Women tell Women

How to tackle impostor syndrome?

— Monica Khemsurov

Every single friend of mine has experienced impostor syndrome — male and female. For me it’s always come in two forms. First, as a sort of light-hearted, absurd realization that a lot of the projects I’ve done in my career I essentially just made up as I went along. I recently wrote a book with my Sight Unseen co-founder — it’s an educational guidebook about design, and it really did feel ridiculous that I was writing it in my pajamas, basically off the top of my head. But that’s more of an I have to laugh at this feeling rather than a true insecurity. Because deep down I know these are years & years of experience that allow me to work like that. Plus, the more times you make something up as you go along, and you succeed, the more you learn that it’s not as unusual as you think.

The other form is a bit deeper, and that’s when I start a project or career arc that’s outside my professional comfort zone, and I get scared because I’m not sure I’ll know what to do. There’s no great way to tackle that feeling except to understand that absolutely everyone feels that way sometimes, even the most successful people. The more you talk about it openly with others, the more you’ll see just how true that is. Even in the unlikely event that you really do fail, usually you can come back from it and use that experience to grow. But one way I like to reassure myself is by thinking back to when I was a junior and a senior in high-school. College seemed so intimidating and difficult and hopelessly above my capacities, but once I actually got there, it turned out that in the interim I had slowly progressed in all the ways it took for me to be ready, and I did just fine. You’re going to do just fine.

Monica Khemsurov –
Creative Consultant

Monica Khemsurov is the co-founder of Sight Unseen, an online design magazine, as well as the co-founder of Tetra – a designer smoking accessories brand. She’s also a global creative consultant working between New York, Los Angeles, and Berlin.