Uh Fack, part3 :The big confidence crisis.

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ElsaKroese's avatar

uffering from a lack of self-confidence is a roadblock that you guys have mentioned a lot. It’s a very problematic thing, and one that I am more familiar with than I care to be. People in any creative field suffer extra from a lack of confidence, the effects can seriously harm the creative process and the often personal nature of our work makes us extra vulnerable.

It’s double worth taking a shot at this topic, because a lot of the other roadblocks on our list are closely related to the big confidence crisis. So, make yourself comfortable, get some snacks and prepare for a lengthy blog! :P

The symptoms:
  • Avoiding risks / the unknown.
  • Procrastination.
  • Reluctance to share work.
  • Avoiding challenges.
  • Fear of committing to a piece/design.
  • Fear of (/avoiding) critique.

All of these can be a direct result of a self-confidence shortage. And each symptom hinders us in being creative, improving our skills and expressing ourselves.
Maybe you were never the most confident of people, or maybe you've lost confidence over the years because of unsupportive people in your surroundings, or after receiving harsh critique. Life can be very effective in robbing people of their self-confidence. The good news is that, people are very resourceful (and stubborn!) and confidence can be regained.

Confident artists would be able to rationalize and dismiss any destructive thoughts about their own work. They would reveal those thoughts for what they truly are, by definition unhelpful and often false claims. Ideally destructive thoughts wouldn't even pop up, but we're talking super-confidence-buffs now. The question is, what will it take to become more like that.

My experience, coffee and yoga.
I’m one of those “never been super confident” types. Generally I can manage, but I’ve had phases where the topic of this blog was one of my biggest demons. Tears were shed, artist blocks happened, I would hide, throw away sketchbooks. In short, it caused a lot of frustration stress and anxiety. That might make me look like a teenager having a fit, but it’s true.  None of it did me any good, obviously. So, what did?

The following might sound backwards, but I found that I was able to replenish my confidence as an artist, by fixing personal non-art related problems. At the core of it, I believe confidence in your work comes from being content with the person that you are. Not from becoming a better artist. You become a better artist because you are confident, not the other way around. In essence: believe in your own capabilities. If you aren't able to do that (I know I certainly wasn't), then you know you need to address the things that prevent you from being more like the person you desire to be.

Changing yourself is hard though. When I wasn't doing so well in 2013 I felt like there was a ton of things that I needed to do differently. Of course I told myself I knew how to fix all of these things, and in theory I probably did, but I didn't feel strong (or confident, if you will) enough to take action. I wasn't truly believing that I could do it, and that kept me from making a real attempt.
With some outside help, I learned that I had distill the goals that would lead me towards becoming a better me followed by picking them off one by one, starting out with whichever one seemed easiest to tackle. Then I found out (the hard way) that I needed to quantify that goal and add structure.

My first target was something terribly mundane: Coffee.

I drunk a lot of coffee. And by a lot, I mean that there was blood in my caffeine. Often I had told myself:  "Just drink less coffee dummy. How hard can that be?". Of course, that didn't work (unless making me feel stupid for failing at something so easy, counts as result).
I realized that there's no structure in the goal of "drinking less coffee". How did I know if I was doing it right? Was one cup a day less enough to make a difference? When had I succeeded in making real change? 
So, I made myself a promise that I would try to drink no more than 4 cups a day. Mind you, I never really admitted to myself that I had quantified it like that, because I was afraid that when ever I had, say 5 cups (which would still be a big improvement) I'd feel like I had failed myself. But in hindsight I realize that in the back of my mind I had set that as a goal, and how important it was that I did.

I changed my coffee drinking behaviour over a day, and stuck with it ever since.
Sure there's days on which I "sin" and have an extra cup by mistake. There's also plenty of days where I have only three, so I'm at peace with that. It was a success.

Once I had proven to myself that I could make changes in my behaviour even when I was feeling down; in fact that I could make them relatively easy if I would formulate them properly and bring myself to commit to it, I knew I could try something more challenging (I felt more confident towards creating change).

The next thing on my list was exercise, and I tackled it the same way as my "coffee problem". I structured and quantified it. I would exercise three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I picked yoga. A surf class had introduced me to it the year before, and I learned that it was nothing like the new age ‘whoo-hoo’ that I expected it to be (Not that there's anything wrong with whoo-hoo. It's just not for me.).
I kept it up for a full year. Sure, every now and then I slacked and had to police myself into doing yoga in the weekend because I had skipped a day or two - but that's not the point. The point is, that I was doing yoga! And it was doing wonders for my shoulders and back, it would energize me. I felt much better about myself.

On the flip side, I've been having trouble finding the energy for it in the past months. Grief and trying to make or maintain changes in your life - which both require a lot of energy- don't go well together. I mention it, because it's good a reality check. I’m not presenting a magic fix, and change will continue to require your effort and commitment. (I'm slowly getting back into it though. I exercised today!)

"Elsa, none of this is about art! We don't care about your coffee or your yoga habits."
I hear you! Let me explain how it all fits together.
On the days where I meet the goals of my small, non art related, life improvements, I felt more confident in my art too. Especially when ever I am on a success-streak. It gave me just that little bit of a buffer that I needed to handle destructive thoughts. That in turn would allow me to crank out that next Spindrift page, to send those commission sketches out to a client, to pick up my sketchbook and do some studies and so on.

