True story. I am consistently battling self-doubt. As they say, we are all our worst critics, right? Self doubt is what kept me from using my art degree for over 15 years. It took me becoming a SAHM, after a long corporate career, to feel confident enough to try to paint again (mostly because we were going to be relying on one income anyways so, if I failed, it wouldn’t really affect anyone else but me.)
After 2 years of painting every single day, I have had many opportunities to face my fears head on. It crops up in many ways, but here are some of the effects that self doubt has had on my art if I let it get to the best of me:
- Under-charging for my work. I’ve caught myself typing an email response to a custom painting inquiry and instead of putting my true prices and sticking to them, I typed a number- back spaced- and re-typed a lower amount. Or, something has been thrown in for free.
- I’ve said no to certain projects just because it wasn’t in my “comfort zone” and I was afraid of failing.
- Procrastination happens more often when I am not believing in myself.
During the last year or so, I have been really intentional about acknowledging these feelings and determining their roots. Here are some things that have really helped me to produce when I am not feeling the best about my ability:
- Having email templates ready so that I can respond to inquiries in the same manner every time. This takes the emotional ups and downs out of the equation. Doing this has helped me to have even more confidence in my work than if I had accepted commission work at a discounted rate (which leaves me feeling defeated for not allowing myself to get paid what any person should get paid for the amount of hours/effort I am putting in.)
- Making the decision to never say “no” (as long as I have time in my schedule to take it on). Last year, I made a personal decision to do my absolute best to take on all painting challenges- even the ones that tempted me to run in the opposite direction. I am a perfectionist by nature, and doing this has helped me to deliver quality pieces of art that are completely outside of my normal subject matter…like a rooster wearing earrings eating chocolate, or a Venus Fly Trap. In the end, I have found that the completion of art that utterly terrifies me actually encourages me to take on an even bigger challenge the next time.
- Deciding to produce every single day for an audience (even if there isn’t one). This may sound strange, but if I make a commitment to produce every day in honor of my followers, it helps me get past self doubt. It helps me focus on the process and get away from the hangups that are sometimes associated with it. It helps me to get outside of myself and give me hope that I might make someone smile that day- and that makes getting past that moment of doubt worth every bit of the courage that it takes to paint.
- Keep a journal of quotes from happy customers. Self explanatory, I’m sure, but remembering people who have previously trusted me with their vision and memories helps me to know that I am capable of doing it successfully again.
- Studying previous personal art and looking for times when technical improvements or better use of materials were developed.
- Going outside. There is just something really healing about getting fresh air and then sitting back down in the studio.
- Recording the painting process. Last year, I had many moments of self doubt when the image on my watercolor paper was still in the mid-beginning stages. By filming the process, and then speeding it up, I can study how elements like shape, color, contrast and texture develop over time. It helps me to understand the concept of growth in my art. Just like a seed, it takes many other critical steps of development before that seed becomes a flower, blooming out of the dirt.
- Never throw away an unfinished piece of art. This decision was born out of this 50 state watercolor project, which took a little more than 5 months to complete. For that project, I had personal deadline- November 1st. With limited time available to paint (literally during the nap times of my kids) I could not afford to fail. If I started something that I wasn’t happy with I set it aside, moved onto something else, and re-visited it on another day. Somehow, I managed to paint 50 consecutive paintings without throwing away a single piece of paper – and I finished the last one on, you guessed it, November 1st.
How does your self doubt effect your business? What do you do to combat it?
Let’s get in touch. I would love to hear about your work, and the art that only YOU can do.
PS. Along the way, I have been greatly inspired by other fellow artists and entrepreneurs. Here are some links to some of my favorite speeches and podcasts on this topic.
Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Adam Lerner talk about the risk of failure at Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis. It was very inspirational. He spoke about his Failure Project- which was designed to allow kids the opportunity to fail- while trying. Students were awarded “biggest failure” based on how much of a risk they were willing to take in order to create. This speech is similar to the one I heard last week:
Read my latest blog post here: I didn’t get the art scholarship.