Ask DN: How can you tell the difference between Imposter Syndrome and Being Incompetent?

over 7 years ago from , Frontend Software Engineer

HEY DN, We've all had this feeling of opening up the front page of dribble and feeling like a total piece of shit. My question is, when do you let yourself know that it's just imposter syndrome and when do you make yourself realize that your work is actually not good enough at a professional level?


  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, over 7 years ago

    It doesn't matter which one it is as long as you just keep improving little by little, day by day.

    14 points
    • Dustin CartwrightDustin Cartwright, over 7 years ago

      This is the best answer. Design is one of those things that you aren't a genius with 100% of the time. Others out there have their brilliant moments, and constantly looking at those moments from a lot of designers can easily lead to feeling like crap with your own work. Or your skills really could be sub-par. Either way, just keep doing what you enjoy - The only way you'll get better is practice. At the end of the day, if people are still coming to see your work or buy your products, you're as good as they want you to be. Never stop learning, and you'll always be improving :)

      2 points
  • Aaron SagrayAaron Sagray, over 7 years ago

    Don't worry about it, and keep on making things. The more you make, the more you improve. Make real things. Collaborate with engineers and ship. Don't dribbble.

    Sidenote: Incompetent people usually aren't so self-aware.

    5 points
  • Heath VanSingelHeath VanSingel, over 7 years ago

    I think if you were incompetent you wouldn't realize there was an issue at all.

    I felt the same as you when I was at a job doing work I didn't believe in. When you're limited in creating not only "good" work, but fulfilling work, you begin to think you're incapable of creating good work at all. I agree with others in saying to just keep improving where you can!

    1 point
  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 7 years ago

    Honestly, it just gets better, very slowly over time, but never goes away completely.

    I bought some spectacles so I look more like a real designer :-)

    1 point
  • barry saundersbarry saunders, over 7 years ago

    Get feedback from lots of people. If you're incompetent, you'll find out soon enough.

    1 point
  • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    I don't think there's any real easy answer for this.

    You could take your work out of context, put it in a dribble picture, see if it presents as well. Is that one graph actually great, or does it look good because it fits between all these other (crappy) graphs?

    But then still, it doesn't really answer it.

    I'd recommend practising objectivity. We always have to look at our work objectively to find out if it's any good or not. Be honest with yourself, judge your work on its flaws and merits. (working on improving the flaws and leveraging the merits is a separate thing entirely)

    Most importantly though, and I can't stress this enough:


    There's always someone out there that's better than you. Don't worry. That's fine. In my case, there's a gazillion people that are better at logo design. At picking original colours. At coming up with new compositions. At coding.

    But that's fine. We all have our skills. Maybe you compensate by being better at online marketing than most of those. Or maybe you're a pro sales man and you know how to sell yourself. Maybe you're an experienced online community manager, maybe you know how to solve a rubik's cube in under two minutes.

    There's always something. Be at ease with how shit you might be at some things, and you'll be surprised at how easy it'll become to judge your own work.

    .edit: btw, not being the best, doesn't mean not STRIVING to become the best. This is a numbers game. I'm sure there's at least a million designers. We're all 1 in a million.

    1 point
  • Jesse HeadJesse Head, over 7 years ago

    For me, it's how people around you are responding to you. I've been in both positions (:

    1 point
  • Raony Marcondes, over 7 years ago


    1 point