Combating My Inner Critic

Inner Doubts

I am a reflective person. When someone points out a fault or virtue of mine, I tend to analyze it, deconstruct it and reorganize it in my mind. At the time of this conversation, I was going through a lot of inner turmoil. I was struggling in my classes and my projects. I knew graphic design was what I wanted to do, but to be frank, I was not as good as I wanted to be.

My emotions are usually written all over my face. So my inner anxieties at the time was construed as stressing and desperate for others. I get it, no one wants to be around someone who is constantly overreaching. I mean, it isn’t cool. As a designer, or a performer or any professional, we want to showcase our talents and achievements as something casual or effortless. But how can this be true?

I started to doubt my efforts. Were they all for nothing? To be honest, I felt silly even reflecting on this at first. But as it settled in my mind, I realized, it was important to me. If I want to be a designer, I need to hear this feedback and figure out if I need to adapt and change. I began to reflect. Was I going to let this term define me? Was it even true? And if so, was it really as bad as I thought?


My Inner Critic

I am attentive. From design to how I physically present myself. I have combated with my inner critic all my life. It was not always constructive but destructive. My doubts and fears were all in my head and any new ideas or ventures fizzled into faint what-ifs. I made excuses: I was not experienced enough or I didn’t have anyone teach me. My confidence in myself and my design skills were low. I knew I had to work hard, but could I really do it?

For years, I allowed my inner critic to dictate what I could and couldn’t do. I watched others succeed and grow while I stayed in my comfort zone. I wasn’t content, but at least I wouldn’t look foolish. Funny enough, it wasn’t until that conversation that I tested the value of my efforts in trying something new.


Gaining Confidence Requires Trying

I have always been interested in photography. I love editorial fashion spreads and the stories and emotions they capture. An assignment required that we take photos and I took the opportunity to try and take self-portraits. I was amazed. Maybe it was due to the impending deadline of the assignment, but I had the vision in mind, I set up the camera and took the shot. No excuses, no tomorrows. I had to get this done.

They came out great! Surely, not every shot was perfect. But a couple of shots stood out that I liked - I liked them! I got feedback, and it was received well. I knew from then on, that to empower myself, to gain the confidence and expertise I want in my field, I have to try, I have to practice.

From then on, I have been practicing the habit of trying - trying new things, researching and teaching myself, reflecting on my experiences and being open to feedback. For example, there are photo shoots that don’t turn out the way I want them. But it doesn’t get me down like it used to, because I view it now as a constructive experience. I can always try again.


What Others See and What You See

For me, the term try-hard doesn’t really get to me anymore. In fact, I would define myself as such, but in a more positive way. I try my best in what I love to do. It is my passion and I want to succeed.

Not everyone is going to be as supportive or kind. There will be people who downright hate your work or don’t want to help you. Don’t take it personally. Instead, take the opportunity to experience the lessons and learn for yourself. No one can go through it, except you. Every designer and professional goes through a phase of growing pains.

After these initial drawbacks and victories, I realized, I could finally offer something into the conversation instead of excuses. I know where the work and development come from. I experience that challenge and growth every day.Now I have a growing confidence that I will overcome. All I need to do is try. ■

Patricia Atienza