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How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure as an Artist

Fear of failure is one of the biggest things that can hold us back as artists, but how do you overcome your fear of failure and grow as an artist? Read on for some tips and tricks!


Most of us have experienced a fear of failure at one level or another at some point in our lives. It happens most when we’re doing something that we’re really passionate about, and is very personal to us. It makes us artists feel quite vulnerable, because it’s a little bit of our soul we’re putting out there with every piece of art we create. When we create a new piece of work, we are inevitably putting ourselves out there for criticism, for failure – all those awful things that we perceive might happen to us. We worry what people will say. We’re worried that we have a passion and we gave it a go, and we didn’t make it work. If that happens we go into a state of doom and gloom, and fear can paralyse us.

The reason for this is the ego. It’s trying to keep you safe. It doesn’t like change. It doesn’t like the unknown. Anything that needs bravery or involves risk will make the ego think “oh don’t, it’s too risky”. You start to think the worst – what if you make a fool of yourself? What if X happens? What if Y happens?

The best way to approach these fears is to imagine could happen if everything goes right. Flip the thoughts of a negative outcome on their head. What if you sell more art than you thought? What if people were moved to the very core by your pieces? What if you brighten someone’s day? What if you can leave your job and make it as a full time artist in three months?

Start to look at things with a positive outlook.

As well as a fear of failure, we have a fear of success. You may be thinking “what happens if I get really successful – will I have to pay higher taxes? What if I can’t keep up with demand? What if any of my art goes missing?” There are all sorts of things running through an artists head. We put these obstacles in our way as well.

Fear of success is just another guise of fear of failure.

If you let fear of failure stop you, it would be such a shame to waste your gift. You have been given your talent as a gift and to let your fear stand in your way would be heartbreaking.

Another thing to mention about failure is that failure can lead to the biggest periods of growth. I know I’ve certainly had a lot of failures (possibly more failures than successes) but my approach is to just get back up and carry on. Every time I’ve failed, I’ve made huge learnings and huge discoveries that have helped me move forward and then just take enormous leaps. Now I actually get excited about failures! I embrace the lessons. You can learn a load of stuff that is going to really launch your business or your art practice.

Because we make mistakes in our art, just like we make mistakes in business, and nothing is ever going to go smoothly. You will never get everything right. Because if you do, you’re playing it way too safe. What you want to do is just have goals that are a little bit outside your comfort zone. You think “oh gosh, I love that. But I’m just not sure it’s achievable” and then those kinds of things really challenge us.

An amazing book to read is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic – if you haven’t read it, definitely read it. In it, she talks about fear and the fact that it has always been there. We can’t get rid of it. It would be totally unsafe and impractical to get rid of it because it’s what keeps us alive. But she talks about fear and she says to her fear “you can come along for the journey in the car with me with inspiration, but you sit in the back, you don’t touch the steering wheel, you don’t touch any of the controls. I acknowledge you, you can have your voice and that’s it.” I just thought that was a really lovely way of thinking. The thing about fear is that it’s always going to be there, but it’s how we deal with it that makes the difference.

Failure is progression, it’s lessons, it’s learning. It’s okay if something didn’t work – you now have loads more information. Now you know exactly which direction to go in to make it work.

Instead of fear of failure, have a fear of not failing, because if you’re not failing, you’re playing it safe.

We all frightened at some point or another. It’s how we deal with it that determines how well we’re going to do, and how we progress forward, whether we step into that kind of bravery and courage, and move through it anyway.

Success is usually on the other side of fear. Step into your fear – be sensible, but take risks. Set yourself a small challenge and really nail it. Every time you do that, you’ll realise that wasn’t so bad and you have survived – you can do this! You move forward. If you take a small challenge and it goes completely pear shaped, who cares? I mean really, who cares? The only person you need to worry about is you. Don’t stop yourself going for your dreams.

I feel really passionate about the fear of failure as it held me back for way too long. I stayed in jobs that weren’t fantastic. I had great clients for a business, but they weren’t aligned. The reason I didn’t ditch it all and become a professional artist and art business coach sooner was because I was frightened. I had two children and was the sole provider for them, and I was scared. I was scared because I didn’t think I was good enough. I don’t even have an art degree. But when I decided to stop feeling afraid, and letting that fear dictate to me who I am, I started to move forward and I love where I am now.

I hope this has spurred you on to to reshape your relationship with that fear of failure.

If you would like more tips, come and join my free masterclass where I dive into the 4 Steps to Consistent Art Sales. In that video I also talk about the three biggest mistakes I see artists making that actually hold them back from making those sales too. Come join us!

POSITIVE MINDSET

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