This is the first in a new series of articles I’m writing about The Artist’s Life. On this blog, I want to share more personal insights into what I do, and how and why I do it, in the hope that my work as an artist will make more meaningful connections with all kinds of people. Most importantly, I’ve learned that as a working artist I’m not the only person having these thoughts and feelings. Through the Artist’s Life series I want to reach out to other creative people to reassure, inspire and spark discussion, with the ultimate goal of fostering happier and more productive lives for all people who are driven to create.
Living in fear
I’m often stricken with fear. The sensation of impending doom leads to feelings of panic. I literally feel as if the world—at least my world—is coming to an end.
Is this at all rational?
My fear revolves around a range of topics and situations. Sometimes my fear is triggered by something that’s just happened (or might be about to happen). Just as often, my fear comes in the middle of the night, when I wake up afraid of something that on later examination makes no sense whatsoever but still seems rooted in reality.
Most often, my anxiety is based on a fear of failure. People won’t like my work, I’ll blow a big opportunity, I’ve done everything wrong. I hate some of the artworks I create; do they indicate I have no real talent? Sometimes my fears are about money or, more specifically, the fear of not having enough of it. Have I chosen the wrong career? Frequently my feelings of dread come from looming deadlines that seem impossible to meet. The worst fear is not living up to my own expectations—and the expectations of myself that I imagine others have of me. My list of fears goes on and on.
Living with confidence
Many people have heard the saying “fake it till you make it”. Although I think this a trite cliché and grossly oversimplifies the challenges of modern life, I do believe in the basic principle. Sometimes, when I’m feeling anxious, all I have to do to alleviate the dreadful feeling is to recognize that my fear is irrational and remind myself that everything will be OK. (More often than not, I have to tell this to myself multiple times, but eventually—and usually, very quickly—it works.)
Practicing the belief that “all will be OK” as a way of finding happiness is an ancient tactic. Greek, Roman, Chinese and especially eastern religions all relate examples of the belief in the power of conviction. I think this is what is meant by the cliché: if you don’t feel confident, successful and at peace, just pretend you are, at least for now. With time, we see that our fears usually do not come to pass. And on the rare occasion that our worst fears do come true, we similarly discover they weren’t as bad as we expected or we’re able to handle the situation better than we thought we could. We might call this sense of confidence “faith”.
I believe that finding happiness, and the end of all fear, comes down to being in control of our own internal thought processes. Our minds are a combination of emotion and logic, and most fear is definitely not logical!
The next time I feel panic or insecurity, I will remind myself to come back to the present moment and gently tell myself that everything will be alright. If I feel a lack of confidence related to my work as an artist, I will examine the reasons for the anxiety and make a plan to alleviate it. If I’m creating a new work of art, it’s OK if I scrap it and start another! Whatever the situation, I will not remain mired in fear and insecurity. I will get on with the next creative thing I choose to do, in this life that I am so grateful for!
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