Navigating Imposter Syndrome: A Conversation with Luis Berumen

Navigating Imposter Syndrome: A Conversation with Luis Berumen

Designwhine Interviews Luis Berumen

A designer, community leader, mentor and writer, Luis has two decades of product design experience in Latin America, North America, and Europe.
Luis’ design journey has lead to design projects for Kodak De Mexico, Panasonic Europe, HP Spain before Technology + Innovation Lab at Enbridge

Luis believes his greatest honour is directing the Calgary UX community.

Were you ever a victim of imposter syndrome during your design career? How did you cope with it?

Everyone has an origin story for their imposter syndrome; mine goes like this – While growing up in Mexico, I did not have access to many of the resources, opportunities and education other colleagues in the field had. I also believed my sense of inferiority went back to the centuries of marginalization, abuse, and inequality embedded in Mexican history. Trauma misunderstood as heritage. I always felt I needed to catch up, to close the gap created by the scars of time.

I felt I was not good enough, and I aggressively overcompensated for it.

I used this story to keep pushing me to be a better designer, promising that if I finish this course, that project, this training, if I move to this country, if I work for that company, if I start my own business, and so on, I will finally feel adequate and complete.

At the moment, this constant need for escalation did not raise many red flags since it could be perceived as drive, passion or functional workaholism. Now, it is easy to see the wreckage left in close personal relationships, alienated coworkers, and personal health.

Seeking external validation for faults in personal identity is a losing game, my first epiphany was that did not needed to go great lengths, like lifting Thor’s hammer and to know I was “worthy”.

On a side note, I would not call myself a “victim of imposter syndrome,” not because I have not experienced it (infact, I have suffered from it a good part of my life!) but because being a “victim” denotes I do not have agency in my actions and feelings while struggling and exonerates me from any responsibility. While feeling an imposter, I affected my life and the lives of other people around me, and I own it

Do you think imposter syndrome plagues the UX design community more as compared to other communities? Why?

I am conscious that being heavily immersed in the design ecosystem biases my worldview. I am glad to see many designers in different points of their journey talking about imposter syndrome. Just because I hear about it more frequently in one community does not generally mean they actually happen more often than others. It would be great to see statistics on imposter syndrome across segments of the population, but I can imagine some jobs and communities do not welcome introspection, expressing insecurities or candidness in the same way.

What would be your advise to young designers trying to fight imposter syndrome?

In your practical everyday life
use this principle – “The dose makes the poison.”

A small fraction of your imposter syndrome can be an excellent tool for self-discovery and guidance. Do not fight it; acknowledge it, learn from it.

My syndrome has helped me to mentor and coach younger designers. It is fascinating how things manifest in different ways for each person!
When the syndrome gets more intense and tries to take over the steering wheel, I remove myself from the equation. I focus on the problems I need to solve, the people who need my help, and what the community I represent deserves. I do not need to protect my identity, or prove anything to anybody because this is not about me. I become one with the solution, and work on the greatest good for the most significant number of people.

In the big scheme of things,
we do not need to be perfect; we only need to be aware of when we are out of balance.

Sometimes it is hard to calibrate it by yourself, and possibly, one will need professional help. If you have access to therapy, go for it!

This article was last updated on November 26, 2023; Originally published on July 1, 2021

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Written by
DesignWhine Editorial Team
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