Oh, The Embarrassment: A Little Reminder That We All Have To Start Somewhere

Nubby Twiglet | Oh, The Embarrassment: A Little Reminder That We All Have To Start Somewhere

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whenever I look back at my early design projects, I see promise…but for the most part, I feel embarrassed. Do you feel that way about your past work, too?

I actually think that a touch of embarrassment is a healthy reaction because it means that you’ve grown as a creative. Over time, your taste has evolved, your skills have improved and your sense of style has matured. You know that you’re capable of even better results.

Sometimes when I feel that embarrassment creeping up, I have to step back and remind myself that without posting those early design projects online, nobody would have known about my work. Even if I didn’t see the promise at the time, some people who came across those projects did. The people who saw enough promise hired me. When they hired me, it gave me the opportunity to build out my portfolio. With a growing portfolio, I was able to get my first agency jobs. Those jobs gave me the steady footing to take on bigger outside projects I loved which in turn built my portfolio even further. And eventually, all that work allowed me to launch my own boutique design studio. I now realize that it was a very slow domino effect over the course of seven years — each project I shared, no matter how embarrassing now, led to even more opportunities.

If you’re feeling uneasy about your work, always remember that it’s secretly the push you need to get over the next hurdle. If you’re always satisfied, there’s no reason to improve. You’ll settle for exactly where you are now because the urge to try new things that scare you isn’t there. Use that discomfort as motivation.

I still feel that discomfort all too often. I see portfolios of work that are much better than mine. I read blog posts that are brilliantly composed. I see photos every day that make mine look amateurish. And all of this leaves me wanting to improve.

We all have to start somewhere, even if that somewhere feels like a black hole some days. The only way to get out of that black hole is to practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect…but it will make you better. So the next time you feel that embarrassment creeping up, transform it into a positive outcome.

Photo: Made U Look.

17 Responses to Oh, The Embarrassment: A Little Reminder That We All Have To Start Somewhere

  1. Shauna, thanks so much for putting this out there. There are a couple of creative projects that I’ve been involved in that I have a little cringe over and you’ve helped me to see that I shouldn’t be ashamed of what I have (or haven’t haha) achieved. Sonia XxX

  2. Hannah says:

    This is such a valuable reframe Shauna, thanks for sharing! It’s really hard to keep other people’s seeming success in perspective and forget that everyone starts somewhere (and that the dissatisfaction is actually an important message). What you wrote reminds me of something I heard about comparison recently: that we only see in others what’s a reflection of ourselves. So when we compare ourselves to someone else or our work to someone else’s, it’s because we see the reflection of our potential in their work. I’ve been trying to keep that in mind!

    • Shauna says:

      “So when we compare ourselves to someone else or our work to someone else’s, it’s because we see the reflection of our potential in their work.”

      I love that. So much.

  3. Amber says:

    “If you’re always satisfied, there’s no reason to improve” YES, this is everything!!

    I read old posts or content I’ve written and literally laughed out loud. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made and am making.

  4. Darling Nubby — I think something might’ve gone wrong with the formatting here. It looks odd. Are there photos that are supposed to be popping up? (Feel free to delete this message if it fixes itself.)
    Super Starling

  5. There are graphic design work that I’ve done in the past and felt embarrassed about, and the worst thing is that the client loves it and still using it till now 😀
    I really love your polkadot dress!

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  7. Oh my! This is so perfect!!! I am still young in my graphic design career and I am slowly trying to build my portfolio right now. We talked a little bit about that at Designer Vaca. As I am working on it though, I feel like most of my pieces are not good enough to put in there. Even from 6 months ago, I have grown leaps and bounds as a designer. Would you think that only 5 pieces would be too little to show in my portfolio right now? I would rather show only pieces that reflect the type of work I want to receive, but there is not much to show at this moment.

    Either way, I love that you know how to be super real on your blog. You Rock Shauna! ;D

  8. Hey Nubby!

    This is so true and I’m glad you shared it! I know so many people who became discouraged because they didn’t feel their work was good enough. They didn’t have faith in their ability to improve. I’m a writer so I know so many who started writing at a young age with hopes and dreams of becoming great, and allowed themselves to get discouraged by negative feedback.

    I often laugh when I read my old writing because I’m not reading the mistakes, I’m reading the person who I was at the time the piece was written. I am reading the experiences I was having at the time that influenced my words. I reflect on how much I have grown and changed while appreciating that the good things have stayed the same.

    Do you feel nostalgic when you look back at old work, no matter how embarrassing it might be?


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