Seeking Discomfort

I started my design career officially in 1998, ironically, it was before I began my college studies. It was all very sudden, my brother, a software engineer, had been working for quite a while and developed a good network of acquaintances in the industry. One of them asked him if he knew any interface designers and my brother, without hesitation, mentioned me as a resource. At that time, I had some skills but no real experience whatsoever. To cut the story short, I met the person, told him about what I could do and got the job. 

The reason I shared this story is because it became a constant pattern in my life. To be honest, I have no doubt that it’s a pattern in everyone’s lives, however for me it was always very difficult for one simple reason. I suffer from quite a severe dose of social anxiety and shyness. I knew that since early age, all my friends and including my brother, were always excited about new challenges, like going to parties, getaways on the weekends with friends and friends of friends. I on the other hand, struggle immensely with that. I avoided so many situations, and then felt bad, because I knew I would have enjoyed or had fun. 

I still suffer from that, however, 15 years ago, I decided that I had enough of that. I made the tough decision to challenge myself and started to say yes to a lot of things that I would automatically say no. Some of those things were, traveling abroad alone, starting my own business, starting a blog (here we are still doing it), speaking at events, and moving to a new country. 

After all these years, my social anxiety and discomfort live together. I still struggle to say yes to some things that are really foreign to me, but it’s getting easier. I also noticed that every time I say yes to something, I feel really awful after saying it. I suffer tremendously with anxiety until the new activity starts. Then I start on the new thing, it’s terrible at first, I feel an outsider, everyone is judging me, I am not good enough for this, and all of these negative thoughts. But then, after a little while, things do get better, I become used to the new thing, people are not as evil as i perceived and then I feel comfortable again. 

I have to admit, this whole process doesn’t happen that quickly, it takes months sometimes, but it’s the pattern and it repeats over and over again in my personal and professional life, which made me seek for understanding. I have read so many books about it from Psychology to Self-help. They all really provided some relief because I knew I wasn’t alone, and after all these years of simply going through life the biggest lesson I learned is that in order for us to grow we need to seek discomfort. 

For me, discomfort was the social anxiety, the timid and shy in me that was constantly pushing me to be comfortable, trying to predict what other people thought about me, always in a negative way. For others it might be the opposite, I don’t know. But what I do know is that, as an amazing former manager once told me, if you are feeling uncomfortable doing your job you are doing it right. And here’s an amazing quote from the also amazing book The Art of Extraordinary Confidence: Your Ultimate Path To Love, Wealth, and Freedom it goes like this: “When there’s a fork on the road always take the path that goes uphill” 

When there’s a fork on the road always take the path that goes uphill

Disclaimer: This post is the first of a new type of articles I will be sharing focused on thoughts and personal opinions about career, life, design and everything that comes to mind. The goal is to pivot a bit from just visual inspiration and sharing a bit more about learnings and mistakes as well. I hope you enjoy...

Cover photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Written by

Abduzeedo

I'm a Brazilian product designer based in Oakland, California currently working for Google as a Staff Designer. I am also the founder of Abduzeedo, an award-winning digital publication about design and a personal project that has become the source of inspiration for millions of designers and enthusiasts.

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