Confidence is a key factor in the life of an Artist. Art comes from our core. If, at our core, we lack confidence and are filled with self-doubt then creating Art and our life as an Artist is certainly a set up to experience an unfulfilling path. A lack of confidence is a complete creativity, passion and enjoyment killer!
Let’s get real about confidence … even if we are born with it (ever see a baby that has doubts about crying or laughing or anything for that matter???), by the time we get through puberty, for most of us, we have some real holes in that natural gift we were born with. Artists, because we put ourselves out in the world for all the world to see, have an even bigger chance of getting dings, scratches and holes in their confidence … if we allow that to happen.
A lack of confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We lack confidence and then, of course, whatever we do is not adequate to us, which further takes our confidence down and the vicious cycle goes on and on. We add the so-called “failures” up, we use them to confirm that we are inadequate and our confidence sinks faster and to deeper levels. Before we know it, we can find ourselves running down a very dark path of victimhood, shame and defeatism. Bottom line is that all that happened is that we got in our own way.
Confidence may come and go. Knowing this, and learning to deal with it, often comes with time and experience. Remember that even the people who seem to be at the top of their game (no matter if the game is painting, photography, music, dance, etc.) have moments of doubt. The point is not to ever experience a lack of confidence but not to let it run our lives.
So how do we, as Artists, repair our confidence and/or keep it maintained at a healthy level? It takes willingness, intentionality and continual practice!
Here are some of my favorite suggestions about handling your confidence as an Artist:
- Get real about the state of your confidence. Is it across the board or only with certain activities (marketing your work, selling your work, talking to potential collectors, certain techniques, etc.). Since confidence can fluctuate, it is important to know what triggers a lack of confidence for you. Look at anywhere you may procrastinate or back away from things. If you can see it you can move it … but you can’t change something you aren’t willing to acknowledge.
- Learn that there is no such of a thing as “failure” as an Artist. Art is not an exact science… if you are creating then you are winning. If we are creating from our highest place then we are doing what we are here to do. Not making sales .. then go learn to sell. Not as skilled at a technique as you want to be … then go learn the technique better.
- Notice that your brain patterns are very adept at extremes when they are out to sabotage your confidence. The voices, from those brain patterns, say things like: People don’t spend money on Art, No one will buy my art, I will never be recognized as an Artist, I can’t do that, I am not good at ___________, blah, blah, blah. Start checking in with reality. Is it true? How can you know? Let your brain know it is making stuff up. If you are going to make stuff up then you might as well make up good stuff.
- Give up looking for external validation. Do you need someone to validate that you are breathing? NO! Then you don’t need anyone to validate you as an Artist. Validate yourself. How can anyone validate your own unique expression? Go inside and ask yourself, “Did I do my best?”. If not then simply go do your best.
- Don’t get caught into thinking you are being an imposter or a fake or a fraud. All there is to do is to be authentically Your art comes from you … uniquely from you … you are the expert at your art. No one can call you a fraud when you are authentically creating (so stop calling yourself that too, please!)
- Stop comparing yourself to others. It is great to allow other artists to influence you, but comparison is a hopeless game of trying to compare apples to oranges and becomes so VERY toxic. Compare yourself to you. Compare your growth to your previous growth. Compare yourself to your own intentions and visions and keep moving towards them.
- Stay present to the process and learn each step along the way. If all you focus on is how you missed the desired outcome then you will not learn along the way. Learning is a lifetime process. The way you learn is to take each work and expand yourself in the next piece. Have each piece be better than the last in some way.
- Be patient with yourself. Mastery, like learning, is not an instant process. It is a journey done one piece of work at a time. “Overnight Success” is a myth. Anyone who has really become sustainably successful, who tells the truth, will tell you about all they did before that moment that some part of the world looked at them and noticed them for what they had been mastering.
- Don’t blankly accept anyone else’s opinions or beliefs about artists or you as an Artist. Create your own. Blind acceptance of other’s opinions and beliefs is a sure-fire way to not live inside of your own passions and dreams. It may be great if you want to be a programmed robot but not so hot at all if you want to be the unique Artist that you are.
- Be open to and request professional critiques from those with more experience who you can trust to be both honest and kind. Don’t accept unsolicited advice or opinions as the “truth”. Bully critics, who love being “brutally honest”, just use that to cover up their own self-worth issues. There is no need to accept abuse to get a constructive critique. Ask for strengths and weaknesses and suggestions. NOTE: Please don’t bother doing this if you are going to use it to beat yourself up with – that defeats the purpose. Please, do use it to grow from.
