Struggling with Past Regrets

So I’m here today to get any advice of something that I did about 4 years ago. So I was struggling emotionally and mentally after graduating from the Art Institutes with a BFA in Graphic and Web Design. I felt lost and didn’t feel like I was good enough to become a professional graphic designer even though I’ve received my degree and worked my ass off in order to get the degree. I remember it like it was yesterday, I’m in my bedroom on my computer and I get a call from one of the recruiters that came to my portfolio show, most of the people that came to my portfolio show that day seemed indifferent to my work, so I wasn’t sure if anyone really liked anything I had to offer, but this recruiter seemed to think differently.

So I answered the call and the recruiters on the other line mentioned how much they liked my work and was wondering if I would like to come in for a job interview, I thought about it at first and felt very pleased and excited then I started to feel anxious and realized that they will soon find out that I’m not good enough, my skills are lacking, and that I’m probably not creative enough. So because of my Imposter Syndrome feelings I unfortunately declined the job interview and told them that I had already had a job, which was nothing more than a part-time job working at a community college at the time, which I ended up hating with every fiber of my being and left the job for another part-time job that I ended up hating again, but that’s a whole other story.

Fast forward to 4 years later and I still regret declining that interview offer, was my self-worth that non-existing? Was my self-esteem that damn low for me to decline a simple job interview? Till this day I will never know if they would’ve hired me or not, that was definitely a missed opportunity that could’ve changed my life forever, but I’ll never know.

I realize now when you don’t know your worth, have low self-esteem, and severe insecurities, you most likely settle for things that you don’t deserve in life and ultimately make life harder and more complicated for yourself in the long run.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated on how to deal with past regrets and missed opportunities in life and how to overcome the Imposter Syndrome. Thank You!

You can’t change the past, but you can learn from the past and change the future.

We’ve all made mistakes that we regret. I’ve made some far worse than yours.

Maybe you would have taken the job and maybe you would have been awful and the worst possible thing could have happened — they would have been disappointed in your work, laughed at you, and tossed you out on the road with a sign on your back that said “NO-TALENT LOSER!”.

Of course that would have been very unlikely. Perversely enough, though, you pretty much did exactly that to yourself and you’ve suffered the emotional and practical consequences of those self-inflicted injuries just as if someone else had done them to you.

You’ve obviously engaged in some illogical and dysfunctional thinking. You can see that, right?

I have no way of knowing if your work is good. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. The fact that you graduated with your BFA makes me suspect that you can’t be as awful as you suspect you might be. Then again, you already know that too.

If we could control our illogical emotions, life would be so much easier. Unfortunately, they seem to operate according to their own logic, and often, in an effort to protect us, they end up hurting us and holding us back out of the self-inflicted fear of what might happen. Even though we know it’s illogical and probably unwarranted, the fear is there and doubles down when we try to fight through it.

You’ve even taken it one step further. Your fear and self-doubt overrode what you really wanted to do. You even began to think it was right and that the fear was an indication that you weren’t as good as you needed to be, which again is illogical. Then, if that weren’t bad enough, those counterproductive emotions started filling you with regret for acquiescing to their dictates.

The first thing that might help is understanding that whether or not you’re worthy or good or talented isn’t and never was the problem. The problem was your illogical emotions placing doubt and fear into your head that was not warranted. Even if you do lack talent (which I have no way of knowing), there was never a reason to fear it being an existential and unrecoverable blow.

From what you described, however, for some reason, your emotional self did treat this opportunity as an existential danger and forbade you from proceeding. Honestly, whether your emotions said so or not, applying for a job and being rejected is not an existential moment. It’s just part of the ups and downs of life. Your emotions were wrong and they’ve been wrong in making you feel guilt and sorrow over following their illogical demands. They meant well, but they were mistaken in their overprotectiveness and they hurt you. This has nothing to do with any lack of talent. It has everything to do with emotions that are counterproductive, holding you back and filling your life with regret.

Some of the most confident and talentless people I’ve ever met have also been the most successful. The very best designers I’ve ever met have been those laboring in the shadows, behind the scenes letting the extraverted, self-confident and talentless weenies take credit and get promotions because of it. It happens all the time.

Whether your work is good or not so good, you have every right to move forward unafraid and unintimidated. The consequences of rejection and failure aren’t nearly as bad as what you’ve imposed upon yourself already. The upside is that maybe you’re a whole lot more talented than you think, but even if that isn’t the case (and I suspect it is), you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you moved ahead, stared down those stupid demons in your subconscious and showed them that you’re still alive, still moving forward and are better because of the experience.

If you still want to do it, put your portfolio together, put your fear in its place, thank it for trying to protect you, but tell it that it’s not needed at the moment, start applying for some jobs and toss yourself into the arena. Honest, I promise, it won’t hurt and you won’t make a fool of yourself. And even if you did, nobody really cares and neither should you. That’s one thing that I’m 100 percent, absolutely sure about.

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I carry with me some regrets too dark to really share. Most stemming from mental illness like yourself.

However, this interview wouldn’t be something I let loom over my head. Companies who recruit new graduates offer entry level positions without much compensation.

Did you ever find your way into the design industry?

If not, it’s never too late. If it’s what you want, and your self image and esteem have matured, go out there and get it.

If you are in the industry, you’re simply climbing a parallel ladder to what you would have been climbing had you gotten that first job 4 years ago.

Graphics is a lot of hopping around. You need to start somewhere. To be honest, it doesn’t even really matter where. It’s where you end up that counts.

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Just-B has pretty much covered it. The only thing I’d add, is that mistakes are only mistakes if you fail to learn and grow from them.

They should be embraced in life as they should be in your work. It is much the same as when your best ideas come from going up a blind alley, getting nowhere, but realising that now you are stood in a different place, with a new perspective on the problem and that leads you to exactly the solution you need. You’d have never got there without going up blind alleys and making ‘mistakes’.

Life’s the same.

You have to embrace the troughs, because this is where you learn. It is very rare that anyone grows during the peaks. When you are on top of the world, you’re too busy enjoying the view.

Learn. Chalk it up to experience and knowledge gained and move on. You are now better equipped to deal with life than you were beforehand.

It led you to exactly where you are now. What can you see from there? If it’s a hill to climb, best you start climbing. If it’s a clear view of where you’re headed. Start walking. The worst thing you can do is stand still, telling yourself you are not able to go anywhere, wondering why you can’t feel the sun on you face.

Get a move on, you’ll be late. Right now, you have the greatest asset of all; you have time on your side. Get to the top of the next hill (spoiler: it won’t be the last) and then you can go in any direction you want to go. Your choice.

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This. There’s no such thing as ‘your one shot at success’. Opportunities come and go. Jobs come and go. Clients come and go. If you missed a good one last time, it’s not a big deal because there will be another coming up, and another, and another.

Always say yes to serious interviews. Even if you don’t care for the position, it’s great practice for those times where you really want the job. If it goes well and they offer you a job, you can use it as an opportunity to practice negotiating compensation and see how much your skills are worth in the marketplace.

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