“When we believe ‘we must be this’ we ignore who or what we actually are, our capacity and our limitations…when our goal is growth and we say ‘I’d like to improve this’ we start from where and who we are.” -Brene Brown
I have not written a blog post in several months. There were various reasons to this. I could say the usual things of “I didn’t have time” or “I was too busy” or “I am still trying to figure out how to write about my work in the best way.” All of those would be marginally true. Good excuses that are better to tell because I can avoid further explanation. I can avoid the truth. I can avoid being vulnerable.
However, after several months of finally acknowledging the place I am personally in and having to work with people who live off of dishonesty, I have decided that being truthful will be key to any growth I want to experience.
The truth is…I have been anxious and full of fear. Fear of what? A multitude of things. It scared me how one seemingly insignificant fear linked to another one, then linked to another one. Not after too long I found myself staring at a web of insecurities that have deep roots in my life. This sent me into a panic mode for a little while. I had to investigate what was wrong. At first I was trying to find simple solutions, but then I realized what I was dealing with was far more complex than what I was ever anticipating. It was starting to affect how I approach my work. I have uncovered many different things about myself in the past few months, but the thing that I uncovered the most about what was affecting my work specifically was one thing: striving for perfection.
At face value, it might seem that should be a good thing. We are told the strive for perfection helps us to stay at the top of our game, looking our absolute best, etc. The truth of the matter is, the thought of NOT achieving perfection cripples me. It sometimes takes me days to approach a project because I am so paralyzed in the thought that “this will be the project where I will fail” which keeps me from starting a project at all. I would have to rely on tight deadlines or procrastination in order to get out of my head. These thoughts are magnified in my current situation because I work with a perfectionist, and it doesn’t matter what I do…nothing is ever exactly right.
I started to buy this as normal and started telling myself that it is normal to wait until things are absolutely perfect before you show anything. Wait until you become a masterful writer before you write a blog post. Wait until you have a perfect portfolio before you tell anyone who you are or what you do. I have been able to take a step back and see that striving for perfection and striving for big, grandiose goals was hindering any progress I would try to make. Any time I would finish a project, a never ending cycle of questions would loop through my head that I couldn’t answer. The most prolific examples would be, “when will you ever be able to be a full-time artist?” “What if you find out you really can’t do it?” “When will you ever make money at this?” and so on. Some of these questions came from myself, others have come from people I know, some of them I know well. I would play these questions back until I decided not to complete a project or just wait until inspiration would come.
I have had to learn to reframe what success is. I have had to reframe what progress is. I have had to reframe what true, attainable goals are. Making enough money to quit my job and become a full-time artist by next month is not attainable nor logical in my situation. I have to be fine with incremental progress and not overnight growth. Perfection and the expectation of overnight growth also hinder us from enjoying the present and celebrating the “little victories” in life.
Celebrating and living in the present is something I need constant work at. All I can think about most of the time is the future and look at it in such a way that says “what haven’t I accomplished?” instead of saying, “what have I accomplished?” and recognize that that accomplishment is truly good.
Last month I got to celebrate two major victories thanks to two people. I received my first two fully-paid commissions ever! The first I have to thank is a woman named Sharon. Sharon I met through the Mutemath band “Fambase” who has been wanting a pair of custom Mutemath shoes from me since I started making them. She kept telling me she was saving up for them. Considering the fact I had been disappointed many times in the past about commissioned work or simply getting paid for my work, I approached her promises lightly. Until March when she reached out to me to get a pair of shoes made and paid what I asked for up front. She was my first official paid commissioned that I have ever received. (Shoes pictured on the left side of the photo). Thank you for taking a chance on me Sharon! Thank you for treating me and giving me the respect I have been searching for as an artist. Thank you for that awesome review on my Etsy page.
The second person I have to thank is someone I didn’t expect I would become good friends with. This person seemed to appear out of thin air, but like Sharon, I met him through the Mutemath fan base. His name is Ryan and he found me through seeing some of my work being shared on the Mutemath fan pages. He immediately asked me about the shoes I did and wanted a pair done. The funny thing is, it took him a long time to figure out what he wanted and even then, the shoes I did weren’t even for himself! They were a birthday present to his cousin (Pictures shown on the right side of the top image). Regardless of how long it took and who they were for, thank you for entrusting me with something new that I had not done before. I had done portraits on shoes before, but this time, the portraits really meant something personal, and I wanted to capture that. Thank you to Ryan for always following through on your word with basically anything you have said to me. Thank you for being so excited to share my work with others. Thank you for encouraging me to see a positive vision for the future in my work, but more importantly, you make me believe I deserve it. (I am still waiting for you to decide on a pair for yourself!)
Of course I get the nagging feelings of “where will the next commission come from?” “What am I going to do next?” Like I have said, living in the present is a work in progress for me. The thing I have to always remind myself is that no matter what I create, it is progress.