The other day, I was helping as a leader in our church youth group. I was sitting at a table of teens. One of them walked up and she sat down with her papers and pencil. She quickly covered up her art. I had gotten a glimpse of the picture she had drawn and asked her to share it with me. She slid it into her stack of papers and told me, “it is not that good.” I said from the little bit I saw it was pretty amazing. She reluctantly handed me the paper. She said see, I am not that good. Looking at the drawing, I was in aww! I would have never thought of drawing a sky line in an eye ball the way she did. It was very inspiring and cool to me. We got to talking and I said, “Why don’t you think it is good”. She said well the eyelashes look bad. Then she pointed to the girl next to her and said I am not as good as her. She is amazing!
I hate to admit it but all of this sounded way too familiar to me. When I was growing up I would paint and draw something. Someone would tell me they liked it and I would be in the middle of tearing it out of the pad of paper to throw it away. Sometimes, I would crumble up my art to find it hanging on the wall of my father’s office. My crumbled art was his treasure. He was in aww of my art the same way, I was in aww of this girl’s art.
As creatives, we can be our own worst enemies. We are definitely more critical of our own work that the rest of the world is of it. We secretly wonder if we are good enough. We struggle with seeing all the things that we could have done better; what we did poorly at. As a result, we do not see the overall beauty in what we created. We compare ourselves to others. We look at the works of other photographers, artist, painters, and drawers and think to ourselves, I wish I was that talented! If I was then maybe, I would share my work with others. Meanwhile another artist is looking at your work and wonders why they cannot do what you do. We claim identities that are not true of ourselves; saying our art is not good, we say of ourselves we are failures, we say to others I am not a good artist, painter, drawer, photographer, etc. I wish my work is as great as theirs and point others to which we aspire to be and admire.
Last year, I decided to enter my photo in a photography contest. It was so hard for me to decide to enter this contest. I was super nervous and really didn’t feel like my photography was good enough to enter. I would look at other photographer’s art and then look at mine. I would think to myself, I am no were near as good as they are.
At the time, I had only had my camera for a year. I had always wanted a DSLR camera. Now that I had one, I had so much more to learn! I was still learning the complexities of aperture, ISO, and shutter speeds. Back then, I wouldn’t have even known what most of this meant. I was determined to keep learning. But sharing my art with the world was a whole other ball game. I was flooded in self-doubt. “You’re not good enough. You are not a professional. Look at those other photographers they are so much better than you. You will make a fool of yourself. You will fail!” The more I thought the more scared I was.
With all this self-doubt we become scared to share, scared to dare to try new things and scared we will never be enough. We loose our focus and our inspiration. We loose the spark. We beat ourselves down by claiming things that are not true of us. We become outwardly focused and loose our own path. We become afraid to dance to our own beat.
"Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight." - Brene Brown
Then on the other hand there was the voice of my family and friends cheering me on. It was my brother, who told me that he felt that my photography was good. He nudged me in the right directions and he kept encouraging me. He believed in me and I was full of self-doubt. He told me I should enter a contest just to do it. Not for winning, but to do it because it was something fun I wanted to do. His words were so very helpful to me realizing. I was enough!
What we loose sight of is that dancing to your own beat is what makes you amazing. You soak in inspiration from the world around you and bring it into your own perspective in a way that only you can! No one can draw the drawing you draw, no one can paint the painting you paint, no one can be the artist you are and no one can take the photo you take. While many might try, it will never ever be the same! The one element that is missing from the equation… is YOU! You the one thing that makes that art special. They may try to copy it, or duplicate it. But, it will never be Your art! God made you to be creative and unique! He made you to stand out from the crowd. To view the world with a uniqueness that no one else can have.
At this point creatives, I had a choice to make. Am I going to grow? Am I going to make mistakes and learn? Or am I going to not take any risks and be stagnant. Am I going to continue to claim identities that are not mine? Am I going to dance to our own beat and not care who is watching? These are the same question you have to ask yourself.
I finally decided I would do it. I couldn’t let my self-doubt take control. To jump out of my comfort zone. I am sure here is where you are thinking I am going to tell you that I just got some pictures and entered them and it was a beautiful ending. No, it was weeks of struggling back and forth. It was finally telling people what I was doing so I didn’t back down. I had to take control of my thoughts and challenge them with the truth. It was so hard!
Famous photographers and artist did not start out famous. They did not come out of their mother’s womb taking pictures and painting and knowing all there was to know about photography or art. They grew because they learned from others, their experiences, their mistakes. Yes, MISTAKES! No one is perfect! And I guarantee they also have struggled at one point or another with having feelings of inadequacy as they also looked at other artist and their own work. But they didn’t let these things stop them! They kept learning and growing. They stayed true to themselves and continued to dance to their own beat. They pressed forward, being daring and brave.
In the end, I am really glad that I didn’t give up! So when I tell you being a finalist I have already won. Well, I mean it! I won the day I entered! Because, I make the choice to be brave. To take a journey that I had never been on and learn all I could from it. I decided to give myself permission to learn, I gave myself permission to be myself, and I decided to capture and share moments that were beautiful to me. I did not win first place, second or even third place and that was, Ok! I was simply honored to be a finalist something I never thought was a possibility, because I was too busy comparing my art to others and claiming identities that were not true.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when you have no control over the outcome.” - Brene Brown
Like many things in life if you are not uncomfortable and pressing yourself to the point that you feel like you are an impostor in whatever you do then you are not growing! When you put yourself under the fire, take that step of faith, take a leap you start to bloom!
Growth as a photographer or artist does not happen if you are not willing to try. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Making mistakes is a part of learning. I have yet to meet a single child who did not make a mistake while growing up. We as Creatives will make mistakes too. We are always learning and growing. One of the biggest mistakes I have made as Creative is doubting myself as an artist. I choose to not let all the thing I have done wrong stop me from moving forward, I learn from them. Then I dig in make other mistakes and learning more! With “mistakes” you grow! You learn! You improve!
Are you ready to step out of their comfort zone? To be vulnerable? To un-dust your camera, pencils, paint brushes, or other artist tools you have hiding in their closets and dig in. No one sees the world the same way you do. There is only one you! And you are unique and wonderful! You are worth sharing with the world! You are a creative! So be the creative that only you can be! Focus not on what others are doing, the gimmicks that they are using, and their creative process. Be true to you! Let’s dance like no one is watching!