Have you ever failed to complete a design task for a fear of not knowing where to start, not having all of the answers, or simply because a little voice in your head said ‘you’re not good enough’ ? That, my friends, is a classic case of imposter syndrome. As a designer, it can be exhausting to lack confidence in your work. I’ve had my fair share of doubt in my abilities, to the point where I spent two years doing anything but creating.
Confidence isn’t something that will one day click, rather it is a muscle that constantly needs exercising. It's something you can build and flex, something that the more you use, the easier it becomes. I've taken inspiration from many people to implement changes in my daily life in order to become more confident and would love to share them with you.
In a society which constantly demands our attention, it's easy to feel like we’re not doing enough. Every hour of the day seems to be planned out to be the most productive. Though there are many reasons why we should be planning our days to make the most of the time we have, we sometimes measure our worth only on the deliverables and results of our efforts. Even when we own this, we are rarely fulfilled.
A practice I have instilled into my everyday life is balance. This is a way of life that prioritises listening, contemplating, and resting. Through this, I have opened myself to the opportunity to learn, reflect, and just be. When I give myself the space to wonder, I find more passion and drive to create. In return, I am able to create and design more meaningfully.
If you would like to practice integrating balance in your everyday life, I recommend reading How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell where she shares advice on how to resist an attention-seeking society. Now more than ever, with positive mental health at the forefront of our minds, it's important to remind ourself that it's okay not to fill every waking moment with a pre-planned task.
Inspiration Over Comparison
Looking at other people’s work can so quickly turn from inspiration to comparison. It isn’t surprising when we, as designers, often tie our worth to our work. There is a narrative built into many people’s minds that there is a finite amount of success in the world. For example, if one person has accomplished something and I haven’t, then they are better than me and I will likely never be able to reach that level. Success is infinite and independently defined. It is the ‘accomplishment of an aim or purpose.’ Your aim or your purpose should not be defined by the accomplishments of others, but by yourself, and yourself alone.
Something you can practice while looking for inspiration is removing your identity from your work. Look through a lens of learning and compassion. Take time to celebrate the path this other individual has been on and the work that has come from it. This will give way to the confidence it takes to flourish. Show your Work by Austin Kleon and Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley are great places to start learning more about removing your identity from your work.
We are under great pressure to constantly be achieving more and more, faster and more efficiently. With this ever-present pressure, it is easy to get sucked into a mindset of performing so that one day we will be happy. I know this feeling all too well.
Mindfulness is most definitely a buzzword these days, but for good reason. How can it be applied to our everyday lives? For me, it's taking a step back and evaluating how my limited time is being spent. When I find myself struggling at work or feeling uncomfortable with my free time, I focus on taking in my environment and soaking in each finite moment. This practice allows me to free up space in the corners of my mind, and spend my time on things that are meaningful to me.
A book that has been so critical to my growth in this area is How to be Here by Rob Bell. He breaks down how success is often wrongly defined and how we can truly live a present life.
Perhaps the simplest application of mindfulness is becoming aware of how we speak to ourselves and others. What is the overall tone of your internal language? Are you thinking positively throughout the day about your surroundings? Are you extending this positivity to yourself as well? If not, where is the negativity stemming from? Consider that your internal thoughts root you in the present and perhaps can affect how you interact with the world around you.
As it pertains to confidence, once you start to shift your energy towards love, light and positivity, you will undoubtedly begin to think of yourself in the same way. A book that has been crucial to me in developing this skill is Lighter by Yung Pueblo.
I hope that after reading this, you feel capable of implementing these practices into your day-to-day life. I've benefited hugely from them and I hope they will ultimately lead you to a confidence that is so strong, others are inspired to do the same.