Confidence: it’s important, but you don’t need to feel unshakably confident in your art in order to succeed as a professional artist. Sometimes, you probably DO feel that positive, which is great!
But, is something wrong if you find yourself thinking things like:
- “Am I good enough?”
- “Do I have what it takes?”
- “Is my art any good?”
Absolutely not. It means you are human!
It’s how you react to insecure feelings and thoughts that affects your progress, AND your confidence.
When you have the tools to manage your thoughts and regulate your feelings, you can navigate mindset challenges. Sure, they’ll pop up on the regular, but they won’t tend to throw you off course for too long.
But if your thoughts and feelings spiral, the resulting anxiety can hinder your artistic expression and overall well-being. You might avoid what you want or need to do. Or, you may just feel stressed and miserable while you do it.
To help deal with insecure times, I like Vincent van Gogh’s quote: “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” It may sound overly simplistic, but responding with action to insecure thoughts sets you in the right direction. Confidence can be a journey, not a destination.
The Pressure to Have Constant Confidence
In our achievement-oriented culture (I live in the U.S.), it can be easy to believe that you have to be a super confident, creative genius to succeed. But guess what? Most of us are just regular people with sketchbooks, cameras, or whatever creative tools we love.
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve avoided my canvas, cello, camera, etc. because of a nagging feeling that what I made didn’t quite cut it. You know, that feeling of “Who am I kidding?” Or “What if it’s no good?”
Just getting back to creating is what helps me dispel these insecure feelings. My crude mantra for these times is, “Time to make something that sucks!” Somehow that breaks through my avoidance and frees me to create without fear.
If you find yourself pursuing perfection, your confidence will take a hit. You will inevitably fall short of unrealistically high standards, which is a recipe for self-doubt and anxiety.
To become more comfortable with imperfection, work on recognizing that perfection is an unattainable ideal. All art, even the most celebrated pieces, contain imperfections. Remember, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about being you.
Additionally, focusing on the creative process rather than the end result can alleviate pressure to be perfect. By experimenting, taking risks, and allowing room for mistakes, you will learn and grow. Ultimately, the growth from your mistakes will enhance your confidence and artistic expression.
If you’d like to read more on this topic, I wrote more about dealing with perfectionism in this blog post.
Fear of imperfection can stifle your creativity. Make mistakes, and recognize that the world does not end!
The Power of Progress
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, you will always making progress when you show up for yourself. Remember, progress means there are always things to learn, and that’s a good thing! So ease up on any pressure you might feel for having everything figured out.
The real magic happens when you commit to showing up, over and over, trusting yourself to take the next small step every day. Over time your progress will become obvious.
Notice over time how your confidence might shift around. It may feel more elusive when you’re struggling to grasp a new approach or technique. Then, it can feel stronger when you experience some mastery over a new skill. Outside your comfort zone? Fear and growth! Practicing an acquired skill? Flow and confidence!
Through experimentation, see if you can find a balance between pushing yourself and practicing what you know. Spending time in both of these spaces spurs on both your progress and your confidence.
Overcoming the Fear of Judgment
Fear of criticism and rejection is common and a normal human experience. It’s natural to care about what others think to some extent, as it can guide our social interactions and behavior.
However, sometimes this fear becomes overwhelming and all-encompassing. It can escalate into social anxiety, which can be significantly impairing.
The key difference lies in the intensity and impact of these feelings. With typical fear of judgment, people may feel nervous or self-conscious in certain social situations, but it doesn’t necessarily hinder their daily life or creative pursuits.
In contrast, social anxiety involves a persistent and excessive fear of scrutiny, often leading to avoidance of social situations, isolation, and a profound disruption of one’s ability to engage in creative activities or even basic interactions. It’s important for anxious creatives to recognize when their fear of judgment has crossed the line into social anxiety and seek support and strategies to manage it effectively.
For the more typical fears of judgment, remind yourself that it’s a good thing that not everyone resonates with your creative voice. Your art will speak to the people it’s meant to speak to. Consider it a win if your art attracts people who get it, and repels everyone else!
Finding Support and Community to Build Confidence
Creating in isolation can be a lonely and demotivating experience. It can take a toll on your mental well-being and creative process. The solitary nature of making art can sometimes be an echo chamber for your inner doubts and insecurities.
However, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to go through this alone! Seek out fellow artists, whether it’s through local art classes, joining online art communities, or connecting with like-minded individuals on social media platforms.
The power of sharing your creative struggles and triumphs with others who understand your journey is immeasurable. It’s a source of validation that can boost your confidence and provide a sense of belonging. When you connect with other creatives, you’re tapping into a wellspring of inspiration, support, and commiseration.
The experience of bonding over shared creative hurdles can be incredibly motivating and reassuring. Remember, there’s a vibrant and welcoming community of artists out there waiting to cheer you on, share their experiences, and celebrate your achievements with you.
You don’t need to be a super-confident, all-knowing artist to succeed. You are enough, and the world needs your creativity and your contributions.
Yes, it’s vulnerable to share your art with the world. Your voice is unique, and your art is an expression of yourself, quirks and all. Embrace imperfection, focus on progress, relax your fear of judgment, and find a community for support and camaraderie.