Welcome to my blog series “From the inbox” where we tackle those mindsets and
issues that hold us back and keep us from living creatively. Enjoy!
“I’ve been drawing on my own for a couple years now.
I’m not that good, so I don’t show anyone my drawings.
What can I do to get over that?”
Hello dear friend,
First, a true story…
…about a young middle school girl, who loved music and singing and joined the choir in her school. The choir teacher had favorite students that she worked with individually – these were her stars – and the others simply sang in the choir. Our girl was one of many voices, simply singing in the choir.
Sometime during that middle school semester, the music teacher signed up her entire class for a state-wide singing competition. Each student was given a solo verse to learn, memorize and sing in front of judges at the competition. For the first time, the music teacher worked one-on-one with all her students. Our girl worked with the music teacher, rehearsed, learned her verse, and on the day of the competition, performed in front of a judge. And this judge actually enjoyed our girl’s performance, and awarded her the highest mark. She was a winner!
I was a winner! (Yes, this is a true story about yours truly.)
Yet our story doesn’t end with this win…Instead…
…after the weekend competition was over, back in the choir room, I stayed behind to talk with my choir teacher. Still elated from my win, I wanted to talk with her about what comes next for me and singing. Yet, instead of congratulating me and celebrating with me, my teacher actually said to me “I don’t know what was up at that competition. There was something wrong with those judges. Those who should have won lost.” Her favorite students hadn’t won any prizes.
At that moment, my “win” turned into deep shame. I stopped singing and no longer signed up for choir and music classes, My electives turned to computer science and yearbook production. I no longer loved singing.
Fear is holding you back.…
While there are so many reasons that we may choose to shut down and hide our creative passions from the world, I think the biggest thing that stands in our way is fear. We fear what others will say to us or about us. Some of us have had experiences, like I did in middle school, that crushed our creative spirit.
I didn’t sing again for 16 years. Let that sink in. That one piece of criticism held me back from pursuing something that I loved, something I was passionate about for 5840 days. Instead of letting the “win” of the competition fuel my passion for singing, I let my choir teacher’s criticism shape my identity into “I am not a singer.”
You draw because you have a creative spirit. You have a passion for the medium. Yet, you tell yourself “I’m not that good.”
My question to you “Is it really your voice saying that to you?”
I imagine at some point you did show your work to someone. Maybe early on when you first started to draw? And what was the result of that attempt? Was that person encouraging? Or did they criticize?
We are so hard-wired to take criticism leveled at us as the gospel truth. As much as our passionate and creative energies are under the surface waiting to be released, there is an even greater energy of fear that holds that passion back. Fear is the cage. And we need to set ourselves free from that fear of judgment or criticism if we show people just how passionate and creative we really are.
Practice sharing a bit every day…
If you practice sharing it – a little everyday – soon you will be sharing without thinking about it. Simply practice and share it! It’s all about practice and they say “practice makes perfect.”
Is there a friend, a teacher, or a mentor in your life with whom you can share your drawings? If so, schedule time with that person, and say “I draw. I need practice showing people my drawings. Will you let me practice and show you what I’ve done?”
Another idea is to join an artist group (or two or three) on social media – Facebook has hundreds of them. Find a group that encourages members to share their art. I’ve found in general that the artists in these groups are very encouraging of each other and support the passions of other members.
Take a drawing class where there’s interaction between you and the teacher. Look for classes on-line – many art schools right now are teaching classes remotely due to Covid – so you aren’t limited to classes in your geographic area. You might find classes where teachers specifically work with helping students find their voice and build confidence in their selves as well as their art skills. Sign up for a class.
Make a point to share a little bit everyday. Find different channels around you – practice sharing with different people and different forums. Pay special attention to positive messages of encouragement. Keep a notebook handy and record the positive feedback you get. Read those to yourself from time to time and use those messages to encourage you to remain confident in your art.
Exploring your passions and freeing yourself from inner criticism and fear may lead you on adventures that you don’t yet know you need. I didn’t sing for 16 years, but when I finally found myself singing freely and passionately again in a choir, I ended up on a choir tour in Germany. I ended up on a trip of a lifetime – my first international trip overseas – with a wonderful group of travel companions. I met beautiful people, walked in parks, toured castles and cathedrals, and making new friends. And later my singing adventures continued through community theater groups performing such musicals as Godspell, Into the Woods, and Seussical the Musical.
While I’m thankful for these adventures, it’s hard not to have regrets and wonder what I missed out on for the 16 years I didn’t sing.
Transforming my own fears about criticism into self-confidence has spearheaded me into my life’s next adventure – helping my readers and students break free from what holds them back from living creative, passionate lives. I get to have conversations and encourage creative souls such as yourself show others your art. How can life get any better then that?
So what’s your next step, dear reader?
I hope it will be you sending me pictures of your art!
Do you (or someone you know) struggle with creative self-doubt? Would you like to talk with someone about how to transform fear of criticism into exploring your creativity confidently and expressing yourself to the fullest? If so….
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