How to overcome Imposter Syndrome as a UXD internship seeker

Young Kim
3 min readFeb 19, 2022
Illustrated by Young Kim

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

Even as I write these words, I still struggle with Imposter Syndrome, But I think it is an excellent time to think about it as it is the time for graduate students to seek internship opportunities. It comes at every stage of our career, whether you have no experience or you have years of experience. I’ve talked with some students who have no experience in the UX field. They are worried they are not qualified yet because they just finished one semester. And as an experienced designer myself, I am also worried my ability is not as qualified as my work years.

Here are three suggestions on overcoming imposter syndrome, which I am trying to do nowadays.

1. Accept your weaknesses and focus on your strengths.

You must have searched other candidates’ portfolios. And many of them are stunning. Right after you feel you admire them, you will be aware that they are your rivals on the harch internship market. It would make you think your portfolio is not enough. It could be true. But it is partially true. Many times I see people drawn to the shiny portfolios with stunning interactive effects and beautiful design. 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 growing in their visual skill. Resist the urge to compare others’ strengths with your weakness. There must be something. It could be robust research or writing skill or product strategy. Try to think regarding how you can show your strength well on your portfolio.

2. It is okay to be vulnerable.

Many perfectionists suffer from imposter syndrome as they have high expectations of themselves. Perfectionists are hard to be vulnerable to because they should always be perfect. They believe being vulnerable would be shameful and make them weaker, not stronger. But 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 very embarrassing to show an incomplete presentation to someone who know me. But I decided to be vulnerable this time. I reached out to my designer friends as much as I could and asked them to give me feedback. I got a lot of valuable feedback from them and I fixed almost all of them. Now I’m deeply satisfied with my final version of the deck.

3. Move your body

It might sound out of the blue. But exercise is the most important to overcome 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. So then I jump down to the gym and walk and run on the treadmill. Because I know it is a fake feeling. And there are tons of scientific evidence that exercise relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. When you are suffering from Imposter Syndrome, move your body. It certainly works.

Let’s not allow imposter syndrome to hold back our dream. Believe yourself. You are stronger than you think, and you are much enough than you think.