Sarah Treanor


Finding Confidence as a Designer


I remember when I was fresh out of college and embarking on the real world, despite my high grades, I had extremely little confidence in my design skills. I thought this feeling would soon go away with more work experience and it did but honestly it took A LOT longer than it should have.

You’ll often hear people speak of this lack of confidence in business as “Imposter Syndrome”. This way of thinking is triggered by situations like…

  • Struggling with a client/project and feeling guilty, disappointed and stupid because of it.

  • Seeing other designers work and being plagued by the thought “I’m nowhere good as them”.

  • Not believing in your creativity or skills.


“The psychological experience of believing that one’s accomplishments came about not through genuine ability, but as a result of having been lucky, having worked harder than others, or having manipulated other people’s impressions, has been labeled the impostor phenomenon. This common pattern was first observed in highly successful female college students and professionals who, despite their accomplishments, were unable to internalize a sense of themselves as competent and talented. Attributing their successes not to their abilities but to external circumstances or to attributes unrelated to actual talent (e.g., personal charm, ability to read and meet other’s expectations), they reported feelings of being an impostor or a fake.”

(Psychotherapy Volume 30, Joe Langford, Pauline Rose Clance, Georgia State University)


Doubts will always be there and I don’t think even the most successful designers can avoid these thoughts from time to time. So today I want to urge all designers to focus on your successes and work on your confidence. In all honesty, modesty is a waste of time in business, wear your strengths and achievements proudly. Never let fear get in your way and put yourself out there so that the greatest opportunities come your way.

Over time, I've learned a few ways to deal with imposter syndrome and feel confidant in myself as a designer. Sure, my confidence is knocked from time to time, here are some ways I have learned to get myself back up:

  1. Accept who you are and know you can Improve
    You are perfect just the way you are even with your imperfections. What you have to offer is unique and it is valuable! From time to time you are going to make mistakes but with some focus you can learn and grow from them.

  2. Take an honest look at yourself
    Don’t go overboard bragging about yourself. True confidence is firmly planted in reality. Assess your abilities and work on your weaknesses. Speak confidently about your strengths and at the same time feel confident about how you are improving what were once your weaknesses.

  3. Remember Doubt Breeds Doubt
    Don’t doubt yourself or leave the best bits out of pitches/interviews. Modesty will get you nowhere. If you are proud of what you are talking about your confidence will shine through.

  4. Embrace Small Victories
    Confident people tend to challenge themselves and compete even when their efforts are just for trivial victories. Small victories feed your confidence and help motivate. Acknowledge and be proud of your successes small and large!

  5. Be Assertive, Not Aggressive
    Don’t confuse aggression for confidence. When you’re insecure it can be easy for slip into aggression when you’re attempting to be assertive. Practice asserting yourself and try hard to keep your insecurities at bay.

  6. Be Positive
    If you are knocked back, maybe your pitch/interview doesn’t achieve what you were hoping, don’t be discouraged. Hope for the best and keep moving on to the next opportunity with confidence.

Nobody is born confidant. Confidence is your own choice, yes it takes practice and insecurities can be difficult to overcome, believe in yourself and I guarantee you’ve got it in you!