Self Doubt


Excerpted from Chapter 8 of Living The Artist’s Life

Every living artist I’ve ever worked with, and every deceased artist I’ve ever studied, have all shared one simple trait: each of them has gone through varying levels of self-doubt; each of them, at different times in their lives, has questioned the worth of their talent. 

No one that I know of has ever been exempt from this.  For some, like the poet Sylvia Plath (who was also a talented illustrator), their spells of doubt and depression were mind-numbing, paralyzing, and, in the end, beyond their control. 

For others, like Picasso, those spells were nothing more than… a minor dip on their emotional graph.

However severe or mild your spells might be, I bring this up to assure you that they are common, and that, after you weather each one, your confidence and perceptions will likely grow- provided that inner growth is a process you embrace, and are willing to struggle toward. 

Self-doubt: the necessary mirror

I feel that spells of self-doubt occur so that we will reassess our lives, and work.  For some, these spells can virtually destroy them if they don’t keep their emotions in check.  But for most artists, the spells serve as a tool for reevaluating their work, and deciding whether they want to continue in the same vein. 

In other words, this entire process is a necessary thing and, like most occurrences in life, can have a positive outcome-but only if you decide that it can.

Self-doubt: the edge of passion

Yes, you’re supposed to enjoy the gift of creation, and create with it what you can.  But if that same gift doesn’t on occasion hurt, if it doesn’t make you howl with self-deprecation and questions of self-worth, if you don’t sometimes wonder whether everything you’ve done up till now is pure crap, then something’s wrong. 

You’re supposed to feel these things.  They help keep you on the edge of your passions, your inspiration, and your drive.

However it strikes you, please don’t believe that self-doubt is limited to you.  We all share it, we all struggle with it, we all struggle to overcome it.  Let it serve you in the way that it’s meant to, but always try to stay in control of it.  Like so many powerful emotions, this one can also contribute to the energy of creation.  

The antidote of work

How do you break free of self-doubt? 

You can discuss it with friends. You can whisper about it at night with your lover. You can reread this post. But really, there’s only one way that I know of to break out, and that is through work. 

Work, and then more work, and yet more work after that.  That is what you’re here to execute, that is what you must continue doing, no matter what it takes, or what it takes out of you.  Besides, what your art gives back to you is always far richer than what doubt takes away.

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