Overcoming imposter syndrome as a self-taught designer

Why I started to write about design

Developing imposter syndrome

As a college student

It’s common for students at selective universities like Penn to feel like they didn’t deserve their spot there. After meeting my classmates and learning about their previous accomplishments, it seemed like no matter what I thought I was good at, there were ten other people who could do it ten times better.

As a self-taught designer

Even after making progress toward overcoming imposter syndrome as a Penn student, it began to manifest itself in my new passion for design. As a someone who taught myself the skills and tools I used, I constantly feared I’d be exposed for not being a “real” designer.

Overcoming imposter syndrome

While I still haven’t completely overcome the feeling, I’ve recently made some big steps in the right direction — cutting through the noise of my inner doubts and irrational fears.

Where blogging comes in

My reasons for writing about design collectively work to combat my imposter syndrome, with the added benefit that my thoughts may have the potential to impact and educate others.

Reason 1: To reinforce creation over consumption

I’ve always made it a goal to create more and consume less, since it’s the fastest way to learn. Reading every article and book on a topic won’t teach you nearly as much as applying the learnings to solve real problems will.

Reason 2: To face my fear of writing

I never really question my ability to learn math and science, but I repeatedly doubt my ability to teach myself more abstract skills like writing and design. At Penn, I became even less confident in my writing ability after learning about the private schools with rigorous writing programs that my classmates hailed from.

Reason 3: To pay it forward

I recently started co-teaching a 6-week design seminar in UI/UX mobile design. Walking beginners through the fundamentals of product design has given me a whole new perspective on the value of mentorship. I used to see my short time in the design world as a handicap, but being a relative beginner has its merits.

Moving forward

I hope to keep chronicling my thoughts and progress as I continue to grow as a student and budding designer. While there are still moments where I feel like I know nothing, I strive to know a little less nothing than I did yesterday, and I’m excited to share that learning process here.

student @penn & designer @pennlabs | portfolio @ jesstan.me

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