“Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.“
This first entry was supposed to be on a different topic. Something more obvious like an introduction of myself and the blog. I began to write and suddenly they hit me. One by one slowly approaching and whispering into my ear. “Who are you to do this?”, “you don’t know how to write well”, “hell, you can’t even express yourself logically”, “what do you know, you are not an expert at anything”, “Who will even read this anyway?”, “It’s a fucking waste of time”. Aaaaand the writing session ended with my mind highjacked by self-doubts and overthinking. That week I didn’t pick up a pen again. Did this ever happen to you? You got this idea about something you really wanted to do for a long time, you were happy and excited, imagining all the things you will do, learn, achieve. But when the moment to actually start came… you’ve just talked yourself out of it. Giving very convincing and logical arguments, of course. We are amazing at sabotaging ourselves, aren’t we? I’ve been there so many times and I can tell you, It’s a big dream killer.
Why this is happening?
Let’s reveal “the Monster” because once you go to the roots and understand something, it loses its power over you. Whenever we try to do something new, something that is not a part of our daily, well-known routine, our mind freaks out a bit (or a lot in some cases, read: me). Its job is to protect us from any potential danger and doing something new is well, potentially life-threatening. So if you think of it, the mind is just doing what is supposed to do by sending all those doubts, questions, and fears to stop us from stepping into the danger zone. Don’t be frustrated with yourself, it’s not your fault, it’s just how we are built Realizing that really changed the way I think and approach things. Once upon a time we basically lived in fight-or-flight mode surrounded by huge, deadly animals (thank you mind for keeping us alive!). Now we are not in constant threat anymore but the thing is that our primal mind doesn’t know about it. We need to take control and teach it.
“The mind is just like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand.”
There can be so many limiting beliefs stopping you from doing. I asked many creatives about their own experiences and here are the five most common responses:
- I’m not good/talented enough (self-doubts)
- Fear of judgment and criticism
- Fear of failure
- I’m not ready yet (perfectionist’s voice)
- Fear of success
Let’s talk a bit about each of them. I’m going to tell you some of my experiences and give you some quick mindset-shifting tips that help me. In the second part of the post, I’ll share experiences of other creatives I talked with
I’m not good enough. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t have talent. I will never learn… Those words were appearing in my head every time I wanted to start creating my own projects. I was learning how to draw, going through all important fundamentals and exercises, attending drawing classes, but my heart was always in fantastical, enchanted themes of fantasy and illustration. I loved characters and worlds full of magic and I dreamed about creating my own. Yet stubbornly I convinced myself that it’s not the right moment and I’m not good enough yet. I’ve been trained in a very classical way, where the most important is to copy subjects in front of you as accurately as possible. I felt that I don’t even have an imagination and I wouldn’t be able to create anything apart from what I see. It was easier to dream about something than actually doing it. It was safer in my mind, more idealistic. I was afraid that if I’d start I would destroy everything. At that time it all sounded logical so even if I felt miserable I was pushing myself to just keep studying and nothing apart from that. Now I know that it was only fear and crippling self-doubts.
Quick mindset-shifting tip: You are a unique individual. There is no person like you. Therefore you have your own, wonderful perspective and vision based on all your experiences and stories you lived. No matter at what stage of your growth you are, you have this special voice to share and people deserve to hear it. Even if you are not on the level you wish to be, every new project or endeavor will teach you something and keep moving you forward. Embrace your own journey.
2. Fear of judgment and criticism.
If I’ll do it, people will laugh at me. What if they will think I’m weird? What my family and friends will say? The opinion of others is important for us. We all want to be accepted and feel that we belong. A long time ago being outcasted from the community meant possible death, it was very hard to survive out there alone. The times had changed but we still fear loneliness. In my youth, I did things that I regret, only because I felt pressure from the community I wanted to be part of. Let me tell you a little story. I was working in a tattoo studio as an apprentice and one day my boss out of nowhere said: “wouldn’t be cool if we all got pentagram tats?”. Everybody shouted “Yeaaahh!” and it seemed that I was the only one who didn’t think it was so cool. But I did it anyway only because the whole crew was getting one. I just wanted so much to be part of this group, learn the craft and I was afraid to be outcasted and that I won’t find any other opportunity like that.
Fear of criticism can be challenging especially for creative people, artists, photographers, craftsmen, those who create with their own hands and imagination. You feel like people might judge not your creation but directly you as a person. Creativity is such a fragile and very personal thing, it feels like a part of you. Many times while brainstorming new ideas for drawings I was catching myself thinking about what my followers will think? I was limiting myself thinking that this idea is too silly, too weird, too creepy, etc. Even if I personally really liked it
Quick mindset shif: There are many haters and trolls on the internet, you know it. They judge or criticize you? Great! It means they are not your people! There will ALWAYS be those who don’t agree with you, who have different tastes or opinions, or who are just jealous and have nothing better to do with their lives. Sure you don’t want those people in your close environment. There will also be so many who connect with you and your creations, those who really get you and want to grow with you. The world is so big, there is a place for everybody, find your own niche.
