believe yourself. You are stronger than you think, and you are already enough as you are.

Thanks for reading!