Mantra-a-Mantra

Every one of us has times when we are feeling not quite up to snuff, that we’ve bitten off more than we can chew, or that we are careening towards an epic fail in our career or life.

For years I’ve had one particular statement I use when I’m feeling incapable.  It’s simple but surprisingly effective.  When I need to psychologically step it up I will repeat, emphatically and out loud,

“I CAN DO IT.”

A couple of years ago I received a less than glowing review.  The artwork was extremely misunderstood and it gutted me.  I was angry I let the remarks of one person make me question my ability, make me feel incompetent.  You gotta have a thick skin in this business called art.  Not everybody’s going to like or understand your work and negative criticism is inevitable.  What is important is that you believe in the work; that you know the work is solid and strong and true to who you are.

It may come across as brazen and cocky, but you must have confidence in yourself.  You simply cannot let what other people think stop you from doing what you are meant to do, whatever their opinion of it is (on the flip side, I’ve heard advice which warns not to take the positive reviews too much to heart either, and I would have to agree).

How you choose to process negativity determines whether you will sink or swim.  It took a long time for me to pull myself up from the bottom of the pity pool, but once I made the decision to swim I added this to my mantra,

“WHO GIVES A @$!% WHAT ANY BODY ELSE THINKS?”

Last year I needed to pull myself out of a rough patch.  I was overwhelmed with impatience in what I perceived as the glacial pace of my art career.  At the time it felt like the progress I was making was painfully slow.  I envisioned struggling for the rest of my life and still never achieving my goal of being a “successful artist” (“success” defined as being able to make a living off my work).  I’d just had the most auspicious year of my art career and even then I grossed way, way less than poverty line income.  What was the point?

The point was – and is – that I am a visual artist.  I make art.  It’s what I do.  Whether I am able to make a living financially from my work is not a measure of how good the work is.  And if I don’t buy into the consumer ideology that success is measured in monetary value, it doesn’t have to be a measure of how successful I am.  This doesn’t mean I’m not going to strive to find a way to make a financially successful creative living off of my artwork.  It means I’m not going to let myself feel less valuable on the way to achieving my success.  That being said, I still need to remind myself of my value every now and again, so I added the following to my mantra,

“I AM THE EXPERT AT WHAT I DO.”

Nobody knows more than I do about the work I make.  Even if someone uses the same ideas, the same materials, and the same techniques, they are still not going to make the work that I make.  That makes me valuable.  That makes my work valuable.

So now I have a three-pronged mantra, which I feel functions rather well…

“I CAN DO IT.”

“WHO GIVES A #@$! WHAT ANY BODY ELSE THINKS?”

“I AM THE EXPERT AT WHAT I DO.”

Do you have a mantra?  What is it?  Don’t be shy about sharing 🙂

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