I am not a designer.

I am not a designer. I am not a designer, and I imagine some of you might know how it feels to admit that too, how it feels to actually say that out loud. After all, we are all supposed to be designers. We are told that we all could be designers, if only we dreamed big enough, if only we let ourselves go, if only we truly listened to that voice inside of us: we could do it too.

I remember the first time I was introduced to design. It was in a workshop, presented by a man probably in his late twenties. He was wearing a fully buttoned up dress shirt with no tie. His shirt was a light purple, probably mauve to be more precise. He wore glasses, black thin glasses, that were somewhere ambiguously between the shapes of a circle and a square. He also had a quintessential five o’clock shadow. To be fair, he spoke softly and was very approachable.

But every time I saw him speak, I thought to myself, so different he was, him and I. I didn’t feel confident, I didn’t feel inspired — I felt insecure. How was it possible that he could be so eloquent with his words, how did he know just the right questions to ask, how was he so sharp with his ideas. I could never be who he was.

I guess I am now supposed to tell you the story about how I managed to turn it all around, how I managed to blossom into a designer.

But I am not.

Because the truth is, the insecurity is still there. Sure, I now feel that I can have a dialogue about design, a conversation about design and what it means; but the same sense of pain, and maybe even grief, still lingers on the inside.

What I will tell you though, is that the pain is workable.

What I’ve instead learned is how to work with this tenderness, this slight edge of vulnerability. I’ve slowly learnt to create the space for it. I am no longer afraid of being dragged down every time I feel its presence, every time I accidentally bump into it (well, mostly).

I can also wholeheartedly tell you, it is because of this tenderness that I know what design is, more so than those designers. Because to me, design isn’t just about talking, isn’t just about trying to imagine and empathize. To me, design has become a source of connection that I can tap into, a source of true feeling that I can reach into. Because that vulnerability represents the yearning that I have to one day feel like a true designer.

That yearning, is the same yearning that everyone experiences in their lives.

I hope that I never feel like a true designer, I hope that that day never comes. Because having that yearning is what gives meaning to the words Human Centered Design.