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Your Skeptical Design Eye Might be Keeping You From Happiness

As a designer, your skeptical design eye benefits you. After all, you need to look at things not necessarily as you see them, but as your audience will see them. To do that, you have to ask questions (a lot of questions). It’s important to question every method, every color choice, every constraint, and every unknown. You work within limits of time, budget, and technology, appropriately skeptical of everything that might keep you from hitting your goals. 

Yes, skepticism is beneficial to you, the designer, at work. But what about in your personal life?

Your skeptical design eye might not hurt every aspect of your personal life. It’s pretty common, in fact, for designers to have reputations as cultured, creative people—the ones who could actually tell you what that modern art piece means, or who can break down why that particular ad is so effective (or not). In this way, your design eye might become something like a party trick, an entertaining aspect of your personality that shapes your image as “Designer.” 

But in other ways, it’s possible (probable, in fact) that your skeptical design eye might be keeping you from the happiness you want out of life. What acts as your biggest, most useful talent at work might act as your biggest weakness when you apply that skeptical eye to other areas of your life.

Not sure what I mean? Then it’s time to take a look inside.

The happiness you seek

First of all, we might ask the question: what does “happiness” look like to you? What does “create happy” mean in your personal life?

Answers can vary widely here, but in general, there are a few ideas we at Design.org generally associate with happiness.

Happiness is self-acceptance.

Becoming aware of yourself, and accepting who you are while still recognizing you want to become more, is key to happiness. Only once you’re self-aware can you start closing the gap between where you are and where you want to be. (We talk more about skepticism and self-awareness in this post.)

Happiness is finding meaning.

True happiness means that you have found meaning in your life. When you’ve found this meaning, you realize that your life has intrinsic value and that your worth can never be taken away. You’re able to see your full potential, and you’re able to make a difference in the world.

Happiness is creating.

Entropy (chaos) is the natural way of the world, but when we create, we are organizing that chaos into something meaningful and beautiful. Happiness is about creating more than consuming, about taking what you have and making something different out of it. Creating something can leave you feeling fulfilled in a way that few other things can. 

Happiness is love.

In some ways, the Beatles had it right: “Love is all you need.” When we love ourselves and others, we can be truly happy. Why? Because love moves us forward, builds us up, and creates connections between us, other people, and the world around us. Love is a vital, irreplaceable aspect of happiness. 

Discovering what happiness looks like for you is key to finding that happiness in your life. After all, how can you get where you want to go, if you’re not even sure where that is?

It’s also important to define your happiness, because then you can more clearly see what is holding you back from it. And with that in mind, we can start to connect the dots between your skeptical design eye and how it might be keeping you from creating the happiness you’re looking for. 

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How your skeptical design eye might be keeping you from happiness

As much as your skeptical design eye might help you when you’re designing, it can also hurt you when you’re on your journey toward happiness. Here’s how.

Trend toward perfectionism

To a certain extent, perfectionism helps you at work. After all, you’re trying to design something meaningful, useful, or beautiful—or any combination of the above. For some designers, imperfections in their work can lead to product failure or even dangerous design flaws. When the designer is detail-oriented, almost to the point of being perfectionistic, it helps them avoid these critical errors and create truly great work. 

That said, perfectionism is definitely not your friend when you’re trying to live a happier life. It can hurt your relationships and your self-esteem, for starters. But it can also keep you from trying new things, creating from a place of love, and accepting yourself fully. Perfectionism puts you in a perpetual state of fear, so worried that you’ll never measure up that you might be unwilling to even try. 

Growth of jealousy

Your skeptical design eye is more likely to see what’s wrong with your own work before it sees what is wrong with everyone else’s. You’re much more likely to recognize someone else’s talent before you recognize your own. For many designers, this jealousy actually turns into a sort of motivation, pushing them forward as they strive to create something on par with their peers’.

“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.”

Iyanla Vanzant

Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, nurturing those jealous tendencies can lead to disastrous consequences for your happiness. Jealousy does nothing for your self-acceptance, and has a negative impact on the love you might feel for yourself or for others. Jealousy causes you to lose sight of your personal meaning and purpose, instead allowing the actions, talents, and goals of others to guide your actions.  

Use of cheap tactics

Even talented designers sometimes resort to cheap tactics, whether it’s out of desperation, laziness, or creative burnout. What do these cheap tactics look like? Often, it looks like playing the “shock card,” using profanity or other double-take-inducing elements to bring attention to their designs. The problem is that all too often, it works. It works, and it’s easy, so designers keep doing it.

Creating work that is authentic, uplifting, and truly creative is much more difficult, but it’s also much more rewarding. This work comes from a place of love, rather than from the fear of not being noticed. It builds self-awareness and acceptance as you create from your heart. It’s also much more meaningful, as you’re working to reflect something genuine rather than to recreate something that will garner attention. Ultimately, avoiding cheap design tactics and doing authentic, positive work is much more likely to help you create the happiness you seek. 

Dwelling in shame

Too many artists maintain a negative view of themselves. Whether they define it as shame, self-hate, or something else, it’s a common trait among designers, and many of them use it to drive their work. (Think of the stereotypical “artist with the tortured soul.”) Because these feelings of shame are so strong, they create powerful experiences—even if they aren’t necessarily positive ones. 

People may be able to extract some beauty from their suffering, but when it comes right down to it, they’re still suffering, and shame is not a useful tool when it comes to creating happiness in your life. Shame is going to keep you away from love and self-acceptance. It can also stifle your creative thinking and make you hesitant to create at all. No matter how you look at it, shame is keeping you from happiness. 

Your skeptical design eye may serve you in many ways, but ultimately, it’s keeping you from happiness. If you can be more aware of how your skeptical design eye might be holding you back, you might be able to mitigate those negative effects.

As designers, let’s challenge ourselves to keep our skeptical design eye in its place. Let’s work on moving towards the light, and away from the dark. Use love to motivate you. Use positivity to move you forward. In the end, it will benefit your work and your life. 

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