Doubts… yup, we all have them

by / Friday, 24 October 2014 / Published in Inspiration, Philosophy

Some recent emails got me thinking about a subject that, for years now, hasn’t been an issue for me. Doubt. Particularly, creative self-doubt. The fact it hasn’t been an issue for me isn’t because I’m somehow great, and never feel doubt anymore. It’s because I’ve never stopped doubting myself and my work, but have learned better than to take it seriously.

To start with, I’ll point out that doubt is different than confidence. It’s not exactly it’s opposite – at least in my mind. I’ve been confident about a design but had “doubts” about whether it was the right design for that client, that project, etc. With experience, you’ll eventually come up against those situations… great design or concept, worthy of an award, and completely the wrong concept or design for that time and place. Conversely, I’ve had doubts about a layout or idea, but the confidence to know that’s normal, and that the work is solid, regardless.

Doubts… yup, we all have them.

My personal point of view (I’m not a psychologist or an expert in behaviour, so this is just a thought), is that we have doubts because everything creative is subjective, and therefore open to criticism. When you ask the question (of yourself or others), “Is this layout right?” or “Is this idea any good?”, “Does this drawing suck?”, “Do I sing like a dog?”, “Can I dance worth a crap?”, or “Do I even know what I’m doing?”, it’s important to remember, the question itself is flawed. The answer is both yes and no to all of them.

Here’s where elitists will differ with me (but it’s fine – listen to me, not them): there’s no such thing as a wrong layout, a wrong design, a wrong idea, a wrong song, dance or dog. While true, they might not be the best (or appropriate) option for the moment, they’re valid attempts to solve the creative problem. Think of all your less-than-perfects as bricks that combine to build the solid structure of your ego. Know that every idea is forged somewhere in the backroom of your brain where there aren’t any rules or boundaries, and that’s perfectly fine. As long as you’re showing up and trying, you’re doing it right.

The next time you feel a confidence issue, or have doubts about yourself or the work you’re doing, just have this little conversation with your own brain:

Your brain: That sucks! You’re worthless!
You: Yeah, I knew you’d say that. You’re very predictable.
Your brain: That’s because you suck!
You: No I don’t. That’s irrational.
Your brain: Well, you still suck.
You: Okay, thanks for taking the time to remind me over and over again that you think that way. I know you can’t let go, but that’s fine. I understand it’s hard, but don’t worry about it. I got this.

Then, get on with it. Take the criticism and rejection as part of the job and remember, every layout, idea, drawing, dance or song, is one more you have to throw against the wall to get better. Don’t let your doubts stop you. I feel them too. Just keep throwing at that wall.

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