I’ve had a few weeks off the weeknotes and that’s mostly down to the thing that’s going to be the main focus of this one: Patterns Day.
Patterns Day was on Friday, and I was one of the speakers. For those of you who didn't make it, my talk is on Vimeo or right here.
It’s the biggest talk I’ve ever done and I was nervous as hell and as such it’s dominated my thoughts for the past few weeks.
So, if you’ll indulge me, here are my very Patterns Day-centric weeknotes.
Where to begin. What a day. What a weekend.
I really had the most amount of fun meeting the organisers, the other speakers, many of the people who went along and countless people I “know from Twitter” but hadn’t yet met in real life.
The evident care Jeremy put into assembling the lineup meant an incredible mix of talks, covering the big picture stuff right down to the nitty gritty, and plenty in between.
Aside from the conference itself, all of the conversations around it, the speakers dinner, the drinks before, and the many, many drinks afterwards had me thinking until my brain hurt and laughing until my face hurt.
And people seemed to like my talk which was the best pay off I could have imagined, for the copious nerves I experienced beforehand (more on that below). I talked about the importance of content in design systems, and how to document components and patterns. I made a Twitter moment to capture some of the feedback I got, which I will treasure narcissistically forever.
Thank you to my wonderful team and colleagues beyond for supporting me through the nerves and celebrating with me and congratulating afterwards. You are genuinely the most wonderful humans I could possibly ask to work with and to know.
And finally, but most importantly, thank you so much to Jeremy and everyone at Clearleft for organising such a wonderful event.
Learning that anxiety doesn’t always spell danger
So, yeah. I was pretty open about the fact that I was petrified about doing my talk, but to be specific about it—I could hardly eat or sleep for the week beforehand, I felt sick all the time, I couldn’t get the idea of screwing it up out of my head and I cried, more than once.
In the end, the build up was so hard that actually starting the talk came as something of a relief. To be standing on stage, knowing the waiting was over and not having bottled it was far easier than the wait itself.
And I say all of this because it’s important for me and I think anyone who suffers with anxiety about public speaking, or in general, to recognise that having a sense of impending doom doesn’t mean that doom is actually impending.
If we can acknowledge that, it starts to take the power out of the fear.
Finding more evidence that self-doubt has nothing to do with your ability
This is something I’ve found myself saying a lot recently, but I see more and more evidence of it everywhere I look: having doubts about your ability has absolutely nothing to do with your ability itself.
And I don’t just say that because I think my talk went well in the end. I say it because going to the speaker’s dinner and having the chance to talk to the other speakers beforehand showed me that the kind of fears I was having were plaguing nearly all of us.
In fact, I didn’t speak to one person who claimed to feel calm about giving their talk. And yet, they all smashed it. Most of them, if not all of them in fact, have smashed it many times before.
And I don’t even say this just because of Patterns Day. I say it because I see people doing amazing things all around me and seeming so put together, and then I hear those same people opening up about their fears and self-doubt and I find myself thinking “I would never have known”.
Like this thread from Janet Hughes from a couple of weeks ago and all the replies to it.
Or this incredibly brave, honest and inspiring blog post from Sarah Drummond about what it’s like to run a company, and the many personal and professional challenges that come with it.
Or the many, many replies I received in response to this thread about barriers to sharing work in the open where so many brilliant people told me they lack confidence in sharing their work because they don’t think they have enough value to add.
And the countless conversations I have with people I consider so clever and so talented and so collected, who tell me they’re wrestling with imposter syndrome and feelings that they lack capability.
While I don’t think we can eradicate self-doubt and imposter syndrome entirely, I strongly believe that if we can start to highlight this disconnect between the feelings and the outputs, we can become more resilient against it.
As I’ve said before, the real problem is feeling inferior, not being it.