Mental health Awareness Week 2022 (Work in progress) — v9.3

  • uncertain and ambiguous situations challenge us. When it’s unclear what to do next, it’s inevitable we’ll fell underprepared.
  • representation and responsibility also present challenges. When we find ourselves as the only designer on a piece of work or in a meeting it can add to feelings of both pressure and doubt.
  • expert skills are a double edged sword. The expertise and knowledge of other people can be intimating. It’s easy to compare our inside doubts and struggles with the “outside” performance we see in others. We can overestimate the competence of colleagues and leave ourselves intimidated.
  • situations affect our confidence. Lots of people mention meetings and presentations as bringing out this feeling. A bored-looking face in a presentation can undermine us. A senior stakeholder, regardless of our own experience and expertise can also put us under pressure.
  • feedback can also be challenging. Design succeeds on the back of feedback and iteration. But it can be exhausting. Describing the rationale behind design work, being faced with questions and even times when the team adopts our idea can spark doubts. There are also times when we get good feedback and feel like we don’t deserve it — kicking in negative feelings when we should be celebrating.

Some advice:

Doubt helps design — but we need to control it. It’s good to ask questions and not to jump too early to certainty. But where imposter syndrome can stand in our way, there are ways of coping.

Prepare

When we’re feeling like an imposter, we have a tendency to over-prepare. As a coping strategy this is probably a pretty good one, especially when we combine it with the next two tips.

Accept where you are

I remind myself that it’s OK not to be certain. Most of us feel less confident at the beginning of things. It seems like the longer we spend doing anything we feel less of an imposter — so maybe it’s enough to know that this is a normal reaction to something new… and most design projects are dealing with new and uncertain possibilities. Focus on and celebrate small achievements to build confidence.

Own your ignorance

Even if you’re an ‘expert’, you can’t know everything. Grant yourself permission to ask questions. Remember, the majority of the people in the room probably suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time — so try not to be the one waiting for someone else to ask the question — ask it yourself!

Remind yourself

We’ve all got achievements in our past. We can call on past achievements to re-assure us when we’re having a wobble. I’m pretty fast “rebound” from events, but it means I sometimes forget the good stuff too. One simple tip is to keep a list of things that reassure you and make you proud. Keep it in the back of your notebook or in a file on your desktop. Keep it to remind yourself that you do belong.

Clean your pallette

A colleague shared how she does a focused task to try to get into Flow. I do the same. If I’ve had a tough day or week I make time for a little pallete cleansing activity to recharge. At the moment this tends to be writing daft little poems. I get a little sense of acheivement and 20 minutes not thinking about anything else.

Teamwork

While for some of us, being surrounded by a talented team is intimidating, it’s also our greatest asset. Mental Health awareness week is partly about lonliness. Being intimidated in a team can feel really lonely. But connections can make us stronger. Lots of us get strength from seeking advice and getting feedback from peers. Build trusting relationships and seek out authentic feedback that you can believe in. Make sure to accept it and believe it when it’s given.

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danramsden

danramsden

I'm a Creative director at the BBC. I like words, design, data and magic. These are all my own views (apart from retweets. I borrowed those to look clever.)