I want to talk to you about confidence.
This month, I’m exploring the theme of creative confidence.
But before I talk about creative confidence, I have to talk about confidence.
We tell ourselves to just be confident. We are also surrounded by media that encourages us to do the same. From teen magazines to women-centered blogs, I see lists everywhere.
After a while, I became annoyed with these “top 10 lists for more confidence.” The message wasn’t wrong, but I found that the way to get there always seemed vague and uninspiring. I was supposed to stare at myself in the mirror, push my shoulders back and realize my innate power.
This definition never served me.
Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash
What is creative confidence?
I thought confidence had everything to do with how good you felt about yourself. In school, the confident girls had clear skin, straight teeth, nice clothes and a walk that announced them before they entered the room.
I thought confidence was something innate. Some of us had it, and others would have to struggle all our lives to embody it.
Creative Confidence Is Linked To Creative Failure
What if confidence is directly related to failure?
What if confidence has everything to do with your ability to trust yourself when everything is going well and when everything falls apart?
You must confide in yourself to become more confident in your work.
Confidence is defined as the ability to rely on oneself. It is also defined as trustworthy.
Confidence comes from the root word confide, which means “to trust someone for safekeeping.”
- What if, our creative confidence is deeply rooted in our ability to trust our creative work?
- What if that trust can only come from becoming our best confidant and being able to confide in ourselves?
I trust my friends because I know I can confide in them. I can tell them the things that I’m excited about, as well as the things I’m scared of.
They represent my tribe because I can trust them with the things I tell them. They have shown themselves to be reliable when it comes to listening and safeguarding my truths. They will be honest with me and not just tell me the things I want to hear.
But when I looked at my own ability to confide in myself, I had to ask these same questions:
- Can you truly confide in yourself?
- Can you speak kindly to yourself?
- Can you listen and make myself tea when your current self shows up crying on the doorstep of your future self?
- Can you be honest with yourself about my creative work?
- Can you praise my work when and notice where you need to improve?
- Can you be my best creative confidant?
My best confidante does not just tell me what I want to hear. She also tells me hard truths about my work.
How can you apply this to creative confidence?
1. You become reliable when you show up over and over again. Are you showing up for your work? Are you practicing it? Are you giving it the attention it deserves?
2. You become reliable when you can acknowledge the ways in which your work works and where it needs work.
3. You become more confident when you trust in your ability. You cannot trust in your creative ability if you are not creating a body of work. It is only in creating a lot that you can start to see your patterns, your creative weaknesses, and strengths.
In 2019, I feel more creatively confident because I have come to trust my voice and my ability and confide in myself.
When we encourage people to let go of fear and become more confident so they can put their work out there, we are doing them a disservice.
I’d suggest that we think of things differently. Let’s start encouraging people to carry fear and lack of confidence with them as they do the work, understanding that they will become more confident when they become their greatest creative confidante.
Keep going. I want to see your brilliance.
Your Future Self
No one has your creative DNA.
If you do not do the thing that your heart knows it needs to do, no one else will do it for you. No one else can do it for you.
Of course, there will be artists to come after you. There were artists that came before you. They paved the way. they lit the path so you could see where you could place your foot and continue walking.
But they were not you.
They inspired you, they gave you ideas. they showed you just how far you might be able to go.
They arrived in the world with their own biological and creative DNA.
Let me tell you a story.
DNA is defined as the master molecule of every cell. It contains vital information that gets passed on to each successive generation. It coordinates the making of itself as well as other molecules (proteins). If it is changed slightly, serious consequences may result. If it is destroyed beyond repair, the cell dies.
No two people have the same biological DNA.
But the lineage we come from does inform our DNA. So family members can have shared (but not the same) DNA.
The same is true for creative DNA. It’s the creative information that gets passed on to each successive generation. Our creative DNA does not come from shared blood but shared the creative experience.
Last month, I wrote about creative ancestry and defined it as the lineage of creative people from whom which your work is descended.
Our creative ancestors may not look like us or may come from a different time period and a different country, but they have informed the cells and the base structure of our creative work.
In the same way that no two people share the same biological DNA, no two people share the same creative DNA.
We might have the same relatives (people who informed our work) but our creative body will do something different with this information and make it something that only we can claim, own and share with the world.
Is this making sense yet?
No one else can do your creative work.
If no one has your creative DNA, then no one can do the work you were meant to do in the world. They can do the same type of work, but it will not be infused with the distinct creative molecules that only you have.
