Ask Me Anything: @zeldman, here

4 years ago from Jeffrey Zeldman, Principal, Creative Director

  • Yo Yay, 4 years ago

    How do you stop comparing yourself to others?

    4 points
    • Jeffrey Zeldman, 4 years ago

      To some extent, you can’t. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others.

      Designers are competitive, and we often suffer from imposter anxiety, so it’s easy to see the many flaws in our own work, and to see nothing but beauty and genius in someone else’s. No matter what we achieve, it’s never good enough. Why can’t I make something as great as what so-and-so made?

      In some ways this competitiveness is healthy: it pushes us to work harder, do more, not be satisfied with our B- efforts when we might really have an A+ effort in us if we work a little harder.

      In other ways, it’s just self-defeating thought patterns we subject ourselves to how we grew up. We should stop doing that to ourselves if we can. For instance, just as an example: Why does X design better icons than I do? Maybe because X is better at designing icons and I’m better at figuring out customer journeys. No one since Leonardo DaVinci has been great at everything. Even Mozart couldn’t dribble a basketball.

      Let’s recognize and be proud of the things we’re good at, not just beat ourselves up over the parts where we’re less gifted. Let’s use the confidence we gain from acknowledging how good we are at customer journeys to either give us the courage to practice and improve our icon design, or the honesty to collaborate with an icon designer who’s not as good as we are at customer journeys. Design is a job and it’s also a team effort.

      Your question is fairly open-ended and there are many other ways I could answer. For instance, your question might be, How can I, the only woman on this team, stop comparing my position and salary to those of my colleagues (if all of them earn more money and have better titles). And the answer, there, is that you shouldn’t stop comparing. You should fight for your rights.

      Or the question might be, how can I stop comparing myself to my favorite designer? And the answer might be, you may not have to do so. Maybe your favorite designer does the kind of work you know you will be doing in two years. When you study their work, it’s a form of apprenticeship. So acknowledge that and use it, and get better. You can even copy what they’ve done (as long as you don’t publish it—copy privately, for your own educational purposes only). When you’ve mastered that other designer’s voice, you can put the obsession behind you and begin to create your own unique voice. (Which is probably more awesome anyway.)

Hope this helps!

      7 points