Jan 21, 2021

Community story: impostor syndrome

Not only people will recognize Gordon with his beanie hats. People who know Gordon will describe him as a confident person. He doesn’t doubt himself very often. After being a freelance designer for about 6 years, he joined Shopify. Which what he would consider as the first “real” job in his life. Shortly after that, Gordon encountered a form of impostor syndrome.

“I have never been a product designer, and I hadn’t worked in teams before. So intense collaboration wasn’t something I had any experience with,” Gordon said.

“This was basically the first time I really felt like I was a fraud and maybe couldn’t live up to the expectations,” He continued.

To manage this, Gordon believes one part of the solution is our own mindset, and the other part is the work environment. He started to accept that he had a lot of new things to learn. Also, recognize that he would be going to make mistakes as part of growing. This is where the work environment comes into play, “You need space where you can make mistakes, say things that make no sense,” He said.


Raisa graduated in business management. In her first job, she felt very different from her peers. While she cares about the user experience, she will see a problem from the business perspective by default. This makes her doubting if she is a real designer.

As she was navigating through this feeling, she started to share it with her teammates. This helped her realize that her background is unique, bringing a unique perspective to solve problems.

“My teammate doesn’t care whether I’m a ‘true designer’ or not, as long as I can be clear on what problem we tried to solve and contribute to it,” Raisa said.

For Raisa, the conversation and her team’s support helped her manage her impostor syndrome over time.


Thanks to Gordon and Raisa for sharing their stories. Many other people have shared their stories too, I just can’t put them all in this blog. But we hope by sharing our story, it helps anyone who is currently trying to manage this feeling.

Research shows that 70% of the general population feel this way at some point in their life. Most people experience moments of doubt, and that’s normal. The important part is not to let that doubt control our actions.

For me, reframing my perspective and proactively seeking constructive feedback plays a significant role as my support system. For Gordon, it’s his mindset to accept he is still learning and the environment that allows him to make mistakes. While for Raisa, her teammates helped her embrace her unique way of thinking and continuously support her.

Dr. Cokley, who conducted a study about Impostorism1 suggested a few techniques you can consider on the individual level:

Celebrate small wins

Keep a daily diary and record every instance in which you receive positive feedback. You can use it to keep track of your own progress and accomplishments.2

Join the affinity group

“People high in impostorism typically struggle alone, silently,” Dr. Cokley said. He recommends joining or creating an affinity network, “a group of people who are similar to you, based on gender or ethnicity, and you can talk about your vulnerabilities and insecurities.”


Further reading

  1. Impostor feelings as a moderator and mediator of the relationship between perceived discrimination and mental health among racial/ethnic minority college students.
  2. Dealing With Impostor Syndrome When You’re Treated as an Impostor - New York Times
  3. Overcome Impostor Syndrome - New York Times
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2021

Mar 01 Product design leadership — Setting direction
Feb 26 Friday diary 02: On GUI history, learning, and explain features.
Feb 25 Product design leadership — Create changes
Feb 24 Product Design Leadership series
Feb 22 Documenting is a good team’s habit
Feb 18 Have a hard time getting design feedback?
Feb 18 I'm writing a book.
Feb 16 A manager cried in front of me.
Feb 15 Should I move to the managerial role?
Feb 12 Friday diary 01: On personal development, being senior, and breaking small task.
Feb 11 Evangelizing the human-centered practice
Feb 09 Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Strategic insight
Feb 08 Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Strategic relationship
Feb 08 Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Overview
Feb 05 Dealing with top down request
Feb 03 Every team has its unique challenges.
Feb 02 Business aware designer – Recognize your competitors
Jan 29 Business aware designer – Job to be done
Jan 27 Business aware designer – Value proposition
Jan 26 Business-aware designer - overview
Jan 25 What do product designers do?
Jan 22 Announcement for mentorship program
Jan 21 Community story: impostor syndrome
Jan 20 Should startups build a design system?
Jan 18 How I overcame my impostor syndrome
Jan 17 User metrics - Signals and Metrics
Jan 15 User metrics - Vision
Jan 14 User metrics - Overview
Jan 13 Give back to the community
Jan 12 4P: framework for choosing job
Jan 11 Take things with a grain of salt
Jan 09 Principles of good portfolio design
Jan 07 An effective product design portfolio – Constraint
Jan 06 An effective product design portfolio – Structure
Jan 05 Connect user and business with AARRR framework
Jan 05 My blog in 2021
Jan 03 Should I build the feature request from customers?

2020

Dec 30 Feature requests are stupid business activity
Dec 21 The benefit of creating a design portfolio
Nov 24 About self-doubt
Nov 11 Don't confuse design with artifacts
Nov 06 What if you need to find another job tomorrow?
Oct 26 Making sense of your design project by writing
Sep 30 When was the last time you reflect?
Sep 29 Methods are tools
Sep 24 How can I get a bigger project?
Sep 23 Entering product design – Chapter 7: Craft and analysis
Sep 22 Entering product design – Chapter 6: Narrow collaborator
Sep 21 Entering product design – Chapter 5: Soloist product designers
Sep 17 Entering product design – Chapter 4: Product designer key skill areas
Sep 14 Entering product design – Chapter 3: Misunderstanding of business
Sep 11 Entering product design – Chapter 2: Principles over steps
Sep 10 Entering product design – Chapter 1: Silver bullet
Sep 10 Entering product design – Overview
Sep 04 SAR: A framework for concise storytelling
Aug 27 Start your design with outcome
Aug 24 New medium post: Collaboration ground for design systems
Aug 17 Action points
Aug 13 Pulse check: Listen to your team
Aug 11 You should actively apply for a new job
Aug 10 Design systems' area of influence: Service (3/3)
Aug 04 Design systems' area of influence: Offering (2/3)
Aug 03 Design systems' area of influence: Identity (1/3)
Aug 01 My mom ran me to the hospital
Jul 29 Reader question: Do we need to build MVP for every product?
Jul 27 Reader question: Do I need formal design education?
Jul 24 Recognize assumptions
Jul 21 Sandbox for your personal growth
Jul 20 Start your week with questions
Jul 17 Specificity in feedback
Jul 15 Don't sell the design. Sell the business impact
Jul 14 Overwhelming inspiration
Jul 13 The framing trap
Jul 10 Everyone vs. Specific
Jul 09 The blind horse designer
Jul 08 Set the context in your meeting
Jul 07 Let's just try and see what happens
Jul 06 Managing expectation
Jul 05 Low UX maturity company
Jun 17 A simple exercise for career reflection
May 31 The “Coach sheet” – A paper-based system for people management
May 26 Bring calm to your remote team
Feb 13 Workshops can be more efficient than meetings
Feb 07 3 questions designers should be asking
Feb 06 Walking 1on1: A refreshing way to connect

2019

Nov 21 My hope for stubborn 'Innovators'
Jul 18 Five simple actions to help you gain more time
Apr 23 Evolving Product Experience Principles at Bukalapak
Mar 09 A framework to give better design feedback: Analyze, Discuss, Suggest
Jan 28 Making a decision is hard, here's my rule of thumb

2018

Dec 04 Essential skills for Product Designers
Nov 16 Quick life update
Nov 06 Things I learned from working at Shopify
Oct 15 About design critique
Sep 17 Common icon design problems you should avoid
Sep 06 Preface: Welcome to yellowstroke.com