Karli Isiyel on Imposter Syndrome





I was in Santa Fe not too long ago with a group of my girlfriends. We were on Canyon Road walking in and out of lovely galleries and we happened to stop into a gallery that was having a party. There across the room was a woman with long dark hair, who was sitting at a small table with all sorts of little accouterments. She looked grounded and wise. She was in her mid-30s and she had a kind gaze. She was giving a reading to someone and I was intrigued.

I’ve had many a reading in my life – Tarot, Psychic, Reiki – you name it, I’ve done it. Sometimes these readings are fun and don’t mean much, and sometimes they hit the nail on the head and I learn something about myself I hadn’t been able to see before. My girlfriend definitely wanted a reading so she went first. Honestly, I was hesitant. Hesitant that I would get emotional because I could tell this woman was the real deal. I mosied around the gallery and looked at other things while my friend got her reading and I pondered the idea of my reading. What was I so afraid of? Why didn’t I want to dive deep? After comforting my friend who got emotional, she urged me to get a reading. I guess her crying gave me a little bit of permission to cry if I needed to.

I sat down with hesitation and tried to get comfortable in the little stool that was too close to the floor. The wise woman with dark red hair told me her name was Kasandra and she was going to pull cards for me. They weren’t Tarot cards, but cards with symbols on them to guide her clairvoyance.

She pulled 9 cards total. The top 3 were about me buying a home, which I’ve been talking about for months. And am trying to get in the correct financial shape to be able to do that. The bottom 6 were about me, and my head.

She told me that I am at the brink of exhaustion and that if I don’t get a grip on my own thoughts my business will suffer. Welp, here come the tears. I was caught. Caught and couldn’t deny it. My friends were watching and nodding their heads. It was a bit of an intervention that day. An intervention for me to GET OUT OF MY HEAD, and stop being my worst enemy. There are plenty of critics in this world but if the worst one is inside your head, you won’t get far.

That reading caused me to wake up a bit, and realize that I should be my own best ally. I am far from perfect, but if I can’t stand behind my work, then who will?

According to a Harvard Business Review article, Imposter Syndrome is defined as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”

And c’mon guys – if Harvard Business Review is writing about it, it’s a real damn thing.

I’ve been a graphic designer for over 10 years now. I have a degree in it, I DO know what I’m doing when it comes to design. Yet every time I start a new project with a new client, Imposter Syndrome creeps in.

It feels like anxiety for me. Paralyzing anxiety. Can’t sleep at night anxiety. But I do know one thing, it always passes. Here are my tips for getting through Imposter Syndrome:


I try to be cognizant of WHAT is giving you anxiety. Sometimes it not possible, but I like to name it because once you name it then it’s easier to talk about it. Maybe reach out to a close friend and have a chat with them about how you’re feeling. I usually like to give myself a day(or 2) to let all the feels happen. I cry and wallow in the sadness. I cuddle my bunny and watch all the Netflix I can. Just let it happen, and know that tomorrow or the next day, you’ll have an opportunity to cheer up.


I like to make gratitude lists. They are easy, and also satisfy my bullet list-making tendencies. Name 3 things you’re grateful for. AND THEN – list 3 things you are good at. If you have all the feels about this list then write it all out. Do the stream of consciousness writing where you literally just write the words in your head on the paper.


Since my reading in Santa Fe I have meditated every day (shhh, sometimes it’s just a sleep meditation!). It’s been 33 days and I’ve maintained my streak! I know that meditation is difficult, but the long term benefits are huge. It really has helped me get a grip on those self-loathing thoughts. Even though things are still a bit slow business-wise, it simply helps me have a more positive outlook on things. There are all types of meditations and if you are having some bad imposter syndrome then try and find some that center around self-compassion and anxiety. Getting out of our heads and into our bodies is always a good thing to feel more grounded and stop those racing thoughts. I use Insight Timer and am a big fan if you need a good app to help you meditate, try it here.


I like to decide how many days I’m going to let myself look like a trash-person and eat Cheetos on my couch. This is a gentle act though – nothing too stringent. Once I decide that tomorrow I’m going to try and buck up, I plan something fun for myself. Whether that is shopping or lunch with friends. Choose something to brighten your spirits.


This actually ALWAYS helps me. If your Imposter Syndrome is based around a project or client – start the work. Sometimes I make up in my head that things are going to be SO hard and then that just leads to procrastination. But I almost always find that once I start, things are a breeze. Because guess what? You DO know what you’re doing. Now go do it.

Karli Isiyel is a process gal with an eye for the beautiful and the instinct to go big. She runs a small design studio – KarliDesigns and also found The Freelance Chronicles in 2019. She’s a native Austinite and has a black-and-white-spotted bunny named Basil. You can find her on Instagram here.

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