The life of an artist isn’t always the easiest one. Because all art is subjective, there will always be people and critics who just don’t like your work. If you begin to hear too much negativity about your creations you may even start to take it to heart. When you start to doubt yourself and talent as an artist, know that you are not alone.
Everyone, but especially artists, understands what it’s like to doubt themselves from time to time. This isn’t a topic discussed in most art classes, and it can seem difficult to overcome those feelings but there are things you can do to stay on track mentally. You CAN push through the self-doubt you may be experiencing!
While there’s no one right way to stay focused, if you need a jumping-off point to inspire your confidence again then here are some practical techniques for you. Realizing your dreams as an artist doesn’t have to be complicated.
How Do You Define Artistic Success?
Ask yourself to define success in a real concrete way. This yardstick is going to be individualistic and may not match up with even your closest friends. Maybe your goal is to have the blue checkmark next to your name on Twitter, while your friend just wants to sell one painting for more than $200. Neither of these measures of success is wrong, they’re personal.
Figuring out your own personal measure of success is the first step to determining your path towards becoming successful. (Or you may realize that by your own standards you are already quite successful.) Whether you want to gain more Instagram followers for your art, or land your dream animation job, defining success is the first step.
Until you know exactly what your goals are, it can be hard to achieve them. But success doesn’t specifically need to be a goal you have achieved. In fact, setting a goal as a measure of your personal success may not even be the best idea, because there is an element that is outside your control. You can’t make people hire you after all.
The word success doesn’t need to be synonymous with achievements. Let’s refocus on what it means to be successful. When you do this you may find that your self-doubt has no place in reality because you are already at peak performance. (And if not, there will be a clear indication of what you can do to get to peak performance.)
If you need to figure out your definition of success, use these three indicators that you know what success means to you. Spending some time reflecting on these ideals can help you refocus on what success actually means.
Try Your Hardest To Become a Successful Artist
It may seem simple to define success by whether or not you’re trying your hardest. It is all too easy to become complacent in both your artwork and the effort you put into it. With some self-reflection on whether or not you’re actually trying your hardest can help you make the positive changes in your work.
No one is telling you not to relax from time to time. Artistic burnout is a real source of stress and should be avoided. But if you have been making excuses to not work as hard as you can, you may not be living up to your potential. (Yes, that sounds like something a parent would say, but your parents probably had a point.)
If you are selling yourself short with minimal effort, you won’t see the same amount of success as others around you. Your goals may as well be dreams since you’re unlikely to achieve them. You may not be able to control what’s going on in the world around you, but you can control yourself and how hard you’re working.
At the end of a long day, if you can look back and think to yourself “I gave it my all.” That can be a great measure of your personal success. You may still have a long way to go, but working hard is an achievable measurement of success. If you are trying your hardest daily, you will find that you’re succeeding daily. But hard work is on you, it has to be self-motivated.
Check Where You Are Headed In Your Art Career
All the effort in the world isn’t going to matter if you don’t know what you’re working for. If you’re working your hardest for a dead-end career move will it be worth it in the end? Can you find success if you’re not heading towards anything substantial? These are personal questions that you will need to answer for yourself.
Taking time to evaluate your path can be a great way to determine what success means to you. It may even inspire you to try a new artistic medium or to go back to art school to learn some new techniques that can help you move forward at a different pace. Knowing where you are heading with your life is an important step.
Don’t get so caught up in your day to day life that you blindly follow the path you’re on with your head down. The art world can have some great, unexpected twists, but you have to keep an eye out for them. Stay focused on what you want and where you’re heading so you don’t continue with a project that doesn’t match up with your own definition of success.
Expect Bumps in the Road
It’s unreasonable to believe that anything is going to be simply handed to you. Even the most talented artists in the world had to overcome obstacles. These bumps in the road can happen to anyone and everyone. Don’t let that distract you from your major goals and objectives. Success isn’t defined by the route you take to get there!
It can be scary to have these unexpected challenges in your life. But think of these bumps as the ultimate plot twist. If a story was too easy and simple, it wouldn’t be interesting. Your challenges can help you to become even more successful, plus you’ll have a story to tell about how you came to be.
Use logic to determine whether a bump means you should keep going or change directions. Any hurdles you encounter should either drive you to push harder than you ever have before to get through them or change where you’re headed. Having the grit to get through the bumps will ultimately make you a more successful person and artist.
There is no shame in changing your path for an easier one, knowing where you’re headed, dealing with the bumps, and working hard are the recipe for success. When you have all three of these things working together you’ll become unstoppable!
Behave Like You’re Already a Successful Artist
Once you understand what your personal success will be, next comes the fake it ‘til you make it portion of life. “Adulting” became a hashtag primarily because most people are just guessing and faking their way through life. After you’ve figured out what you think success looks like, start living like you’re already successful.
You are the hero of your own story after all, so what does the successful hero do? Maybe you need to start waking up early to have some extra time and motivation to practice painting or drawing before your workday begins. Your art will improve the more time you put into it, so it’s important to schedule time into your day to work on your own personal creative projects.
Wheaties may be the breakfast of champions but is it the breakfast of successful people? Only you can decide. But as you adjust your habits towards how you believe successful people behave, your self-doubt will melt away. After all, when you act like you’re powerful why shouldn’t you be successful?
Stepping into the role of success may seem silly at first, but if the successful version of you is radically different from the current way of life you’re living, these changes can make a big impact. Believing in your artistic abilities and talents is just as important as actual skill and talent. Be your own best advocate and choose to act successfully!
Keep Moving Forward By Learning and Practicing More Art
Stagnancy is the bane of success. If you keep doing the same things every day and you aren’t getting the results you need or you would like: then something has to change. Even successful people have to make changes to keep moving forward and growing their success and you should do the same.
Have you seen Finding Nemo? Dory says “just keep swimming” and that’s what you need to do! If you aren’t seeing your drawings improve by working on one sketch a day, you may need to increase your daily drawing goal. If working on your paintings only on the weekend isn’t allowing you the chance to get the details that you’d like, rearrange your schedule so you can paint daily.
If you aren’t sure where to draw inspiration from anymore, it might even be time to get back into a classroom setting. There are many art classes for every medium available in person and online. Either get back to basics or learn a new skill set. Learning something new can be a great motivation to grow and succeed, but it can also help during your creative dry spells.
A class can be a great way to get feedback on your craft as well, which could lead to new breakthroughs. It can even provide the insight you needed to improve that one little thing you never could get just right. A classroom also gives you a safe place to try something new and take some risks.
You can also keep your artistic career moving forward by attending conferences and workshops so you can meet new people. (A wider network can lead to more job opportunities.) If you aren’t seeing the progress you’re hoping for, find a conference to attend. Worst case scenario you spend some time hearing others inspiring stories and you get back on track.
If you are looking for more ways to banish self-doubt, reach out to your artistic mentor or idol. Maybe they have some words of wisdom to share with you to help you keep moving forward and grow into the successful artist you know you can be.
A Final Thought
Self-doubt happens to everyone. Being able to overcome these doubts as an artist will require a mindset shift and some hard work on your part but you can do it. Figuring out your definition of success is only the first step to crushing self-doubt. Every artist will take a different journey to success. Success can ebb and flow but having confidence in yourself will never steer you wrong.