Choice, Confidence, and Contrast

After the tangible evidence of your art itself, and the quality of your unique artist’s voice, the three most important pillars of success are choices made, confidence radiated, and contrast illuminated.

Choice supports growth, responsibility, and self-validation

Making choices (and giving ourselves permission to make mistakes because we’ve made a choice) is the single, strongest pillar of growth.Everything happens because somewhere along the line we made a choice. Sometimes we abdicate active choices in favor of a passive one. But make no mistake, it’s all about choices: to do this or that, or to not do this or that.

Choice can also be confusing, especially if we are leading with our intellect before we’ve checked in with our hearts. You would think that running an annual art career conference, where I have to decide on 11 to 12 different art career speakers, would indicate choices based on logic and reasoning. And, obviously, to some extent this is true.

But it’s uncanny how the speakers I’ve invited because it felt “heart right,” have been the ones who made the most difference for the most smARTist participants. Now after three years, I’ve learned that choices based on heart logic give back ten fold what choices based solely on intellect return.

What really gives you confidence…

I was raised by a mother who truly believed that praise was the foundation of self-esteem. And that self-esteem was the foundation of confidence.

She was right about the confidence part.  She was wrong about the praise.

It turns out that a great deal of research, in education, psychology, and social science, has been conducted to determine what creates self-esteem.

Praise, ironically, diminishes self-esteem because it panders to our desire to be loved. So if we do “x” and are praised for “x,” then of course we want more ‘love,’ and so we continue to do “x” or variations on “x.”

Originality, invention, chaos – all characteristics of creative behavior – are neatly killed off by praise.

So what does support self-esteem?


When we master a skill, any skill, we feel better about ourselves. And since skill is based on our competence to execute a task, we get immediate feedback about how well we have done, or not.

So next time you want a boost in confidence, choose a task from one of the 11 smARTist® presentations and execute it! 

How contrast helps you figure out what works 

One of the reasons I pack the smARTist Telesummit with a dozen or more expert speakers is to make sure artists are not stuck with one point of view, one angle on the wide world of art.

Contrast between art career experts and successful artists, and between your reactions to the different experts, gives you a chance to stay in tune with your own instincts: what feels right? What sings to you?

It’s critical to have points of view that challenge your own, because shining the bright light of contrast helps you define what is important to you.

When you notice what you don’t want or don’t like or don’t agree with, you can more clearly identify what you do want, like and agree with.

In other words, contrast, and the resistance it naturally brings up, is your friend, your ally. Embrace the light it shines on defining what you value most.

One Response to “Choice, Confidence, and Contrast”

  1. Barney Davey says:

    Hi Ariane,
    I think the greatest gift a parent can give a child is unconditional love. Further, I don’t believe it’s possible to impart high self-esteem, implied or spoken, without it.

    What is interesting and true is that no matter the circumstances from which we come, we can choose to be somebody, a person who makes something of themselves. We can choose how we want to react to any circumstance or negative aspect of our lives.

    Ultimately, real success is a choice, and an intensely personal one, I believe. That is, artists are free to make up the rules that determine what is success to them. While fame and fortune are markers of certain kinds of success, making them more illustirous than a quiet career of worthy accomplishments, they do not guarantee happiness or self-satisfaction.

    To my mind, success comes from achieving one’s own true measure of attainable goals, even if only the artist believes it possible. Success on that level arguably delivers the most satisfying contented careers.

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