Being an artist or finding work within the creative sector, as rewarding and fulfilling as it can be, is usually plagued with long days and late nights of questioning whether what you are doing is good enough. Are you talented and skilled enough? Are you ready to take the leap? Or for some people, it’s simply a question of where do I even begin?
We have all had these doubts and downward spirals, but the most helpful thing I have learned is that you aren’t alone in feeling this. Trying to get started or promote yourself as a creative professional is daunting and all of us (experienced or not) are still trying to figure out what we are doing!
However, one of the most important attributes for being successful within the creative sector, no matter what field you are in, is having confidence. A recent Guardian article states confidence as being one of three key factors in being successful in the creative world.
So, if you are thinking of being self-sustained from your practice or getting a job in a creative organisation, confidence will tie into cultivating your creative ability, help you build a network of contacts and bounce back when things don’t go to plan, as well as securing a job in the first place.
Battling self-doubt is the first step to achieving your goals and here are a few tips that will help along the way.
5 Key Steps for Creative Confidence
Create without pressure! The first step is always the hardest and even more so when you have put pressure on yourself to create the most perfect outcome. Looking at the blank canvas can be off-putting, so why not get some ideas out and be experimental before starting a final piece? Taking small steps is always less daunting than trying to tackle big problems. So rather than stalling and allowing your anxiety to build, break down the larger picture into smaller sized pieces – you’ll be more confident when faced with these challenges in the future.
“Don’t get ready, get started!” – Tom Kelley Co -author of Creative Confidence, Lecturer at Stanford University
Judgement Now this is a tough one, as half the battle is to resist judging yourself. The main thing is to embrace your ideas (good or bad). The majority of us end up self-editing our thoughts because we are afraid of what others might think or say. However, the nature of creativity is to take risks, so don’t restrict your ideas and just go for it!The other side of this is facing judgement from others. Its very easy to get defensive about a piece of work you have poured your heart and soul into, but you have to realise that you are still on a journey. Learn from those more experienced than you and don’t be afraid to take on other people’s comments. Collaborative input can be very rewarding, so take time to listen to your peers.
“To a young artist, I would say: just go day by day and see what happens. Don’t worry about other people’s judgment. If it resonates, then listen, otherwise pay no attention. Self-doubt is always present for artists because we have the job and the privilege of defining problems and then asking ourselves whether we have solved them” – Susan Hiller, Artist (London)
Identify your barriers
Identify what is holding you back, whether it is certain situations or people and then rationally analyse why these situations would trigger those feelings for you. Remember that you are in control and you make the choice as to whether you project confidence or not. It’s easy to imagine and mentally prepare for the worst case scenario, but in doing this, you are actively setting yourself up to fail. Be positive!
Actively push yourself A step further after you identify the triggers of what makes you uncomfortable is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Try to push yourself, whether its striving to write 5,000 words before the end of day, or creating 50 sketches instead of 5. You’ll be surprised with what you can achieve.
“Changing behaviour isn’t easy and can only be achieved through reinforcement… By confronting your demons, the fear will subside” – Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training (UK)
Confidence vs self-esteem
Confidence is a frame of mind. It is what we project, how we want others to see ourselves and is very different to self-esteem, which is how we really feel about ourselves. The main thing to realise is that confidence is something that you practise, not something that you are born with. The most confident person in the room can still be crippled with low self-esteem, however, the more you practise portraying confidence, the easier it will be to become confident.
Everyone experiences moments of self-doubt, but you can choose whether you want it to effect your work and yourself. Practice being confident, identify your barriers, push yourself and embrace your ideas (and those of others). Being successful within the creative industry will not be an easy journey, but actively and continually making small assertive steps, will improve your creative practice in the long run.