“Self-confidence grows every time you keep a promise to yourself.” —Asha Dornfest
Sometimes everything just feels right. You feel confident and relaxed, as if life and your creative projects are all swimming along sweetly. Other times, a fluctuation in your creativity, subtle anxiety or momentary doubt can knock your confidence and lead you to question everything you create.
These ebbs and flows of creativity bruise your confidence if you let them, increasing creative unease but it doesn’t have to be that way. Confidence can be fluid but whether perpetual or spontaneous, insecurity and anxiety about your work hinders your ability to create, impeding progress and only serves to frustrate you.
If confidence is lacking, even contemplating another day of working on a project can unsettle the most dedicated of souls. Creative beliefs can either make plans possible or they can trip you up and thwart the whole process. To find yourself flourishing instead of floundering, no matter the circumstance, read on.
Allow Yourself to Feel What You Feel
Never berate yourself for feeling how you do. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Some days you wake up feeling like you can take on the world; other times even the idea of action is thwarted by the seemingly immovable force of insecurity. Our work and the lens through which we view it is easily influenced by our emotions. Just as our world is always in a dynamic state of flux, our confidence too can have its peaks and troughs.
Feeling insecure about your work only means your human and part of being human is allowing ourselves to be ourselves, being imperfect but creating anyway. Accepting that sometimes we fail, feel inadequate or insecure. Instead of responding with self-criticism and negative self-talk, talk to yourself kindly and be supportive of your goals and dreams, which can provide the reassurance you need to continue.
“Self-worth comes from one thing: thinking that you are worthy,” says Marc Chernoff, co-author of ‘1,000 little things happy, successful people do differently’. Frequently our own lack of confidence in our art stems from it being so sacred. Opening the creative conduit and offering our all takes courage but a part of us too. Everything we create has who we are hidden deep in our offerings. Allowing yourself to feel how you feel without judging, and responding compassionately, is key in riding the waves of your creativity and confidence too.
It’s easy to think that rest of the world has got everything together – including their writing and art – but this is an illusion and only serves to draw you further into a spiral of not feeling good enough or creative enough to write or make your art.
Notice how you’re comparing yourself with others to back-up your [false] beliefs then drop them. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Just as everyone has their own unique journey, everyone has their own process too.
Whether through judging where you are in relation to where you want to be, or through seeing the creative success of others and thinking you’ll never succeed, comparing in this way is always a waste of your precious energy and a big drain on confidence.
“Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something we aren’t. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it is only when you accept everything you are, and aren’t, that you will truly find happiness and success,” says Marc Chernoff. There will always be others you deem more talented or successful than yourself but instead of comparing, turn the focus back on to you, and boost your self-belief by remembering how far you have come.
Believe in Yourself
“Even people with exceptional talents can feel insecure and struggle with low or unhealthy self-esteem,” says psychologist and creativity expert, Douglas Alby, who recommends honestly recognising your abilities and accomplishments, without qualifying or deflating them, as in ‘Oh, anyone could do that.’
“Another effective approach is the cognitive therapy strategy of getting aware of demeaning statements – especially automatic thoughts – you make about yourself (or accept from others), such as “I’m no good at doing that…” – then arguing the logic, validity, merits and faults of the statement, such as: “Well, maybe I am not as skilled as whoever.. but I have been told my work is good and I can get better if I choose to work at it.”
Dropping critical thinking allows you to create with confidence. “Make sure that you’re nurturing your process,” says Todd Henry, author of Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day. “It’s the only thing you can truly control, and it’s the thing you’ll always have regardless of where you end up.”
Believe in Your Art
The greatest gift you can give yourself for your creativity to flourish is to believe in your art. There are too many unfinished manuscripts, canvases and projects, don’t leave your unique offering undone.
Even if you’re the most creatively introverted soul, or shy with both work and world, create. It’s one of the most exquisite parts of being human. Creating anything, whether through pen, piccolo or paint brush is beautiful.
“Everyone is born creative,” says Hugh MacLeod, author of ‘Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity’. “Everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.”
Children are infinitely creative. They take their crayons and colour the sun in green, grass in purple or make a person the size of a house. There’s no second guessing or creative doubt, instead they create for the love of it, the pure joy. Without concerns of outcome or ability, their whole world is their canvas, and you – with your unique combination of perspectives and skills – can also create magic.
Instead of feeling insecure about your art, believe in it and let yourself love the process. Aside from the obvious benefits, you’ll enjoy it more, which always brings confidence. “That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out,” says Tom Kelley, co-author of Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Action in pursuit of our goals helps us to see ourselves as achievers and this begins a confident new cycle.
A big part of confidence is self-trust. Regardless of where you currently sit in terms of creative confidence, when you trust yourself to be successful, to say the right thing and to finish what you start, you can be much more proactive in both your creativity and life.
No one knows how well their work will be received but without trust, those creative dreams will always remain depressingly far from actualisation. “You don’t know if your idea is any good the moment it’s created. Neither does anyone else,” says Hugh Macleod, in his book, ignore everybody: and 39 other keys to creativity.
