Self doubt is one of the main problems that
designers people face. When we work, our work is never private. We might shield our quirky processes and messy paths to creation but at the end of the day our work is always ultimately left open for anyone to scrutinise either positively or negatively. From the moment you hit that big, proverbial red button to release something into the wild, you’re left feeling naked and vulnerable with the weight of a hundred unorganised Photoshop layers resting on your shoulders. That is, until that one person comes along:
… and suddenly, you wonder what the heck you were so afraid of.
There’s no denying it; this feels great, but the problem with this is that while we rely on the validation from others to determine the value of ourselves, our abilities and our work we will always continue to face self-doubt in the future. That split second of relief might feel good at the time, but the next time you push something out into the world you will undoubtedly go through the same agonising process all over again.
I’m very early on in this revelation but the key, I think, to self-doubt is in the name: Self. Self-doubt is all about you and the relationship you have with yourself. It’s the way you speak to yourself but also the way you question yourself.
I took some time this week to go back and read some of my posts from earlier in the year and I was genuinely surprised at how self-deprecating some of my comments were (sorry, readers). I’m sure these were, and in some cases still are, valid but with the advantage of hindsight I was able to see how damaging it was to reinforce these thoughts instead of standing to question them.
The same applies to when we are designing or creating or doing anything that we even slightly care about. If we don’t question or even flat out ignore the self-deprecating thoughts that lead to self-doubt how are we to eliminate self-doubt at all? Instead of relying on other people to dispel your internal self-talk, rely on your ability dispel that self-talk on your own. You are in control. Become aware of the times you start to treat yourself badly and remind yourself that you’re actually a lot better than you think you are. Remember that ‘one-person’ from earlier on? Remind yourself what makes you feel good about their validation and replicate it. Instead of waiting for them to tell you it “looks great”, tell yourself and believe it. If you can’t believe it, fake it until you do. And always remember: everyone — yes, everyone —around you is also going through this same process.
Coming across this quote by the brilliant Andy Warhol was a timely and welcome discovery as it summed up everything I’ve tried to say in the above so neatly and so accurately:
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
I love his confidence.
Self doubt is a product of ourselves and our own thoughts. In the same way you can talk yourself down, you can also talk yourself out of any of the self-deprecating thoughts that create self-doubt. Instead of waiting for validation from others, give it to yourself. It's worth a lot more.