‘I am in trouble’. The story screenshot.
Prickly: “You know, I went to a contemporary art exhibition today and realised, seeing a few artists’ works, that my photos weren’t worse than theirs at all… I think I could even have my own installation there’.
Ally:“That’s fantastic to hear! Why can’t we try to find an opportunity for you to display your pictures somewhere?”
Prickly: “I don’t think I can get anywhere without the right contacts.”
Ally: “I don’t believe that it’s the only way. In our modern world full of technology, it is much easier to access artistic communities and networks! Plenty of young artists became famous only because they tried hard to find every possible door to knock. You are exceptionally talented, and it is only a case of finding the right way to package your talent. Come on, let’s google any calls for artists available’.
Prickly: (not looking at me) “No, I’m too busy now… And yes, I will check that sometime later this week’.
Ally:“Look at me. You are not going to do this, I know you. For more than a year I’ve regularly heard your promises that you are going to create an Instagram page or get in touch with your classmates and arranging pop up exhibitions. But nothing has happened, your words are just words. Could you please just answer one question honestly: What are you afraid of? What is keeping you from following your true passion?’
Prickly: “(raising her voice) I don’t know what to startor what I have to do first… It all seems like a joke! I feel like I will never achieve success... (quieter) I’m also scared to talk to strangers. It’s really hard to be rejected.”
Ally:“I completely get this. Asking people for help is not easy. Especially those who don’t know you. I can help you to get ready for this. But I feel that there is something else that stops you to even think about showing the world your talent. What is it?”
Prickly: (with the tears in her eyes) “I am really scared that people will not like my photos…I am afraid that I think of myself more than I deserve, and my pictures are just ordinary shit. I’m afraid to hear this said to me personally…”
‘Why do we behave this way?’ Behavioural Science in Layman’s Terms
Many famous artists and poets throughout history have been misunderstood, their genius being unappreciated until after their death. There are many artists who are still alive and thriving, being featured in galleries and having their brilliance recognised by the masses. It can be challenging to find the courage to put yourself and your work out there; its easy to become consumed by the negative opinions of others and become trapped in our own minds. A fear of criticism is natural—it takes five good events for our brain to overcome the effects of experiencing just one bad event.
A reason as to why we behave this way is known as cognitive dissonance. This is where our beliefs and values conflict with one another and cause us mental discomfort, causing our attitudes, beliefs and values to change. For example, Prickly has the belief that her art is good, but she hasn’t put herself out there and received any unbiased approval or feedback. As she has had no reassurance that her work is worthy, her beliefs begin to change. She now feels that her art is not good enough and is afraid to have it be seen by the public.
‘Is there a magic pill to help?’ Practical Tips
- Who are they to say what you are worth?Most criticism is irrelevant, and from people who don’t know what you’ve done to get where you are. Not all criticism should be valued equally, and it is far easier to take something apart than build it. The moment you accept criticism is when you start can start to truly work to better yourself and your creative process. Anything worth doing attracts both admiration and criticism. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Don’t let anyone else define your success.
- Find a good day to start.Some days feel more suited for new beginnings; the start of a month or matching any other change in your life. Pick a day that best suits you. A new day means new possibilities to unleash your potential, let this keep you motivated.
- Make small victories. By putting yourself out there more frequently and strive to achieve even small victories, you will gain confidence. Submit your work to small, local competitions frequently to ‘test the waters’ before attempting something bigger. This will allow you to receive feedback on a smaller and subsequently less scary scale. Celebrate even the smallest of victories and take pride in yourself.
- It’s never a competition. Finally, the ‘two cakes’ analogy that has been popularised in online art and fanfiction circles: The artist, who doubts their own abilities, puts their cake next to one they think is much fancier; the audience, who is there to eat cake, exclaims: “Holy sh*t, two cakes!” Galleries and exhibitions are meant to celebrate art, not pit them against each other. The only competition between them is in your mind! Remember this.
- Ask yourself the miracle question.At the foundation of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is the miracle questioneveryone should ask themselves: “If a miracle were to happen while I was asleep, what changes would I see in my life tomorrow?” Dwell on this and fast-forward to a future where you have what you want. What would you need to do to get there? Make a list of ways in which you can achieve your goal. Why not start taking those steps towards your dream today?
Sketch: Prickly is locking away the photos she takes, ashamed of what people would think if they saw them.