“The most you can hope for is a strong gut feeling that it is. And trusting your feelings is not as easy as the optimists say it is. There’s a reason why feelings scare us—because what they tell us and what the rest of the world tells us are often two different things.”
Rediscover your true, authentic state of being. You are worthy, you are capable, creative, and have your own magnificent blend of gifts to offer our world. As clinched as it sounds, there really is no one quite like you. So as Mary Oliver said, what are you going to do with your one and precious life?
Let Go of Limiting Beliefs
When feeling insecure about your writing and art, it can be tricky to even muster enough faith to keep going. Yet no matter how convincing, you decide which beliefs support and assist you and which ones stay. If your current beliefs about yourself do not serve you, there’s nothing to stop you from reframing your thoughts.
Everyone experiences situations in which their confidence flags. However, labelling ourselves as lacking in self-confidence involves making an assessment that we are unable to do something, or take effective action, in a certain area of life.
“An artist who sits down to paint but is thoroughly convinced that she “isn’t really a painter” is already heading down a path where options for creation are limited,” says writer and creative entrepreneur, Tanner Christensen. “She’s more inclined to wind up with a blank canvas and a headache than an inspirational piece of artwork.”
Confidence is all to do with what we believe about ourselves. If you’re so sure that you’ll never be able to achieve what you want, you’re thwarting your progress before you even begin but regardless of where you currently sit in terms of creative confidence, let go of unhelpful beliefs and begin to build up your inner strength from this moment onwards.
“Belief in your creative capacity lies at the heart of innovation,” says David Kelley, co-author of Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Believe in yourself and your abilities, being a victim is the easiest thing in the world but being proactive and choosing to create any way – to grow in both your art and your world – that is creative courage.
Just as your creativity can waver, your creative confidence can rise and fall. “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death,” says Steven Pressfield in his book ‘The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles’.
Always ensure that you keep moving forward, allowing yourself to embrace the process without judging your work as flawed or inferior as you create. You’ll not only enhance your self-belief through decisive action but you’ll enjoy it more too, which will heighten your passion for the project.
Create for Yourself
“When we spend all of our time and energy creating on-demand, it’s easy to lose touch with the passions that fuel our best work,” says Todd Henry.
“We grow used to leveraging our abilities for the sole purpose of meeting others’ expectations rather than exploring new possibilities and taking risks. We may even experience a backup of ideas and thoughts, or feel like we’re subverting our own life and passions for the sake of everyone else.”
Vow to dedicate a portion of every day to your personal projects, the ones you do for the love of it. Choose to see yourself as an achiever starting a confident new cycle of creativity. “By integrating Unnecessary Creating into your routine, you open a channel for that pent-up creative energy to be released,” adds Henry.
The most powerful motivator is successful action but if you’re working on a big project and do not know where to begin, it can feel overwhelming. There are just too many options and tasks, holding the entire contents in your head is the swiftest path to feeling anxious and more overwhelmed, which can cause your confidence nosedive through the sheer choice.
Without focusing on a single task, you’ll dilute your creativity and your productivity too can also be worn a little thin.
You wouldn’t try to write an entire novel or non-fiction book in one sitting but many aspiring writers visualise their projects just like that, in their entirety instead of breaking it down into manageable chunks.
Lists can come into their own for every creative venture. For fiction writing projects in particular, create lists for chapter ideas, settings, character names, traits and goals for instance; for non-fiction or any creative endeavour, mind-mapping and list-making can offer both inspiration and mentally liberate you from that feeling of being overwhelmed by a project.
“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations,” as Orson Welles once said. Creativity is enhanced by boundaries, creating them and focusing on one thing at a time actually aids your creative expression and avoids the overwhelm that can cause a dip in your confidence. Break larger projects into manageable chunks, choose a single task at a time and focus exclusively on that.
Fake it Till You Make it
What we believe about the world is our reality. Change your beliefs and you can change your reality. Every time you think your work is inferior, your limiting beliefs perpetuate your lack of confidence. We were not born with negative opinions of ourselves, we learned them, and as a result these opinions have an emotional hold on us.
Such pressure can cause confidence to evaporate and create anxiety about your work. Nip these self-limiting thoughts in the bud. Strong self-belief thrives on the ability to choose your beliefs at all times. Right now take the decision to back yourself, to trust and believe in yourself consciously from this moment onwards.
All change begins with a decision. All decisions spring from a choice. Choose to show faith in yourself and resolve to be one of the people in life who oozes self-belief. The more you believe in yourself, the more others will. As Asha Dornfest once said: “Self-confidence grows every time you keep a promise to yourself.” Begin now.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too… Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” —WH Murray
You may also enjoy:
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” Award-winning author Maya Angelou.
“Somewhere, deep inside, you don’t believe what they say. You think it’s a matter of time before you stumble and ‘they’ discover the truth.” Former CEO of Girls, Inc. Joyce Roché
“At any time I still expect that the no-talent police will come and arrest me.” Mike Myers