It’s been a couple weeks since I had one of the toughest moments of my artistic career. Now, it’s time to face those fears that have been sitting in my stomach this month and prepare for another festival this weekend. My approach this time is going to be very different though. I’m still putting in the work with audience research and creating specific show pieces. I’m planning on standing for hours, pulling people into the booth and telling them why I think art is so important.
But I’m not making sales goals.
I’m not marketing myself as someone who can do it all.
And I’m letting all the negative self judgement shit go.
I’ve spent a lot of time this month thinking about what I can do to make being in festivals less stressful. Ultimately, there’s always going to be some stress, because the booth and the art aren’t going to put themselves together. But I realized there was some unnecessary added stress in the way I was viewing myself. In my post about “When Hard Work Doesn’t Paid Off”, I pointed out how one bad show didn’t mean I failed. It means my path needs adjustment and the biggest adjustment that needs to happen is the way in which I see my success.
Ever since I started working as an artist, I’ve struggled with holding myself up to unreasonable standards both in business and in the creation of the art itself. I was supposed to be a successful Etsy seller, master of multiple painting mediums, attending lots of festivals, displayed in several art galleries, and creating multiple masterpieces a week (all while being the sole operator of my business) within the first two years. If I couldn’t do these things, then I was failing as a business owner, artist and overall human being.
That’s a little intense right?
Well, even if I didn’t say it out loud, up until two weeks ago that was how I viewed myself and my work. I was convinced those were the only markers available for success as an artist.
For years, these have been the crazy ass standards I’ve been holding myself to. Like I said, I believed these were my markers for true success. Even when I convinced myself I was letting stress, self doubt and negative thoughts go: I wasn’t actually doing it 100%, because I was so worried that I wasn’t becoming who I thought I needed to be. I would tell others not to be hard on themselves, but I couldn’t take that message and apply it to my own life. And I know I’m not the only creative who struggles with this! So how is it that we end up creating these measures for success?
Lots and lots of comparison.
Most of us believe in a very narrow definition of success that is black and white. We mark it with riches and being widely renowned and it is plastered on every billboard, TV show, magazine and Instagram feed across the world. It is a definition that is based off of comparing ourselves to a very limited number of people. The markers for success I had in my head, are what I believed all the artists I admire have done. They were traveling the world on the riches they created from their small, personally owned art businesses. And when I didn’t “measure up” to them, well then I convinced myself I failed. This was a huge part of why the last festival caused me to break down. But my path needs to change. And it starts with letting these ridiculous standards go.
Everyone and every journey is unique. We can’t compare ourselves and our success to others, because we haven’t lived their path.
I have no idea what most of those people did to achieve their goals. I don’t know how their circumstances compare to my own. And frankly, I don’t even know if some of them are lying for the purpose of social media.
What we all need to remember, is that there is no black and white definition of success, because it is as varied as the people on this planet.
Your true measures of success can only be defined by the moments, decisions and achievements that you make on your own path.
What all our journeys towards success do have in common, is that they require a lot of work and knowing that you must always dedicate yourself to your passion. When we do that, then success (in whatever form it takes in your life) will happen.
It isn’t easy to let go of comparison. It isn’t easy to face our fears. And it isn’t easy to know that there are going to be times when hard work doesn’t pay off right away. I’m human and I know these feelings will continue to linger on the edges of my mind. At the next festival though, I will be reminding myself of all my success any time that I feel that self doubt and negative judgement creeping up in my stomach. Because I haven’t made it this far without doing what it took to achieve many of my previous goals.
When I was a little girl, I dreamed about days spent working on a becoming a writer and creating beautiful paintings.
So I went to college, earned my degrees and took countless workshops. Those are moments of success.
Six years ago, I thought about how badly I wanted to sell my art.
So two years later, I opened an Etsy store. That is decision was a success.
As soon as I started selling art, I realized I wanted to work on becoming a watercolor artist.
I immediately signed up for courses, worked at it and now I’ve sold hundreds of watercolor paintings. That is an achievement which marks my success.
My journey has been a long one and I’ve had to overcome many obstacles. There are still many things I want to achieve and there will be more roadblocks to move. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not successful. This next festival, may not go the way I wish. Working hard doesn’t mean failure won’t happen sometimes. And failing doesn’t mean I’ve evaded success forever. Because at the end of day, I believe that that truest measure of success is that I’ve never given up on myself and that I remain determined to achieve my goals.