Thrive with confidence at any stage of your art career.
Ever struggle with confidence? Ever find yourself questioning the value of everything you do?
Saying things like: “Why am I even doing this? I suck at art. Nobody is going to want my creations. What if people don’t like my art? Are they saying positive things just to be nice or do they mean it? I’m not meant to succeed. Maybe I just don’t have what it takes to be an artist. Maybe I should just give up.”
Welcome to what my brain used to look like.
The Internal Art Critic
We all have that little voice in our heads that decides to be an a**hole and tear out our insides before we even get started on a potentially awesome path in life. The internal critic can dismantle our confidence as artists, but I have a few simple truths about that voice.
- It doesn’t have the answers. It only has questions and doubt.
- It’s actually trying to protect you from future pain because failure hurts and taking a risk always involves the potential to fail.
- You don’t have to listen to it.
I’ve been on a journey of personal growth for quite a while. After suffering from depression for the last decade of my life, I finally started sifting through my self-sabotaging behaviors and began rewiring my brain for contentment. Working on my confidence and telling the little voice in my head to piss up a rope was one of the biggest tasks on my self-improvement to do list.
It’s not easy, but here’s how I went from an insecure puddle of doubts to someone with a healthy amount of confidence as an artist.
1. Insecurities: Don’t let them hold you back, and don’t expect others to fix them.
Despite the fact that I have 50k Instagram followers, I still have insecurities about my work. All of the social validation in the world won’t fix it. It’s something that I need to address on my own.
Our insecurities are our own problem.
We can’t expect other people to make us see our value. For example, do you ever find yourself asking others if your work is good? Or is it worth selling? Or do they think you should give up? Your insecurities have hijacked your mouth. Take back your voice.
If you ask a question and only want to hear the answer that soothes your worries, then you’re expecting others to fix your insecurities. We’ve all been there. Now, have you ever had someone tell you the answer you didn’t want to hear? Did you completely fall apart like I used to? When this happens, you didn’t ask a question to seek truth, you asked a question to be validated.
You have to learn to soothe your own insecurities and validate yourself as an artist.
Okay, but how?
I use wild optimism and hypothetical worst-case scenario thought exercises. Example: When my insecurities start asking what if my work does suck? What’s the worst that can happen? I take my voice back and respond: Nobody buys it. Maybe I get made fun of. Does that mean I don’t like doing art? No. Does that mean I should give up? Heck no. Does that mean I’m not a good artist? Nope. It means I should keep creating, pushing my skills, and doing what I love.
When your insecurities hand you doubts and sad-question-lemons, make a tasty lemonade with sugar made of determination and drive.
The important thing is to not let your insecurities hold you back. Like I said, I still have insecure thoughts about a lot of things, but I don’t let them prevent me from doing what I love. The less you validate those doubts and questions, the quieter they become.
2. Believe in what you do.
Confidence is internal. The external world can help you validate your beliefs, but your sense of confidence is not going to come from a certain number of Instagram followers, or a successful art fair, or compliments from the outside world. Confidence is believing at your core that what you are doing is worth it.
If you believe in yourself and your goals, you’ll see proof in the world around you to continue with that belief, because that’s what you’re looking for. If you think your work sucks and you doubt your abilities, then you will see proof of that as well. What are you looking for? A reason to continue or a reason to stop?
Does it feel uncomfortable to believe in yourself right now? That’s okay! It gets better the more you practice it. Even if you never reach your goals or accomplish your dreams, you are going to have way more fun and conquer many more obstacles if you just believe you can do the things you want to.
Believe in yourself and choose to focus on the tasks at hand, rather than questioning if there is a point in doing them at all.
3. Don’t hold yourself back.
We can be our own worst enemies. Personally, I have held myself back from achieving my goals too many times to count. The ways we do this can be sneaky. Most of the time we hold ourselves back by engaging in negative self-talk. Ever find yourself thinking things like “I probably won’t succeed at this,” or “I’ll never be as good as that artist.”?
You’re putting up a roadblock on your path with these thoughts.
Anytime you find yourself with a thought that discourages you from moving forward with your goals and your dreams, ask yourself if you are just standing in your own way. Do these thoughts benefit you in any way? Do they get you closer to reaching your goal? Probably not. Just the opposite. These thoughts are there to keep you from taking a risk because there is always a possibility of failure—and failure sucks. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Don’t accept failure as an end result. See it as an opportunity.
Yes. Failure will happen. You will try something new and you won’t get the result you expect. Does that mean you should give up and stop chasing that dream? Of course not!
Failure is part of the learning process. I fail all the time! Anytime I have an idea for a piece and it goes completely awry, that can be a failure. Anytime I post on Instagram and hear crickets in the comments section, that can be a failure. That time I paid $120 for a spot at an outdoor summer art fair and I only made $12—yeah, that was a bit of a failure.
If I accepted those failures as the end of my journey, I’d be doing myself a disservice. You’re going to fail, probably a lot, but each time you pick yourself up and start working towards your goal again, that is the best form of success.
Failures are opportunities to improve and find your true artistic path. Embrace them and keep going. If you’re going to keep score in regard to failure, count how many times you kept going.
5. Enjoy the now
Ever find yourself saying, “I’ll be confident when I’m as good as I want to be or have more followers,” or something similar?
Take a look at your art and find the things you love right NOW. Confidence doesn’t come from achieving your goals. Confidence comes from being comfortable with your progress now and celebrating all of your tiny victories. Sure, I look at my skills and I objectively see where I want to improve, but I don’t let my deficiencies take away from my current happiness anymore.
Celebrate where you are RIGHT now. Give yourself a high five. Do a little happy dance. You’re alive, you’re creating.
6. It’s not a competition. Celebrate other artists.
To be a confident artist involves not comparing your work to other artists. I want you to wholeheartedly get excited about their work. Detach your ego and forget about competition. There isn’t a limited amount of success available for all artists, so there isn’t a need to compete or push other artists down.
Being better than other artists isn’t where confidence comes from. Walking into a room and not instantly feeling the need to compare yourself to anyone else is where confidence comes from.
Here’s the truth: There will always be someone better, more talented, and someone with more followers or art sales under their belt. If you focus on the competition, you will always fall short. If you focus on your deficiencies, you won’t feel confident.
Instead, if you focus on what you do have, you will feel abundance. If you remove yourself from the competition, you can feel confident right now, regardless of where you are in your career. Always remember that the success of another artist is not your loss. Enjoy the sense of community and find comfort in believing there is abundance in the world and you already have access to it.
It sounds corny sometimes, but the whole “Life is great. You can achieve your dreams, you are worth it, and you are loved. The world is your oyster. You are special. You are divine. And dog gonnit, people like you,” thing is worth looking into. It has helped my mental health and my art career tremendously.
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