By Lisa Agaran
When you’re just starting out exploring your creativity it’s normal to feel vulnerable. Self-doubt and insecurity can surface during the creative process and especially when you feel unsure at what you’re creating. Putting our creations out into the world for people to see can leave us susceptible to outside criticism and unwanted feedback about our artwork. So how do you develop resilience while you’re developing as an artist? Here are some principles you can put into practice so that you not only develop resilience, but also protect your inner artist.
Determine the Validity. Keep in mind that everyone’s opinion is filtered through his or her own individual experiences and preferences. One person’s feedback may differ from the next. Remind yourself that any feedback (especially negative feedback) is purely subjective. Take into account who is giving the feedback, their knowledge, experience and perspective. Is this someone whose opinion and expertise you respect? Is this quality feedback that holds credibility?
Also factor in that person’s intention. Yes! I mean intention. I have had my own share of teachers who ended up in a teaching position out of necessity, not passion. And because of this, their own dissatisfaction with their art career seeps over into their teaching and onto their students. As a young artist at the time…I was pretty traumatized. So be discerning even when it comes to the instructor. Another intention is envy. Sometimes friends, fellow students and even family members who feel envious of your creativity can end up making a negative comment.
So it’s very important to filter through feedback or opinions in order to decipher its validity and where it’s coming from.
It’s Not Personal. What if you receive constructive criticism, but it still feels like an arrow through your heART. Embarking on a new path to explore your creativity can be a daunting and a scary path. Just this in it self is personal. Keep in mind it’s not about you personally, it’s about the work.
It can be helpful to create a buffer between you and your artwork. Stay very connected to what you’re creating, while at the same time have a safe distance. It’s challenging not to take negative feedback personal, but staying objective around your work can be your saving grace. Remember the feedback is directed at how to improve the artwork not towards you as a person.
Don’t Generalize. I have witnessed this happening so many times, it breaks my heart. A student received a not so favored comment and they automatically use it to create a general statement, “I’m just not good at this…or…Everything I create sucks.” I’ve been there myself. It can be automatic. Although totally normal, it can definitely be damaging to your inner artist.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because you received negative feedback doesn’t mean you’re not creative or artistic. I truly believe, that inner artist exist in all of us. It is a natural part of being human and is our birthright to be creative beings. It is vital to honor that inner artist by not attaching to those generalized thoughts about your creativity.
Don’t Compare. I can’t emphasize this enough. Everyone is at different stages in their artistic development. Some have more experience while some are just beginning. Where you’re at is exactly where you’re supposed to be…growing, learning, improving. Some things don’t happen over night…well maybe some do, but often it requires a learning curve. I believe we can learn from those around us no matter what level they’re at. Those who are stages ahead of us can help pull us forward, while beginners can offer a whole fresh and simplified perspective. Developing your artistic skills takes time. So during this process, try not to compare your work with others, practice embracing the stage you’re at.
Use it to Motivate You. Negative feedback or hearing another person’s opinion about our creation can feel as if our creativity, our work and ourselves are under attack. It’s normal to feel discouraged, frustrated or even hurt. I recommend honor those feelings as being valid, but try not to linger there. Instead use those emotions to motivate you. The Latin translation for the word “emotion” is to move or energy in motion. You can utilize that emotional energy and use it to encourage you to continue pursuing your creative passion and especially to continue to create. This can be a more productive way to cope and respond to unwanted feedback.
Be Kind To Yourself. It’s pretty common for artists and especially beginning artists to be their worst critic. Be kind to yourself during the creative process and especially while developing your artistic skills. Give yourself permission, to be exactly where you’re at, even if that involves frustration and struggle. Remember it’s all part of the creative process, the good, the bad, the ugly and beautiful. Adopt a nurturing and supportive inner voice versus one that is judgmental and self-critical. Be aware of the words you tell yourself. Are they kind and patient or harsh and self-critical? Choose kind and loving words to feed the inner child who just wants to play and create!
“Thank You! For Those Words.” I know this can be a hard one to swallow, but be thankful for the negative feedback. The very thing that causes us pain or disappointment also holds the gift of growth. Although it doesn’t feel good and can be hurtful when we hear unwanted opinions about our artwork, we learn & grow from those moments. We gain valuable insight on how we can improve. We have a choice. We can choose to allow other people’s opinions to discourage us from pursuing a creative life or we can choose to see that as an opportunity to continue to press forward.
Developing resilience will help sustain you for the creative journey and protect the inner artist that is in all of us. Continue to honor that voice that keeps calling you to be creative.
- Send some love to your artwork: Gather all your favorite and non-favorite pieces to view in one place either in your home or studio. Take notice of what pieces and even sections or part of pieces that you absolutely love and feel satisfied with. During this exercise you are not allowed to be critical or focus on what could be improved. This is an exercise to help you embrace your artistic abilities and potential.
- List of activities that bring you comfort and self-care: Hearing negative feedback or experiencing disappointment about our creations, can leaves us feeling defeated and discouraged. Make a list of those things and activities that you can do for yourself that represent comfort and self-care. Taking the time to do things that make you feel good help you recover faster.
- Creating a Nurturing Voice: Write down as many negative statements you tell yourself when it comes to your art and creativity. After you have completed the list, go back and revisit each statement and create an alternate one that comes from the nurturing voice to replace it with. Here are some examples:
“My art just isn’t as good as others?”
“This is a process and everyone is at a different stage. I’m learning and improving every time I create.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m frustrated…maybe I’m just not creative.”
“This is just part of the creative process, plus I’m just starting out, I need to be patient and give myself time.”
©2016 Lisa Agaran. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reproduced or used on other websites without permission.