How To Develop Confidence As A Creative
As a writer and photographer, I had my fair share of self-doubt. I learnt that there’s no shortcut to mastering a craft, nor is there a quick way to develop self-confidence. However, with time and perseverance, I’ve slowly discovered my niche and identified steps to be secure in my work as a creative. If you’re establishing yourself as an artist but seem to be fumbling along the way, don’t worry, it’ll take time. To ease your journey, here are some areas of development you can focus on:
1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
I recognized very early on that I am a much better writer and photographer than I am a graphic designer or video editor. It wasn’t easy to admit at first, but recognizing this allowed me to then focus on mastering a few skills rather than being mediocre at many. Once you are aware of your strengths, you can then be strategic about monetizing them too.
Of course, these had to align with my passions: I loved writing as a form of expression and taking photos. Putting in the hours was tiring, but was worth it because I genuinely enjoyed it. It’s always easier to groom existing talents than to start from scratch, so be intentional about identifying your strengths. Here’s how you can start:
- Try a variety of things but spend little on each: It took me less than an hour of drawing to realize that I’m not good at it, nor do I necessarily enjoy it. I also tried colouring, sewing and playing the ukulele – which all didn’t amount to anything. But I tried photography, liked it and invested in it. If you are no good at one thing and do not find joy in it, move on to the next one, fast.
- Ask for genuine feedback: Sometimes it’s tricky to realize our own talents, or we might be stuck in delusional bubbles. Just reach out to your friends and family and ask: What are my skills? Do you think I am a good singer? Do you think I have a chance in this field?
- Revisit your hobbies: As you grew older and had other priorities, perhaps you dropped some of your hobbies. However, if you were exposed to any particular activities during your developmental stages, you might have an existing foundation you can tap into. For example, if your parents signed you up for gymnastics lessons as a child, you might have a knack for dancing now. Or if you enjoy cooking games, perhaps you can rediscover your talents in the kitchen now.
2. Focus on continuous improvement.
“Be so busy improving yourself that you have no time to criticise others” — Chetan Bhagat
The creative industry is diverse and jam-packed with talent, it’s easy to get distracted or even let jealousy cloud our focus. However, it is important to realize that there is enough room in this world for all of us to thrive. When we put our minds into continuously improving ourselves, and relentlessly pursuing success that brings us inner fulfilment, we will eventually reach our goals.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he suggested that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to master a skill. However, other research has since debunked this myth. It is not just the hours you put into something, but also passion, perseverance, grit, curiosity and even kindness that are variables that would push you to success.
I invested many hours into practising and improving my skills, and this allowed my sense of confidence to stem out of substance rather than mere interest. Being busy tearing others down will not lead to confidence or success, but investing into yourself as an artist would. Don’t worry about having to impress others, but work hard to make yourself proud.
3. Put yourself out there.
Confidence is a by-product of continuously picking yourself up again after every fall. The best way to do this is to simply put yourself out there: join relevant competitions, submit your artwork to exhibitions, take up small gigs – you’d never know where your artwork might end up! It doesn’t matter if you don’t win, just see it as a learning curve. Whereas if you do win (or if your artwork is chosen for an exhibition), it will definitely boost your confidence and help you realize what direction to grow in. It doesn’t matter if you start small, just start somewhere!
In Peter Sim’s book, Little Bets, he made an observation:
“Rather than believing they have to start with a big idea or plan out a whole project in advance, they make a methodical series of little bets about what might be a good direction, learning critical information from lots of little failures and from small but significant wins.”
4. Find a support group.
We all need some hype people in our lives. Find friends who could hype you up, give you the compliments you deserve, but also tell you the truth you need to hear. No matter how far we have come, we will surely experience moments of self-doubt. These are times when we need friends who unconditionally love and support us.
Surround yourself with people whom you can be vulnerable with, and who would celebrate all your work and give you the confidence boost you need.
5. Look back often.
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything has changed.” – C.S. Lewis
You don’t realize how far you’ve come until you take time to pause, look back and reflect. Take time to give yourself credit for the journey you’ve endured. Pat yourself on the back for the job well done. Take time to realize that you have a lot to be proud of, and a lot to place your confidence in.
Not many people are born with confidence. We shouldn’t feel pressured to fake a confident façade when that’s not how we feel. Instead, as long as you are on a path that you are proud of, confidence will naturally flow from the authentic journey you are on as an artist of creativity.
For further reading, check out these 5 creative workshops you can try this weekend!