3. Fear of failure
What if I will completely ruin it? What if it won’t work? What if I made something terrible and ugly? What if I will fail and get completely discouraged? We sabotage ourselves and create the most dreadful scenarios in our heads even before starting. Fear of failure is closely connected with self-doubts, as well as with the fear of criticism, not only from other people but also from yourself.
This happens to me every time I would like to experiment with a new medium. I’m working primarily with graphite and I feel more and more comfortable and confident with it, but sometimes I’d like to try a medium that I’ve never tried, like watercolors or acrylics combined with color pencils for example. Yet somehow I always find some kind of reason why it’s not a good moment. The excuse of the year is: I have to create many artworks for gallery group shows, they invited me because they liked my pencil drawings, this medium is familiar to me and I can’t allow myself to experiment now. Still, I’m not sure yet what kind of limiting mechanism is it, I will put it into fear of failure team for now. I’m working on it and I really encourage you to become a Sherlock Holmes of your own mind too and investigate what is actually stopping you and why. This way after revealing “the monster” we can deconstruct it and find ways and solutions how to deal with it.
Quick mindset shift: If you don’t “fail”, you don’t learn! Fail, fail a lot! this is the best way to keep moving forward. Every time you are gathering a new experience to your collection. Evaluate what didn’t work in the way and try to make changes and adjustments as you go. And ask yourself this question: At the end of your life, what do you think you’ll feel worst about, failing or never trying?
Big dream killer. An illusion. My personal ex(ish)-nemesis. Those days I keep it on a leash, but it still finds ways to escape from time to time. I used to see the world in black and white. I’d rather do things perfectly or not at all. It was never good enough, there were always so many things to do, prepare, learn, polish… The list never ended, only kept expanding and there was never the right time. I fell into this trap so many times… Let’s take painting for example. I was postponing even touching paints for so many years…. years! I remember having this dream to learn how to paint at 18, and here I was, picking up the brush for the first time at 27. Crazy, right? I thought that I need to master everything about drawing first. Proportions, perspective, values, anatomy, composition the list goes on and on. Just imagine how many paintings I could do throughout almost 10 years! Yes, I would suck for a long while. I would do countless mistakes and be frustrated with myself. But every single painting would teach me something. I didn’t know back then that mistakes are our friends.
Quick mindset shift: “Mistakes” show us areas where we need to improve and help us to grow. Remember that it’s all about progress, not perfection. If you don’t move, you don’t make mistakes, therefore you don’t learn.
5. Fear of success
This one is tricky. Only a year ago I didn’t know that I have this fear inside of me. Fear of success… wait, what? It is supposed to be something good, something we all strive for, right? Yes, although there is BUT. It turned out that very big but in my case. I applied for an open call to new artists organized by one wonderful gallery and for the first time I got selected. Shortly after that, I got invited not by one, but by three more galleries for group shows! I was shocked, I didn’t know what’s happening! Me? I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve been learning and working hard for years, putting my works out there in social media, offering commissions, applying from time to time to different places… with no success. After some time it became something normal, I guess I was more used to rejection. But this… this was something completely new and unexpected. At first of course I was absolutely thrilled, jumping and dancing around in happiness. I called my mom with happy tears thanking her for always supporting and believing in me. But after putting down the phone quickly fear kicked in bringing me back down to earth. Shit… Now what? I need to create drawings for all those shows!! How the hell am I going to do that?! As I mentioned in the fear of failure section, this inner pressure and anxiety suddenly appeared. I won’t be drawing only for myself anymore. I can’t just put it in the drawer if it won’t go well. Now there is a specific theme for each show, a deadline, gallery curators and collectors will see it, more people will see it and I need to deliver and maintain the level or even level up every time aaaaaaaaaaa! Fear of success is real.
Quick mindset shift: Stepping out from your comfort zones and leveling up is the only way to keep growing and getting closer to your goals and dreams. In 10 years would you rather regret doing something or not even trying? Each of us has a different definition of success and each version could be scary because it’s something new and unknown. Understand that those feelings are completely normal, it means that something special is happening.
Take a look at the 2nd part of this post, I will share with you all the strategies and tips on how to deal with all this that I find helpful as well as the experiences of other creatives
Take care and bring Magic to your life 🙂
I’m totally with you on self doubt, I think that us creative are are very harsh at judging our own work. Therefore we are scared or get really nervous about sharing our work and like you say trying new mediums too. So then I think “what is the worst thing that could happen”, that thought the developers into “I love and enjoy what I do, so I use that flow of positive energy to inspire me to share and connect with people. This mindset helps me alot when facing self doubt. I love the part that you described facing these issues like Sherlock Holmes, it’s was so appropriate for confronting self doubt. I look forward to more blogs and posts that you’ll be sharing…
Dear Brendan, first of all, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment, it really means a lot! You are totally right, we tend to be so critical about our own creations. Maybe because we care so much? I think that self-doubts never completely leave us. They come and go, it’s part of our lives as creatives. What we need to do is keep working on our mindsets, attitude and look for strategies that could help.