Overcoming Fear as an Aspiring Artist
How Did I Get Here?
I reached a turning point a few years ago where I no longer recognized myself. Everything looked fine on the outside, I was a happy Mom of 2, with a wonderful husband, lovely home and a modest work from home job, but on the inside I felt like a house at night with the lights turned off.
I was putting one foot in front of the other, but the creativity and humor and playfulness had gone. Going through the motions of life, I started to see that I was afraid. It was very eye opening to take stock of how much the fear I was carrying around with me every day contributed to my lack of joy. I had fear about doing anything new, especially something that I couldn’t guarantee would have a successful outcome. This even had an effect on my parenting.
In truth, before I reached this breaking point, I had lived under a lot of fear and perfectionism for most of my life. As a child and teenager I was a major people pleaser. I always got straight A’s, and leaned hard into anything where I sensed my odds of being the best were high. My self-worth was always tied to performance and success, but as you can imagine, it never truly made me happy. I felt happy temporarily a lot of the time, because I was always putting it all on the line to reach those goals. Unfortunately, the high didn’t last. The problem with this is that validation was always from the outside. This gets pretty exhausting to sustain that constant stream of praise.
This journal entry is a look back at some of the milestones that have helped me get to the place I am now—someone who is living her dream of being a Professional Artist after 20 years of dreaming, set backs and excuses.
I wish I could go back and give myself a hug in that moment, because the truth is, I really needed it. I was super lonely and overwhelmed as a stay-at-home Mom trying to get back into contributing professionally, or more importantly just getting to know myself again. After a year and a half of working really hard in small side hustles in hopes that someone would notice, I realized that I was unhappy trying to prove myself to others when what I really needed was approval from myself.
In reality, I was sitting on massive amounts of education, a Masters degree, lots of professional experience, and talent. I was also completely terrified of putting myself “out there” because of fear of failure, and therefore I was stuck. I was also carrying a lot of emotional pain from some traumatic things I had been through, and this translated into being afraid of making new friends and being afraid of generally being seen in order to avoid hurt. I didn’t trust other people, but mostly I didn’t trust myself and my own resilience.
Starting my Own Business
I finally got tired of the put downs and long hours in my low paying work-from-home agency job, and I reached down deep to discover that I still had dreams and thankfully, some low burning embers of self respect. I decided to strike out on my own as an Executive Assistant under my own name. This idea had terrified me previously but, I took the step and this was when doors really started to open for me.
I dedicated myself to showing consistency and integrity in the services I provided. I treated everything I did for my clients as I would for my own business. Even though I invested in no marketing, I started to get more and more referrals. Clients trusted me, and I met so many amazing Creative Entrepreneurs. Together, we built many incredible programs, courses, and experiences. I learned a ton.
I moved into learning more about Marketing, Design and eventually got my Online Business Management Certification in 2019. I began to see that each of these Entrepreneurs I worked for were so successful mainly for one reason; they weren’t afraid.
Any problem or set back had a solution. Things were hard, and scary and they would be misunderstood, unfollowed (gasp), “unliked”, disliked but everything had a way out and the ultimate work they did was more important so… they kept going. As a result, these business owners had huge influence and success.
Friendship and Being Brave
I came to a cross-roads at that point about whether or not to continue as I had been—playing small, staying safe from hurt and failure—or if it was time to make some changes. Maybe God had a bigger plan for my life than the safe one I had mapped out.
At this point I decided to have some branding photos taken…another small step. Little did I know that my photographer would end up becoming one of my very best friends, and a true champion of my abilities. She made me feel really seen and understood for the first time in years. She has this gift with people, like a true gift. Many of the things I’ve described I really can’t imagine having done without her support. On my 40th birthday, she read me a full chapter from Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness, and the first light went on.
I was actually afraid of success. I had been waiting for perfection or for someone to discover my secret amazingness before stepping out of my comfort zone. (Fun fact; this is a bad idea.) I would say to myself, “I’ll take the next step as soon as I have the time to make a dazzling body of artwork… before I even release a single thing.” Or the even more irrelevant, “As soon as I lose that weight, then I’ll have the life I really want.” Meanwhile life was moving on regardless of my accolades or dress size.
I now see that there is no way to guarantee that you can prevent yourself from ever being hurt or disappointed again and, in hindsight, that’s exactly what I was trying to do.
Investing in Myself Financially
I started investing in myself financially and replacing critical voices from myself and from my past with voices of people who believed in me.I hired a Money Mindset Coach. I worked with an Intuition Coach. I worked with a gifted copywriter on my Business Management site. I did mentor sessions about Branding, the Enneagram and tapping into my vision for the direction of my business.
Finding a Supportive Online Community
In February 2021 I discovered an incredible community for Artists by Lindsay Emery and Allie Dattilio called The Studio Source. This was a game changer for me as I walked through the steps to reconfigure my business to an art business model, transforming many of the things I already knew about business to work around my passion for painting.
There are so many truly wonderful supportive people in the online space, and you don’t have to go it alone. These mentors and this group have given me a foundation for starting to create creative work again. It’s the piece of the puzzle that has been missing for me all these years. You don’t have to get it perfect before you start. You just have to start.
The amazing thing? It’s working. I’m trusting myself. I know who I am. I’m also surrounded by incredible artists who are genuinely wishing me success. How did I not know this world existed? Everyone in my peer groups and online collectives have been so kind.
Resilience and Knowing Your Worth
The truth is that the journey of the artist is best enjoyed without the looming eyes of perfectionism. Once you’re in “the arena” as Brene Brown calls it, you see that everyone else is just as vulnerable as you are even if they are further along on their path. You see that the main difference between those who are visible/putting themselves out there/ showing up and those who are waiting in the wings is this; one is afraid of failure and one is not. One person sees failure as the final word and deciding factor of self-worth, and the other sees it as a learning experience. I’m no longer afraid if people see me changing and growing. I no longer pretend to have it all together.
As a parent, I now understand this to be a growth mindset. If my son tries something and it doesn’t work out, we adjust and decide whether to try again and work harder or if we should move on to something else. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could start parenting ourselves this way too?
How profound it was to realize that, in the end, I was the only thing in my way.
I don’t have to wait for anyone to give me permission to pursue my dreams. I don’t have to be discovered like Audrey Hepburn was in her ballet class. No one has to pick me out of a crowd and say “you’ve got potential.” I get to decide to step into a new journey with the only guaranteed outcome being that I get to keep going no matter what.
Confidence in My Own Path
I’ve come to a place of peace that my success won’t look like everyone’s and that’s totally ok.
I don’t have a big desire to have a large following. I don’t need to make 7 figures. I probably won’t look like a fashion model posing in a magazine featuring my paintings in a grand Traditional Interior, BUT I do get to share my gifts and live my dreams every single day if I make the choice of action over fear. It’s about the point at which you decide that you love being an artist, and you wouldn’t trade it for something easier and you choose it again and again.
“Success is walking from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”
I finally feel ready to try something new, because no matter what I end up making or how it’s received, it’s already a success. I’m putting my best thoughts and talents and imperfect efforts into the world with intention, and that to me is the true measure of success.