When I was first starting out my design career, I was constantly seeking approval from others: my manager, my coworkers, and anyone who consumed the content I put out.
This meant constantly putting pressure on myself to deliver, so I could receive the positive feedback I wanted. I was also pretty disappointed when I didn’t get that.
As I started to accumulate as many jobs as I had years in the workforce, I developed a thicker skin and non-attachment to external feedback. After all, in a creative job there was no shortage of it! That’s not to say I didn’t ask for feedback– I kept projects moving forward by getting feedback and alignment– but I shifted that craving for needing acknowledgement that I was delivering “good” work and began to trust myself and my craft.
When I was deciding whether my work was ready show to others, I began to ask myself a simple question:
Is this an honest reflection of my full capability in this moment?
It sounds simple enough. But more often than not, we have the tendency to get wrapped up in our thoughts and self-doubts when deciding whether creative work is finished and ready to share. It’s where imposter syndrome comes from, and sometimes hurts our work more than anything else.
This question does the following:
- Opens up the “how might we” possibilities: Can I brainstorm with others? Do I need more information? What haven’t I thought of yet? I try to tease apart lack of motivation with leveraging all the resources available to me.
- Reminds me to be gentle with myself: Sometimes my capability is reduced. Maybe I had a trying night with a kid who had a night terror, or this is project has too many constraints and it’s simply time to deliver. It’s unrealistic to be 100% all of the time.
- Offers an opportunity to invite new perspectives: I’m in a different journey of my career (and life) than others. If someone has more experience with a product area or can provide a different perspective, releasing my work and sharing it with others can be vulnerable but also gives me an opportunity to iterate and improve.
As I grew more confident in my work, I continued to move the bar higher for my own personal expectations, and it became a self-fulfilling cycle that leveraged the strengths and expertise that got me hired in the first place and opened me up to even more opportunities.
If you are working on a creative project and feel hesitant to release it to the world, check in with yourself. You can use the question I provided or create your own version. Listen to your gut feeling and you’ll know when it’s ready.