“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.