AR2021-You Are a Badass at UX: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome (Megan Kierstead- Researcher and Coach)

—> Good morning, and talking about feeling like badass at UX research
—> The reality is that emotional health impacts the ability for us to do our jobs


—> At core, what is discussed today is where self-doubt comes form, how to change it, and how you can feel better if you can’t change your external circumstances
—> Focus will be on building emotionally-healthy, bad-ass researchers, product managers, and other design professionals


—> Our jobs as researchers is to influence and help people make decisions and empathize with people in world
—> We need to influence people, and that requires you to believe in what you’re doing
  • Doesn’t mean you can’t have total confidence in results, but need to believe approach is valid, and that you bring valuable skills
—> Hard to do this when you are in self-doubt


—> And that self-doubt comes home with you.
  • I’ve seen researchers constantly trying to prove themselves  that their research is useful
—> This will naturally impact identity and your emotional health
—> Need to think of self-care that lets you do work that is courageous and useful


—> Way we experience emotions are on a huge high/low swing
  • Due to motivation of external factors and feedback
    • Your boss gives positive review/negative view either boosts you or destroys you
—> This happens to people regardless of experience level
—> The goal is not to eliminate self-doubt but to mitigate the opinions of others  on your well being
  • UXRs need to speak truth, but can’t do that if doubting themselves



—> For me the emotion needed to be brave is “bad-ass”
  • Makes me feel like I can do job very well
—> Bad-ass. means
  • Vulnerable
  • Brave
  • True to myself
—> Bad-ass as term is rooted in masculine ideas, but for me it’s a feeling in body, that I can do this


—> Bad-ass can be different adjective or form of identify
  • Think about what researcher, leader, human you want to be (as you can’t separate these things out)
    • For example being an accessibility expert, or feeling compassionate
—> No one will decide for you what it means to be good at something


—> I’ll now go into an explanation of roughly how brain works.
  • We basically experience things as follows.
    • You have circumstances (anything that happens that people generally agree on)
    • Thought is what happens in your brain in response to circumstance
    • Feelings are sensations in body that you give labels
    • Actions are what people can change
—> All of these phenomenon are contextual, and vary from brains, backgrounds, educations
  • Everyone will respond to circumstance differently based on their unique brain
  • You need to define what it means to be bad-ass at research
—> If you don’t change underlying thoughts and feelings, its hard to take actions from authentic awesome place
  • Means that my work is focused on thoughts and feelings that drive action


—> So what is self-doubt? It’s when we think and feel things that make us feel insecure


—> Example of thought model
  • Circumstance: See a job listing on LinkedIn
  • Thought: I’m unqualified
  • Feeling; Don’t have enough experience
  • Action: Don’t apply, and edit my resume  one more time
  • Result: Don’t get a new job
—> Thoughts and feelings drive actions you got before



—> I will be very clear that circumstances aren’t just things you can measure or touch, and can include things like racism, years of experience, etc.
  • The goal is to up/lower difficulty of believing a thing in a particular situation , such as feeling like you can’t get promoted because you are a women of color
  • Not about feeling positive, but being intentional about context and experiencing the world


—> If you don’t feel like badass, it’s not due to circumstances. You have thoughts that don’t  make you feel like a badass
—> No committee determines what is  badass at being a researcher, raising a kid, as all of this is contextual
  • You are the ultimate judge of whether something is bad-ass or not
    • Informed by outside things, to help refine the definition
—> Coming up with own definition and metrics of success
  • Makes the work authentic to you, and what it means for work to be good
  • Get to point where your brain is malleable and your story about yourself is what you want it to be
—> Have the ideal definition of what kind of person you want to be, and it follows you through your career, as opposed to meeting criteria for a job


—> So how do we make this change? We’re in luck, as brains are ridiculously malleable, i.e. neuro-plasticity and people can change wiring


—> One tool (out of many like mindfulness), is a self-assessment tool for situations you encounter
—> Ideal qualities are simple and straightforward
  • Think  of qualities you want to embody as colleague, researcher, human (no more than 10)
    • Think of someone you admire and qualities you admire in them
    • The more senior someone becomes, the less focus is on things like methodology and tool, and more on inter-personal qualities like empathy, bravery
  • Rate yourself on 1-10 scale of how you embody the  scale today
    • The list is not what you are bad at
    • List also acknowledges how awesome you are right now
  • For each quality ask why did I rate myself number X, what would I nee dot rate myself as a 10
—> And how to practically implement?
  • Do assessment and check-in regularly. Ideally numbers will increase over times, as you grow and mature
  • 1) Start paying attention thoughts, and seeing where they come from
  • 2) Seek opportunities to grow, where you are at the level of a 10 or a 2



—> So let’s have the example of client who wants to grow in career
  • She talked about skill of disagreeing kindly
    • Why did I rate myself a three?
    • In situation, what would she think about herself that would rate herself as a 10
—> Reframing things to your brain, to reshape identity as researcher and ability to influence things.
—> I have also heard concerns that you will lose a critical ability to reflect, if you stop doubting yourself:
  • For self-criticism, you can questions quality of work, results, people, but you don’t question yourself
—> Self-doubt refers to the stories you tell yourself about how you are not valuable and useful.
  • If you tamp down self-doubt, you will still be you, even if you have more confidence


—> If you want to be someone who has influence and impact, what do you need to feel like? And what do you need to feel to believe you are a superhero?


—> For further resources, recommend two podcasts shown in the slide



  1. How do you recognize the difference between imposter syndrome (“I don’t have experience” when I actually do) and reality? (I actually do not have experience) And what to do about it? On a related note: pessimists tend to have a more realistic view of the world.
A: Comes from place of humility and accurate self-assessment.
  • If you are doing good work, and humble, it will come out
  • Risk is not having skills, rather not having self-belief
  • Recognize that you need to have latitude to grow into role
  1. How can we create a more confidence-boosting environment in the workplace?
A: Support authenticity, and letting people themselves, whatever that is.
  • Accepting people with different life experiences, and supporting individuality and authenticity in work-place