When I was a relatively new UX designer, I took the lead in designing a product platform. After conducting research, brainstorming, and going through other design steps, I developed two design options and turned them into interactive smartphone prototypes. I then asked a few colleagues for casual feedback after they tested the prototypes. The first couple of colleagues had positive things to say, noting the user experience was good and the prototypes ran smoothly.
Later, I approached another colleague from the marketing department for their opinion. After using the prototype for a while, they remarked, “Is this our design? It’s not innovative at all; this isn’t what our product should be like.”
I inquired why it didn’t seem innovative to them and what our product should be like. I can’t remember their specific response, but it was along the lines of looking at competitors and being more innovative. What stuck with me was the phrases “no innovation” and “not how our product should be”. Was my design being rejected? Were they questioning my ability to create good designs? Would I have to redo all my work?
Later, I sought advice from a senior designer on the matter. They said that it depended on my definition of innovation—whether it was in the product concept, interaction design, or something else.
“If it’s just about design…” they casually sketched a few styles on the whiteboard and asked if I had considered them.
I responded, “I have, but they’re only suitable for customers with simple data. They won’t work for customers with slightly more complex data, and since we’re building a product platform, it should cater to a range of customer needs. Moreover, our developer capacity is limited, so the first version needs to support the majority of customers. These styles look cool but only address specific use cases. Perhaps we can consider them later, but not now.”
They nodded in agreement and said, “That’s it. You have a solid rationale, so explain your design to your product and development team to get their buy-in. You can ask other colleagues for feedback and refine your design proposal, but don’t let their opinions dictate your decisions. This is your project, and you have the final say. Treat their feedback as suggestions—listen to the reasonable ones and disregard those that don’t make sense.”
Reflecting on the situation, I realized that as the lead designer, I was most familiar with the project and its requirements. Yet, I was initially intimidated by my colleague’s comments.
Why did this happen?
At the time, I had recently transitioned into design and lacked the self-confidence of an experienced designer. My design knowledge and skills were mostly self-taught, and knowing that I lacked formal education in the field, I was highly motivated to learn. However, precisely because I had taken the difficult path of transitioning into design, I was most afraid of others saying I couldn’t create good designs, as if their rejection of my design meant a rejection of my life choices.
Because I cared so deeply, I was particularly vulnerable and sensitive, and I paid close attention to others’ evaluations—when someone’s feedback seemed to touch on this aspect, it felt like fireworks going off in my mind.
Such feelings couldn’t be changed overnight, but I decided to improve them:
1. Continuously hone my design skills, both hard and soft, to build a solid foundation for my confidence. For example, when exploring design solutions, I strive to investigate various design directions thoroughly and be clear about the pros and cons of each option. This way, when others questioned my design, I could respond confidently. Also, I get a deep understanding of the design process and know who to contact at each stage to move the project forward. I also aim to deeply understand the products I design for and contribute valuable suggestions.
2. Whenever I doubted myself, I would try to identify the cause and determine whether it was due to my actions or external factors. If it is my fault, I would remind myself that making mistakes is not terrible; learning from them and not repeating them is what matters. I would then focus on completing the task at hand. Sometimes, I would also comfort myself by remembering that growth takes time.
3. Remind myself to be less sensitive and focus on doing things well.
4. When I found myself overwhelmed by thoughts, I would write them down in a notebook to clear my mind quickly.
5. Maintain a positive attitude when facing new challenges—setbacks and failures are valuable learning opportunities.
6. Find my strengths and accumulate examples to boost my self-confidence. I noticed that I was good at planning and organizing events, so I would occasionally arrange team trips to meet clients or conduct user interviews, ensuring everything ran smoothly. After mentoring design students a few times, I realized I could quickly identify the problems in their assignments and effortlessly answer their questions. I was amazed at how much I had grown compared to my rookie days.
The boost in self-confidence significantly changed my mindset, especially when dealing with suggestions and opinions.
In the past, when someone objected to my ideas, I would immediately defend them. Now, I listen patiently to their thoughts, understand their perspective, and assess whether their views are better than mine. If so, I would adopt them; if not, I would stick to my own ideas.
Previously, I would hastily adopt seemingly good suggestions without thinking them through. Now, I engage in more comprehensive brainstorming during the design process, understanding the pros and cons of each option and tailoring designs accordingly.
Before, I would worry that if someone provided a particularly good idea, they might outshine me and take over the project. With increased self-confidence, my mindset has become more open, embracing suggestions and believing that good ideas will lead to better outcomes. I also encourage my team members to share their thoughts.
This process of building my confidence at work has had a profoundly positive impact on my life, and my way of thinking has matured. I’m thankful for the lessons learned in my early career as a designer that has helped me build up my confidence. I would not have been where I am without them.
Check out my write-up in Chinese 《寻觅自信之旅》.