On your hardest days, remember this. On the days when you feel like you have nothing to contribute, remember this. When you think that your voice does not matter, remember this. If not you, then who? There will be no one to share the truth in the way only you know and only you can.
Remember that there is always room for your unique voice. There has to be room for you. You have never existed before. Your creative DNA has never existed before.
Trust yourself dear creative.
Keep going. I want to see your brilliance
Your Future Self
I want to talk to you about failure, and encourage you to reframe how you see your past. I’m going to say something that might not make any sense but bear with me.
Your failures can be part of your creative lineage.
Let me tell you a story.
3 years ago, I closed the doors and turned off the lights at wedOcracy. I walked away from the startup world.
I did this because it was clear that the growth we were hoping for was not arriving anytime soon. My co-founder and I had been invited to major tech events and even pitched at SXSW. We had raised an initial round of funding. We attended a well-known tech accelerator where mentors guided us.
I immersed myself in the world of weddings. I studied wedding statistics. I know things that I probably have no business knowing about weddings. A few years after we launched, we closed wedOcracy’s doors because we were not growing as fast as we needed to. We had worked so hard, and I felt like a failure.
Our goal was to make weddings more social, more engaged and more fun. We didn’t find the technology, so we built it. In many ways, we succeeded. We helped couples from several counties make their weddings more fun and social. But I also had to make the difficult choice of closing the doors when it was time to move on.
As the startup founder, I had to write a final blog post to send out to our subscribers.
It was a horrible feeling.
Fast forward to today, and I realized that the things I learned about weddings can now help my wedding photography client. This month, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to use the things I learned in the wedding industry. While running this company, I researched weddings. I know more than I should know. I became a nerd in the wedding industry.
This month, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to use the things I learned in the wedding industry. While running this company, I researched weddings. I know more than I should know.
I became a nerd in the wedding industry.
I’ve started working with wedding and event photographer Chris Wodjak. Supporting her web design and marketing needs allowed me to reframe how I think about failure.
Your Creative Failures Can Lead To Your Future Creative Success
- Your past creative mistakes can be the ancestors for your future success. It is an honor to work with this talented photographer and bring all the skills and research I gained from my wedding startup days to support her in growing her business.
- The knowledge never leads you. While I moved on from the startup world, I still learned how to design and develop applications for startups. I still learned how to create effective marketing strategies for millennial brides. The knowledge stays with you.
- Sometimes, your true purpose is different from what you can imagine. When I closed the doors, I felt like a failure. I could not see (or understand) how I could use all of my efforts towards anything else.
Questions To Ask Yourself When You Feel Like A Creative Failure
- What if your failures are part of your future success?
- What if you were not meant to succeed in one area, but instead learn something to take you to the next stage?
- Can you learn to see your failures as the legacy for your success? What if your past failure is a creative ancestor for your future success?
I hope you find that day when your past mistakes feel like ancestors in your creative lineage. They are teaching you things. They are supporting your journey in ways that might sometimes feel difficult.
Keep going dear creative. I want to see your brilliance.
Your Future Self
you are your best evidence.
you are the evidence of immense possibility. you are also evidence of failure. I want you to own the full spectrum of your creative experience. this is how you will learn to trust your creative voice and move forward when all the stories of imposter syndrome show up.
we live in a world that asks us to own our flaws but does not encourage the same when it comes to our greatness.
we’re afraid of appearing conceited or narcissistic. I’m afraid of that too. But I recently realized that I’m also afraid of living on one side of the creative spectrum where I only own the failures. This is not healthy either. This can lead to extreme self-doubt and paralysis.
in 2019, i want you to embrace the full spectrum of your creative work.
there will be days when I write inspiring (to others) poems and there will be days when my work fails. There will be days when I create beautifully designed websites and effective marketing strategies, and other days when I wonder if I should have stayed with writing instead of also incorporating technology.
and you will also have those days. I want to encourage you to own all of it. If you remember the failures with specificity, also remember the days you birthed something that felt incredible. Remember the awards in great detail. Remember the press mentions. Remember what you were wearing and what you said. Remember all of it.
you are creating a body of work.
Keep creating it, keep growing it and keep embracing the full spectrum of your creative out our.
don’t worry about being conceited. As soon as you celebrate one win, there will be a creative failure to greet you. This is the process. This is the work.
in the end, I want you to know the truth about your work: you’ve done some amazing work.
your future self