- Try new things. This will push you to get comfortable with the discomfort of being a newbie with things. Don’t resist challenging things … go after them with a hunger to learn from them. Selling, Marketing, getting in front of an Audience? Push yourself out there. Do the things you hate doing or that scare you first each day.
- Practice, practice, practice. Practice the things you do well. Practice the things you want to do better at. Practice builds confidence. Create constantly. Stay in focused action.
- Stop talking badly to yourself. Stop judging yourself. Catch yourself and shut that inner bully critic up. Bring some compassion and kindness to the person in your life that needs it the most … YOU. Every time you judge and criticize yourself you believe it a little more. Every time you praise yourself you believe it a little more
- Even if you create art for commissions or for a specific target market that dictates you produce what your collectors demand… dedicate a portion of your creative time to creating for YOU. It will strengthen you and train you to keep expressing your unique self.
- Complete work. Don’t let yourself bail out on a piece because “it is not good enough”. Train yourself to start and complete work. We damage our confidence when we have lots of unfinished work surrounding us. They start feeling like ghosts from the past that remind us how much our work is “not good enough”.
- Stop worrying about looking bad or silly or foolish or whatever it is that scares you. It is an endless game and who really cares anyhow? The people you are worried about looking bad in front of are too busy worrying about looking bad in front of you and others to even notice.
- Preparation grows confidence. Prepare what you are going to say, how you are going to say it, who you are going to say it to. Present your work well. Stop trying to wing it … put the time in and you will have more confidence in what you deliver knowing you gave it the prep time. Preparation is the key to presentation.
- Remember that each time you do something you get a little better at it. Want to get better faster? Just do more of what you want to get better and/or faster at with the intention to improve! You will fine tune your craft and your voice as an Artist this way.
- Separate your work from yourself. You are not your work. Your work is not you. I know it is easy to feel like it is but really it isn’t. Collapsing your work with you is what allows for experiences like rejection and keeps you from allowing appropriate and requested constructive criticism to help you grow.
- Define success for you that is not based on someone else’s definition. What is success to YOU? Then use that unique view of success to help you set up your path and intentions and to guide you along the way.
- Every day, make it a point to look for and congratulate yourself on your victories. Any size of a victory is worth an acknowledgement. Look for them. If we really look for them we will find them. You can’t find pink if you are only looking for blue. Also, look for previous victories to remind yourself of. These victories, from your past, lets you know you can continue to create victories in the future.
- Seek out encouraging, empowering people and groups to support you. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting influences. Don’t accept nay-sayers into your close circle. They are such energy suckers and your energy is way too precious for that.
- Learn to both ask for and receive support. It is NOT weak. What sounds weaker to you: 1) Banging your head against something for years and staying stuck for fear that you may appear weak or 2) Asking for support and moving through things faster in life so you can contribute more to your passions and the world? I vote on # 2.
- If you have a setback in moving towards your goals then react objectively vs. emotionally. Stand back, when things are not going as you want them to, and ask yourself: ”What can I do differently?” or “What do I need to change or correct?”
- Please do not confuse healthy confidence with extreme over confidence. That kind of behavior and thought process is just as bad (or maybe worse) as a lack of confidence and may also get in the way of your growth and progress. Narcissistic over-confidence is not confidence at all but a cover-up for something else.
If you have healthy levels of confidence in yourself your chances of succeeding as an Artist goes up. It is that confidence that allows you to keep going, keep learning, keep expanding and keep moving forward towards your visions and intentions. Making “mistakes”, botching things up, falling short of our intentions … these are the exact things that are necessary for us to learn from so we can perform at a higher and higher level. Embrace them!!!
I know it takes something to take on the suggestions above. I have had my share of diving into a lack of confidence. If there really was a magic pill for confidence issues then we would all have a lifetime of healthy confidence. Try on only one at a time or a few at a time if you need to work your way up. The important part is to acknowledge any lack of confidence you have and start working on it.
As a child, I took my crayons used them everywhere I could (much to my parent’s frustration at times). I never questioned if what I was drawing was good or bad … I just created and created and created. It was magical. It was joyful. Everything was a canvas for my pleasure. It flowed from me and I let it. Perhaps you can remember a time when confidence was not a limiting factor in your creative life. I would love to see you reclaim that experience and I know you can if you are willing to tackle it for YOU!!!
What things do you allow to strip you of your confidence as an Artist?
What has worked for you to build your confidence up?
I would, as always, love to hear about your experiences in dealing with your creative and/or Artistic confidence. I think that us sharing with each other gives us the ability to know that 1) it is not just me and 2) if he/she could do that then so can I. Not only that but each of us has so much to contribute to one another … and I am always grateful for that!