Impostor Syndrome

Hey Naomi.

Usually I'm the lurker that never speaks up and just sort of fades into the night.

Truth is, I'm struggling. I'm feeling like a real fake. Imposter syndrome on steroids.

My confidence in my skills is below any measurable level.

My “business” is web design type stuff – but I'm not a coder. I'm not a graphic designer.

I've built more than a few websites for myself and friends. Yet, in the groups I hang out in on FB there are plenty of “web designers” like me who don't code and aren't trained in graphic design. I see and hear others talking about their 3k, 5k and 20k deals and feel so inadequate.

I've always come across as really “together” (thats what I hear anyway) – but I have absolutely no confidence and feel that my minimal experience isn't “enough” even though I'm really good at “figuring things out” as I go.

I feel like I have to take a coding course, or know SEO better… basically I need to know more than the basics and be an expert at everything.

I want to work with women who might be in their 40-60's years and wanting to get online and on social media. Maybe they're in their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th life chapter. Or maybe they just want a side-hustle for now.

I'm hung up because it feels like I need to offer something “really special”. I feel like I'm doing it “wrong” somehow.

Any words of wisdom for me?

Thanks so much in advance. I really appreciate you and the way you do what you do.

– Sarah

Hello, lovely Sarah.

I've been thinking about your question for a few days now, and I was having a devil of a time answering it. Every time I went to answer, I found myself incoherent and rambly and not really sure of my own point. Therefore, I have decided to put your email itself away, close my eyes (thank God I can touch type!) and answer the question I think you're asking.

There are a lot of bad web designers in the world. There are a lot of good web designers in the world. As is usually the case in life, the bad tend to think they're good and the good tend to think they're bad. Sigh. I know a lot of web designers and your issue is very common.

What I've seen as the consistent thread in people who ask this question is a blurring of lines between what is good or bad, and what is simple or complex. They see one axis, or spectrum:

Impostor Syndrome Figure 1


Deconstructed, it looks like this:

Impostor Syndrome Figure 2

This is a mental shortcut, and it's very common.

It will also ruin your life.

A Brief Segue Into Aristotle And Socrates

Are you familiar with the concept of a syllogism?

Syllogisms are logical arguments that use deductive reasoning to arrive at a conclusion. They are usually represented in three lines. The first is a major premise, the second is a minor premise, and the third is the logical conclusion.

The most familiar example is this one:

Impostor Syndrome Figure 3

If the major and minor premises are true, the conclusion will be true.

But if one of the premises is false, the conclusion will be false.

Try this one:

Impostor Syndrome Figure 4

Because the first premise is false, the argument breaks.

Impostor syndrome happens when there is an underlying belief that is not true, and therefore all conclusions that arrive from it are not true.

Impostor Syndrome Figure 5

The first premise is false, therefore the conclusion is false, therefore you're out $35,000 in therapy. (Bummer.)

The syllogism you're considering here, Sarah Рalbeit unconsciously Рis:

Impostor Syndrome Figure 6

Simplicity and Goodness As It Applies To Design, Web or Otherwise

Going back to our spectrum.

Design actually exists on two spectrums, and they have nothing whatsoever to do with one another. There is no correlation.

There is the complex to simple spectrum:

Impostor Syndrome Figure 7


And there is the good to sucky spectrum:

Impostor Syndrome Figure 8

They have nothing to do with one another in the same way that physical attractiveness and niceness have nothing to do with one another.

When we are young, we believe that pretty = nice and ugly = mean. As we mature, we realize that they have no correlation.

The same is true with web design. When you are feeling impostor syndrome, we believe that complex = good and simple = sucky. It's a false corollary.

Now, that's all great in theory. What about YOU and your business?

Let us imagine you have created a home page.

There's a spot for a header.

There's a big picture of the person, and maybe an opt-in box.

You've got three square buttons – one leading to a blog and one leading to a store and one leading to a podcast.

Then maybe a few testimonials?

Then another opt-in, and then the footer.

This is a pretty simple web design. We can agree on that, even though we have not seen it.

But is it a GOOD web design?

Ahh, that, we cannot know. Not unless we've seen it.

Does the third button cut off 3/4 of the way through because the coder can't figure out how to make them line up nicely?

Does the header font play nicely with the body font? Are there enough fonts? Are there too many fonts?

Are the colors branded? Do the colors reflect the proprietor? Are there enough colors? Are there too many colors?

If there are a variety of colors, does it look fresh and modern? Or chaotic? If there are few colors, does it look clean and simple and monochrome? Or like it's not done yet?

What about the images and vectors and symbols on the page? Are they crisp? Do they work well together?

Is it easy to figure out what to do? Is it easy to figure out where to go? If I have many choices, does it feel like I have lots of things to choose from, or am I overwhelmed?

So… Are You Good Enough?

Given the demographic that you're interested in helping, and given what you're interested in helping them do, I would not worry that “simple” is bad. 40-60 year old new female business owners probably want simple. They want non-fussy. They're probably terrified of web design that has too many moving pieces. They want to put up their little art site or their little coaching site or their little photography site and get on with business and with life.

So to them, if you are simple, that is an asset.

Whether or not you are good, well, I can't know. But in my opinion, a motivated, basically competent person can get a good eye a lot faster than they can learn to code their way to Saturn.

If you would like a little exercise – okay, who am I kidding? There's nothing little about it at all – you could go on a research and reconnaissance mission. Find simple designs you like – ideally lots and lots and LOTS of them – and deconstruct them by element. What's good about that font? What's good about that button? What's good about that color combination?

You can create a tickler file of what you like. You can say, “Ooh, IttyBiz uses Lora and it looks really nice!” But it's also a useful exercise to look at Lora and ask WHY it's nice. What's good about it? Then you learn the principles, not just “nomnomnom I

Do that over and over and over again and you'll have a perfectly good enough eye for design.

Now, I hope that helped, or it came closer to helping.

Of course, think on it, consider what I've said, consider what it brings up. Do you think I'm full of shit? Do you think this part makes sense but that part doesn't apply? Sit with it for a bit and then, if you feel like it, respond. We'll see what comes out of it. Impostor syndrome is a big and many-tentacled creature – it's manageable, even if it takes some time. :)



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