“I don’t think there’s any artist of any value who doesn’t doubt what they’re doing.” ~Francis Ford Coppola
I had lunch with a friend this week, who is one of the most confident women I know! We talked about how we question ourselves and she was feeling some self-doubt after a very intense meeting. After some deep breaths, and guided meditation in the middle of our lunch, she moved passed it and we enjoyed our time together. It was our conversation about doubting ourselves that remained with me, so I decided to elaborate more here.
Self-doubt is something that plagues everyone at some time or another. We may be going along, feeling great about our lives or our work, and then something happens that shakes our confidence. I know that personally there have been many (many,many) times that I have felt the urge to give up creating art and just take an easier path.
For me, it can stem from getting a rejection to a proposal I’ve submitted or someone makes a nasty comment about my art. Perhaps you’re comparing your work to someone else’s or your inner critic gets really loud. Sometimes, it’s just that self-doubt sneaks up on you out of nowhere, whispers in your mind, and suddenly you’d rather do anything, but what you’re doing. But, for whatever reason, there always seemed to be someone who reminded me that everyone feels alone, useless, and abandoned at one time or another but we have to find a way to fight through it and not give up.
As a creative soul, always putting my work out there in the world, I open myself to a lot of comments. I think that these tips can be used for anyone, not just artists and creative souls. Just substitute the word “artist/creative” to identify yourself and I believe these remedies will be helpful.
Here’s how I move through it and return to my creativity.
Be Kind To Yourself
Don’t beat yourself up over your self-doubt. It’s easy to go there, to think,”OMG, Get over it! Stop procrastinating, just do it.!” Yelling at yourself works in the short-term, but it can turn into a vicious cycle of beating yourself up, avoidance, more beating yourself up, then procrastination, more beating yourself up, finally feeling totally depressed. (Sound familiar? Trust me, I’ve been there!). At some point, however, you have to let it go and move on. You have to accept the fact that even the greatest leaders, authors, composers, musicians, and artists were unsatisfied in their career or with their art in some way. Perfection is an illusion that will consume you if you let it.
Everyone needs to be reminded how wonderful they are. Keep a folder, that’s dedicated to cheering you on. I have a folder in my email and a real folder for this purpose; where I collect photos, emails, letters, notes, etc. of things that make me feel great! When you begin to doubt yourself, go to your folder, read a few of the notes you’ve saved, and soak up the appreciation.
Start with Baby Steps
One of the best remedies for self-doubt is action. I prefer to begin with gentle action. The best way to move into action when you’re in self-doubt mode is to start small. Think of each step that you’re taking as moving you forward on a longer journey. You will never get to the next stage of development, unless you are willing to take some sort of action that will move you to the next baby step, on and on.
Remind Yourself of What You Have Accomplished
It’s easy to forget all that we accomplish. Take some time to make a list of how much you’ve achieved. On a daily basis, keep a completed list to keep track of all the things you’ve done, instead of focusing on what you didn’t do.
I sit in my favorite yoga pose, breathing deeply and quieting my mind. I allow my focus to be on my “out” breath, allowing myself to breathe out self-doubt and become still and present. Prayer is very helpful, if you have a belief system. Spending time with someone that gets you or is a positive force in your life is also very beneficial. If your self-doubt is crippling you, or causing you to harm yourself (emotionally or physically), or you are surrounded by toxic people, I recommend seeking the help of a professional therapist. I am a believer in continuous and positive self-care through therapy and/or spiritual counseling.
Continue Taking Risks
It’s amazing to me that despite self-doubts, many of us keep putting ourselves out there. I want to encourage you to keep taking those risks, in your life and in your art. Taking risks helps squash self-doubts in a powerful way. Your risks may be trying out a new style, changing careers, starting a new relationship, reaching out to another artist, submitting your work to a new venue, posting your work online, or opening up a shop. Not all our risks will have the results we want, but every risk we take, gives us the inner knowing that we are capable of more than we realize.
All artists have to find a way to live with self doubt and value the creative process as much as the work itself. After all, “Living your Art” is not just about the rush of warmth you feel when everything is falling into place, but it’s also about dealing with those crappy moments of self-doubt along the way. One way to do this is to realize that you’re not alone.
How do you handle self-doubt? What are your remedies?
Always in peace to you and yours.
This is a great post–such an important topic. As you said, we all get hit with self-doubt, so having an idea of what to do when it strikes is an excellent plan. I love the cheerleader file idea! I'm going to start one of my own. 🙂
Right now when it hits I talk myself through it, questioning what I'm feeling and whether there's any basis in reality for it, and usually I can talk myself out of the slump. But I'm pretty sure a cheerleader file along with the self-talk would be great!
Thanks for stopping by Kim! The cheerleader file, is right on top of my desk; where I can see it. Just seeing it sometimes does the trick w/o reading the contents. We live constantly in our minds,it’s hard to forget that it’s not the last word on all things; so it’s great to tangibles that we can go to, to encourage us and stop the self-doubt for the moment. 🙂
Morning Star Studio said
Love your blog indigene. Your art is wonderful. I enjoyed my visit here today.
Thanks Lynna for stopping by! It means alot! I’ll be checking out your blog, too!
What a wonderful reminder and some great tips! As artists we do put ourselves out there and that process alone can be scary and generate self-doubt but moving through it can be immensely rewarding to.
Deanna, thank you! You're right about it being rewarding, I think that should be the focus, or else we would never put ourselves out there! 🙂
tami chacon said
This is a great and timely post for me! I always hear those self doubts as we all do. Yoga and art are my biggest help. If I take the time for myself to create art and do my yoga practice I am so much more balanced and able to hear the self doubting thoughts with kindness and compassion and understanding and not allow them to affect me.
Indigene Art Forms said
Thanks for coming by Tami!
I find that yoga, meditation, eating healthy and walking keeps me balanced; in addition to praying for others. But we know that balance is difficult at times, so self-doubt does creep in! Developing your own remedies help, because only you know what's right for you and it sounds like you've got it covered! 🙂
Jeanie Anthony said
Thank you Indigene for your insights and experience. And who doesn't need a cheerleader from time to time? I really appreciate your presence with your art and bright spirit. Love your commission offerings as well. What a beautiful way to honor and remind someone of their brilliant Divinity. Your light shines the way. Love, Jeanie
Thanks for stopping by Jeanie! You’re right about having a cheerleader 🙂 I have a lot of them in a folder on my desk. They crush my self-doubt; which are the best kind of cheers!