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Conquering Fear to Become a Better Designer

Eric Karkovack
Published: September 9, 2022

Have you ever been afraid to take on a particular project? It almost seems silly to be scared of doing your job. But I’ve had that feeling many times – especially early on in my career.

Fear can creep into your work for several reasons, but it seems like low self-esteem is the biggest driver. For me, projects that pushed me beyond my current level of knowledge induced some nerves.

If I didn’t already know something, how in the world was I going to make that project a success? I just didn’t have the belief that I could take that next step. It was almost as if whatever new skill I’d need to learn created some invisible barrier that I couldn’t get past.

But over time, a strange thing happened: I realized that I could learn new skills. I didn’t have to stay stuck at the same level for the rest of my existence. And somehow, I came to enjoy learning. Here’s how I did it.

Looking Behind the Doubt

An effective way to deal with fears and doubts is to think about the reasons behind them. In my case, I believe it stems from the fact that I wasn’t a particularly great student in school. Some part of me feels like learning is beyond my capabilities and that I need to stay in a comfort zone.

While it may take a little time to figure out why you’re having doubts, it’s worth exploring. Whether you think you’re not talented enough or are scared of what taking the next step may bring, understanding why you feel that way is a significant part of overcoming it.

The truth is, even the top designers out there have times when they don’t feel quite good enough. And it’s easy to see why. When you consider all of the inspirational collections of great design, etc. that we see daily, it’s no wonder that we may feel like we don’t measure up.

While those collections intend to inspire, they often have the opposite effect. Sometimes it can make you feel like you’ll never be as good as the amazing work being featured. Some of us may use it as a tool of de-motivation.

Take the time to reflect on the reasons behind your fear.

Set Your Own Standard for Excellence

With introspection and experience, you may come to a different conclusion. Instead of feeling bad that your work isn’t being prominently featured or that you haven’t yet learned a trendy new skill, realize that this isn’t some sort of competition between you and the rest of the design world.

In reality, you only need to compete with yourself. Turn your doubts and fears into the motivation to get better. Use it as an excuse to further your learning. After all, web design is a field with an incredible amount of educational resources right at your fingertips.

You can also up your design game with regular practice. If there’s a particular technique you haven’t mastered or even tried yet – have some fun with it. Start up a side project or create a test site that no one else will ever see. The more you research and do, the more you’ll improve.

The idea is to incrementally get better with each project. Rather than expecting a meteoric rise to the top, set more realistic goals. That will keep you motivated and eager to continue on a positive path.

Your success doesn't have to be measured against anyone else's.

There Goes the Fear

While web design is a creative field, it’s also one that requires us to constantly juggle multiple projects and responsibilities. That can lead to the fear that you simply don’t have enough time to take on something new and different. You might feel as though there’s no room in this delicate balance to add anything more.

My coping mechanism is to try and deal with it all as efficiently as possible. I like to have all my ducks in a row and know exactly how I’m going to handle them. The downside is that I can get a bit rattled when I’m taking on a project that requires me to go further with design or code than I have before. It feels anything but comfortable.

But I’ve learned to embrace these opportunities. I still have doubts, but I try to think of it as a way to challenge myself to do better. It’s a chance to scratch something new off of my design bucket list.

So, the next time you’re faced with a project that leads you to doubt your abilities – take a serious look at why you feel that way. Remember that your concerns are both normal and valid. Everyone feels this way at one time or another.

From there, devise a plan for how you’ll take on this new challenge. Do some research to prepare. That alone can give you a boost of confidence. Then, it’s time to get to work.

Once you’ve gotten past your fears and doubts this time around, you’ll be empowered in knowing that you can do it again and again.