Here’s the honest truth: I’m not confident in anything I do.
I spent my early childhood as the exact opposite. I was a kid unbridled with the confidence to draw anything I wanted. Unconstrained by the curse of competition. Unhindered by envy and fear. I was everything I needed to be, because I wasn’t infected by the same thing that poisons every creative later in life: that nagging feeling of self doubt.
The question I’ve wrestled with for most of my adult life is what does being an artist mean to me? Is it a hobby? A means to career? An identity? Asking those questions just pushed me away from drawing altogether. How could art be just a hobby when it was one of the only things in which I excelled? How could I even think to make art a career when I lacked the confidence to compete with professionals? Lastly, how could art be my identity? How could I let just one thing–that a million others were better at–define me? That generations before me had mastered? That generations after me would just improve upon?
From junior high to the early years of college, I gave up on drawing more times than I can count. The cause ranged from a classmate being more “talented,” to discovering another artist’s webpage online, to simply cranking out a bad drawing. Sadly, I found more reasons to stop drawing than to keep going. I was the king of burying my talent, choosing to fill my time with video games instead. There, I could be bad at it or I could be good–it didn’t matter. I was happy dumping my hours into frivolous pursuits and living in fantasy worlds, because it had nothing to do with my self-worth. I was already neck deep in doubt and questions about my talent, so it was all too easy to let myself go under. And I was fine letting it happen. Almost.
In my Intro to Animation class, I spent many weeks working on my final. It was my first animated short which was supposed to be a culmination of the principles I had learned while taking the course: anticipation, staging, squash and stretch, arcs, exaggeration, appeal… I stressed over it so much. I spent hours testing my animation, but I was never happy. In fact, all I could think about was how good everyone else’s would be. At last I had to present my final. My fears felt primed to burst. But, they abated to the sound of laughter. Not just laughter, but roaring laughter. The class loved it. They thought it was hilarious. Suddenly every doubt that I had shouldered was gone. All that I had left was happiness and knowing that something I loved creating made others happy too.
I eventually stopped asking questions. Save the one that gave me perspective.
What good did it do be harshly self-critical about something that I loved doing?
I love art. I love drawing. I love the peaks. I love the breaks. I love it from concept to finish. From incompletion to completion or sometimes left in a constant state of incompletion. While art may not flow effortlessly through my pen, the love for doing it flows through me. Forcing myself to compartmentalize what I loved doing and structure it for society was a strike against my pursuit of happiness. It was a billion steps backwards from being the kid who doodled with reckless abandon.
I’ve come to realize that I am not blessed with talent to draw, I am blessed with the passion and means to do it. I’ll always face the challenges that being in a creative field brings. I’ll always struggle with confidence and finding satisfaction with every single thing I create. But, I refuse to let competition or envy stop me from enjoying art. It means too much to me. Too much to distract me from seeing when I’m getting better.
If I can give any advice it’s draw not because you want to be the best, but draw because it makes you happy. This goes for any creative field. Whether you draw, write, or sing, appreciate the strides you make as an individual. If can stop measuring yourself against others, you’ll get a much better sense of your self worth. You’ll see where you’ve been, where you are now, and the limitless possibilities of where you’ll be then. Most of all, appreciate that you are blessed with the opportunity to chase a dream and have fun doing whatever it is you do.
I’m still not confident in what I do but at least now I’m having fun doing it. That’s the difference with where I was then, and where I am now.