The Practice of Self-Empathy :: UXmatters

My Insights

In addition to giving me the satisfaction of being able to express the feelings that had been fermenting within me, creating the journey map provided me with useful insights. Once I had a more complete picture of my situation, I was able to reflect on what could make things better. After all, this is one of the most meaningful aspects of UX design.

I could see, as I had not been able to do previously, that all of the various facets of my life rarely moved in the same direction at the same time. For example, in my career, I experienced an upward trajectory while I simultaneously underwent moving into a new house. While both of these experiences were welcome and exciting changes, they were also disruptive. I also recognized that some health-related events were more than just inconveniences because they had persisted and disrupted my quality of life. As a result, I am putting greater focus on my well-being, both mental and physical. I’m getting more comfortable with saying No. I’m putting aside some time for me—to exercise regularly, eat mindfully, and take breaks when I need them.

Practicing Self-Empathy

I’ve since revisited my journey map and have even shared it with a few close associates, which has brought me to this conclusion: UX professionals should seriously consider doing for ourselves what we regularly do for others.

We can apply our empathy to ourselves. We should take time to understand our needs, wants, and desires. We could contemplate what we want to achieve in our lives and identify the obstacles, or painpoints, that potentially stand in our way.

Sharing Empathy

Recently, I discussed these ideas about self-empathy with a colleague over brunch. Once I had finished describing what applying the practice of self-empathy to ourselves might look like, she looked at me and said: “And for each other.” Of course, she was right. She is right.

As UX professionals, we often reserve our empathy for the users of our products and services and perhaps the stakeholders with whom we work as well. But empathy is not simply a lens for viewing others or a kindness that we can show ourselves. Empathy is a gift that we can give to our fellow UX professionals and our colleagues in other disciplines with whom we work when creating these products.

A supportive design practice is an empowering design practice. It is within us to model the behaviors we want to see in our workplaces. For more practical suggestions on how to achieve this ideal, read the Harvard Business Review article “Model Kindness on Your Team,” which offers suggestions for how you can model the practice of kind behaviors in the workplace.

Maybe, just maybe, the power of UX design can do more than just point the way toward what our teams should work on. Perhaps its power is showing how our teams can work together. 

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