How to get over your fear of getting in the arena.
If you haven't read any of Brene' Brown's books on vulnerability such as Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, then I'd start there. These books helped me to identify the feelings I was going through when I was putting myself out there, and also helped me realise that I HATE being vulnerable and have more or less avoided that my whole life!
These books helped me to look at my vulnerability in a different way, helped me realise that putting yourself out there is really courageous, and that people connect and value this. I think we see vulnerability as that nightmare of 'waking up naked in front of a crowd' and being humiliated, but really its the start of connection and it's a very important ingredient for finding success in your life. You need to be vulnerable to learn and grow as a person, so as much as I hate putting myself out into the un known and would much prefer to stay in my comfort zone, I know that the rewards and end results of putting myself out there allow me to live a more fulfilled life... so... it's a must.
When I first started creating again and showing people my work, it was an ordeal. Like seriously, it took all my courage to show my work and I would constantly make excuses for it like; 'I've just started', 'I know this part isn't great', 'I could get better at this' etc. And then if the person didn't gush over it I would think they hated it and would swear I would never create again! Well, maybe not that bad, but I sure did get hurt easily and found every step of the creative journey exhausting and difficult. The thing is though, had I not continued to put my work out there, kept practicing, kept trying to figure this creative journey out, I wouldn't be where I am today, so all those tough times were worth it. Just like the next stages of my career and the vulnerability I'll need to push through the new barriers will all be worth it as I get to that next step!
One thing I did wish I had when I was starting out was someone who had been through it and who was honest with how tough they'd found it, and talked about how they had gotten through it. Someone that could give me the encouragement that it's ok to be struggling with putting yourself out there, and to tell me the struggle is worth it.
So, this is why I'm here now, to tell you about the things that helped me the most.
Gaining confidence. Literally as a kid I would ask my Mum if there was a shop where I could buy some confidence, because I was always a shy kid and always struggled with it... Over the years I've learnt the best way to buy confidence? Invest in yourself. That is, try new things, do things that you love and do them a lot. Find out what you like by exploring, then practice that thing so you can have confidence in your skills. The best way to get confidence is to start accepting yourself for who you are and once you've built that pride in yourself, it's a lot harder for people's comments to hurt you. I'm not saying this is easy, this has taken me a lot of self reflection, self help books, looking at what I value in life then ACTUALLY LIVING TO THESE VALUES.... I take backwards steps sometimes too, and thats ok, but I'm more comfortable in my skin then I have ever been, and that has been because I started listening to myself and following the things I loved to do.
One value I've always struggled with is being accountable. I hate to admit that but it's true. I'd say I'll do something then would back out because of nerves or low confidence. What I've found is that if you start small, being accountable to yourself like going for that walk when you say you will, giving yourself time to read that book or go to the beach, start being accountable to yourself, then when you achieve that it makes you feel good and gives you confidence. Then spread that outwards, then the things you thought were scary, the more you do it, the less scary. This is a work in progress for me, and will be my entire life, but my attitude about these nerves is better now, now I think "ok, I'm out of my comfort zone, but it's ok, I know I'll be able to figure it out, then next time, it will be easier".
*If you love reading and need some help developing your values, definitely read '7 Habits of highly effective people'
Yep, this has been a MASSIVE hurdle for me. I've always been an over achiever and haven't failed that often in my life. Not to say I'm good at everything, just that I would avoid things I would likely fail at, and then anything I did give a go, I'd give 110% to ensure I didn't fail. This can be exhausting and also you miss out on a lot of things due to that fear of failing.
Starting my art career was a big eye opener into failure. The first few times (even few dozen) times I was rejected from a competition or even someone not liking my work, it would crush me. I would spiral into a despair and question everything I was doing. My inner critique would tell me to go back to my stable job as a physio because clearly I was never going to succeed. Each time this happened it would take me a varying amount of time to pull myself out of this feeling, sometimes months, and then I'd put myself out there and it would all happen again. It wasn't until I read some books about business and failure that I realised failure is actually a positive thing. It teaches you what went wrong or didn't work and how to improve to try again. I can't remember who said this to me or where I read it, but I remember the notion that you may have to fail 100 times before you succeed. So if you are only happy to except a failure once every few months it's going to take you along time to succeed. Better to get the failures over and done with so you can learn, improve, and move towards that win.
Separating you as a person with your work.
Again, this was a big one for me. Specifically, if someone didn't like my work I would be soul crushed by this, meshing together my work and me. It was hard to separate this because my work seemed so personal to me. The truth is, this is very narrow minded way of thinking. Basically (as mean as it sounds) it's kinda being so self involved thinking that your deepest purest way of creating should be liked by everyone...? Eeek unlikely. Everyone has there own way of seeing things and everyone connects to the world differently... if you're trying to please everyone with your work you never will. And how boring would the world be if that were true? If everyone liked everything and no one had opinions.... The best way that I was able to separate myself from my work was showing a lot of people, and actually showing people (namely my aged care residence at my work) who I kinda new wouldn't like it. It was great, they didn't hold back, they hated my art and weren't afraid to say it. They'd openly laugh and one even said my self portrait was hideous! ha! It sounds awful but it was the best way for me to build a thick skin and understand that not everyone is going to like my work, just like not everyone is going to like me, but we can find our people that connect with our business venture and work with them to produce magic. Being able to have this mental separation makes it easier to get into the arena again. Remember, it's not you as a person being rejected, but it is you who can move through those feelings of rejection, grow and improve with practice and patience, then get back in that arena and try again.
If you want to succeed in the arena, you have to get use to failure, you have to grow confidence in yourself and nurture it, and remember you are separate from your work, so don't take things personally.
Most of all, a very good lesson I learnt from Brene' Brown, and which I've talked about before, if your critic is someone who isn't putting themselves in the arena too, then they aren't worth listening to.
I hope you keep creating your magic and keep picking yourself up and jumping back in the arena.