I don’t think confidence in art comes from being a better artist per-see, as your scope of what a good artists is will grow with your skills. So there’s a good chance that you will always compare yourself to a better artists and find your skills lacking. It’s how you deal with that, that makes the difference between confident artists and unconfident artists.

The overview:
  • You can rebuild confidence.
  • It comes from being content with who you are, and knowing and trusting your capabilities.
  • If you have trouble with that, then try to make changes. Tackle one at the time.
  • Making changes is easier with clear (and when possible, quantified)  goals and structure.
  • Being confident in every-day life, will make you more confident as an artist.
  • Be proud of all the progress you make!
Your turn!
If you gotten all the way through to the end of this, I salute you. I’m guessing you are interested in making changes, and combating the big confidence crisis. And now is as good a time to start as any!

Here’s the scoop:
Basically, I challenge you to do what I did. Imagine the person that you would like to be (person, not artists). Define the things you need to work on. Then pick an easy one (seriously, pick an easy one. This is a judgement free zone!). Quantify your desired improvement if you can, then add structure.
And the final step: Commit to it.

Example : I want to have more contact with my mum.
+ structure and quantified: I’m going to call my mum every Thursday evening.

Go on and post it in the comments if you want, so that we can congratulate you with taking a step towards becoming a better you! Hell, it might even give you a confidence boost to share it! :D
If you chose to participate, add a thumbnail to your comment of your one of your works which you would like to have featured, and it will be so!  Think of it as a small nudge of encouragement and appreciation :D. (I will trust you guys with keeping suggestions appropriate ;) )


<da:thumb id="435726536"/>   Dreams of flight by RTNinja  Thranduil - The Peace of Lorien by toherrys <da:thumb id="297554439"/>  Durin's Sons by ArtByEdyn

I would also love to hear about your confidence struggles and your thoughts on the blog. Finally, lets take a moment to appreciate the wonderful irony of the fact that I was very insecure about posting this blog, but that it didn’t stop me :D.

For anyone who’s interested in giving yoga a try (I can recommend it to all of you pc-hour-grinders out there. Especially if you have back/neck/shoulder issues), this is a great place for nooblers to start out: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0o0kNe…

Previous 'Uh Fack' blogs:
Uh Fack, part1: Improving, angst and frustration.P
rogress. A thing we all want, right? Some more than others perhaps, but I think I can safely say that it's the one thing all artists want; to be a better artist.
In the past few years I've been struggling with this topic a lot. I ran into one of those phases in which I learned a lot of what I was doing wrong, but didn't manage to work on any solutions for these problems. I felt like going backwards, and I grew increasingly frustrated with my own art. I'm progressing, but hardly as much as I aspire to - while I do spend most of my waking hours drawing.
Sure, a bunch of my comic work allows me to study and practice - but it's a very narrow and same-y kind of study- and there isn't really room for mistakes or experiment because of time constrains.
So, this is what I found to be a super effective 4 steps plan to become an unhappy and frustrated artist:
Be a perfectionist. Preferably with high ambitions. (actually, just step 1 would get you a long way with be
  Uh Fack, part 1.5 : Some thoughts on perfectionA
nxiousness, frustration and the likes have been effecting me as an artist, holding me back in my pursuit of progress and happiness. I've noticed two things about that: Taking the time to dissect the problem helps me to find the right answers, And I'm all but alone in dealing with these problems.
For me there's two types of challenges in becoming a better artist: the mental blockades, and the actual practicing. The 2nd challenge is the one that is being addressed aplenty in the form of an seemingly infinite numbers of tutorials, live streams, demo's and what not. But if you find yourself struggling with the first challenge there isn't quite as much to work with. Plenty funny, recognizable and sometimes even consoling memes and comics about the topic have been made, but usually they offer little solution. That's why I've decided to focus on the first challenge for now.
Part of the condition of being an artist is the yearning for perfection, e
  Uh Fack 2: What makes you unhappy as an artist?W
elcome back, and hi to all the fresh meat!
This is a blog series aimed at helping artists (including myself) who struggle with negative thought patterns in their art: lack of self confidence, hating your own work, feeling frustrated or discouraged, you name it.
I've officially dubbed the series "Uh Fack", since the acronym for the Unhappy and frustrated Artists club sounds like that. Not the most elegant of names, but then I realized that it is suiting the subject ;).
So here's the scoop. No more long and general introductions, this was the last one- (it's ok you can cheer, I've no feelings ;)). I think I've said enough about my motivations for writing these in the first two journals.
From here on I'm just going to address mental roadblock's from the list below, one at the time. And whenever possible I'll combine them with something more active like critique rounds, compliment rounds (!XD) and perhaps a hangout or chat or what not.
List of Art frustrations, in n

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WhiskyEcho's avatar
After I read your latest post, I had a quick glimps at your journal and remembered my membership of the "Uh Fack"-Club. :D

A friend of mine showed me a video of Jazza, "What To Draw... When You Don't Know What To Draw":www.youtube.com/watch?v=8juByH…
I thought I post it here, as it might be helpful. :) For me it was, because at 2:25 he describes with every word what kept me from picking up the pencil for years.