Like most jobs, UX designers need to posses certain skills in order to do their job effectively but there are also certain personality traits that can help someone make the leap from a good UX designer to a great UX designer. Those traits are self-doubt and empathy.
We sometimes hear people say “that person suffers from a lot of self-doubt” or even worse “that person is plagued with self-doubt”. Clearly, self-doubt is meant to describe someone that is weak or has low self-esteem. However, for a designer, a little self-doubt can actually help them be more open to the possibly that their design can always be improved. A truly good designer will never feel they have achieved the perfect design — they will always feel something can be better. Conversely, an overly confident designer is more likely to feel they have achieved the perfect design and will focus more on dismissing other design options and suggestions instead of experimenting or trying to prove whether their design really is better or not.
Empathy is also a trait that a designer should possess because it means they will be able to see their design through the eyes of the users. Since UX designers sometimes have to design products that they may never use, it is important that they put themselves in the shoes of the users to gain a deeper understanding of what it will be like to use the product they are designing. To do this, there is nothing more useful than User Shadowing and Interviewing. When you shadow a user within their own natural work environment, you will inevitably learn a ton that you never could have from your own desk chair. So get out into the trenches with your users and learn before you design.
Of course, a little too much of anything can be a bad thing. Someone with too much self-doubt and too much empathy can prevent them from ever getting around to creating a solution. Both traits can be handy tools for designers as long as you can harness them for good use. It’s all about balance.