Hello there beautiful being ✨
If you’re new to my work then you might not know that I used to make drastically different art a few years ago. At some point in time, my sole purpose was drawing things from my imagination as perfect and beautiful as I possibly could. I spent hours studying bodies and portraits and was determined to become a master at drawing people (spending, what, 10.000 hours to become an expert, right?). I thought I was enjoying it, but slowly I came to the creeping suspicion that I wasn’t really enjoying it at all. It was eating me up.
The fear of rejection lives in all of us and some might be under its enchantment, or rather, curse, more than others. I want to take you along on the journey of how I’m slowly freeing myself from those limiting beliefs hoping it might help you do so as well. 🗡💖
Addicted to validation
What is it that you’re most afraid of?
If you’d asked me that question a few years ago, what I feared most, I’d have said; receiving the most devastating negative feedback or comment that will destroy me forever. Yes, that dramatic. I was, most of all, afraid of not being able to please others.
If you’ll ask me now, however, my answer is: being unable to be my authentic self because I’m afraid of being so.
For the longest time, I thought my skill as an artist was determined by my skill to draw things (mainly people) as realistically as possible. The more realistic my art became, the more compliments I got, and so I felt like I must be getting better. And oh wow, did I thrive on those compliments.
Enjoying compliments is obviously not necessarily wrong, it’s nice to receive validation for what you do but it should never become the main motivator.
It’s funny how compliments can both be extremely encouraging while at the same time also making you dependent on them. That’s what happened to me. At some point, I switched from being internally motivated to draw to being completely dependent on compliments. I lost the joy I once had in creating art because I was fighting for that validation, which in turn caused me to enjoy it even less and made me need the compliments even more. It was a vicious cycle.
And so even though I didn’t really enjoy what I made any longer (which I didn’t even realize at that time, just that something felt ‘off’🧐), I also couldn’t escape the grip that external validation had on me. As a result, I purposely kept myself small. I ‘thrived’ in the knowledge that as long as I pleased everyone around me I could escape any form of negativity. It felt like I was winning. I was safe knowing that no one could say anything bad about me or my art because I’d make sure to do everything right to begin with.
Although I gained validation and compliments in the short term, I lost any sense of self in the long run. Who was I if there was no one out there cheering for me? I forgot about the things that made me smile and that sparked something from the inside. Because all of that got overshadowed by a fear of rejection.
How do we move away from fear?
I didn’t just grow over that fear, hell, I’m still working on that every day. It’s an ongoing journey. Lots of trial and error. Lots of facing fears and doing things that scare me. So whilst I’m in the middle of it, I thought it would be a good time to talk about it.
I can easily see where the need for compliments and validation came from. As a person who was both bullied as a child and always praised for being very compliant, I listened well and I rarely did anything super provoking. Once you have a record of being like that, it seems like you’re stuck. We grow into people-pleasing adults because we never learn that it could possibly bring anything positive being provoking. I wish someone would have praised me for doing things differently, for making a mess, but that rarely happened.
And on top of all that, I was also a girl, taught that society wanted me to be quiet and accommodating, socially pleasing above all else. I had to be pretty, smile and get along.
Just like the portraits I ended up drawing.
I guess the first step in embracing negativity was that I had to accept negativity in myself, or more generally; I had to start accepting myself. (Yes, that big intimidating thing that seems almost impossible).
I grew to be extremely strict with myself, and therefore also with others. I didn’t want to accept anything less than perfect. And I think this is a very human thing to struggle with. If we fear imperfection in others it’s because we fear it in ourselves. This is where we become judgemental. It really is a mirror. If there’s something you see in someone else that provokes hate or jealousy or negativity, it’s usually because you can't embrace or accept that part within yourself. Or we wish we had the courage to and we can’t stand that someone else does.
I once read that if someone makes you feel like you can’t freely do something it’s usually something inside you telling you that you want to grow but you’re scared. Instead of blaming the other person for not letting you be who you want to be, you have to ask yourself why you’re not letting yourself be who you want to be. What’s really holding you back? It usually has nothing to do with the other person.
Whenever I notice these feelings within myself now, instead of pushing them aside, I often try to take a moment and reflect on them. To think: “why do I feel like this person is annoying, stupid? Why do they make me feel so uncomfortable?” If I feel jealousy, there must be a reason. And there usually is. It’s my own fear of thinking I am somehow not capable of whatever it is I'm seeing in that person. The thing is; that’s not true. We’re capable of everything. We can take all the steps to get there.
I started realizing and accepting that being flawed is an essential part of our human experience. And, once embraced, a beautiful one at that. Fear of rejection doesn’t magically disappear, but it does get easier from there on. Knowing that you’re not perfect, and in truth no one really is, makes you softer.
Another very personal step I made in my recent journey is the transition to making different works of art. I started drawing things that people didn’t always understand, experimenting with abstract images. And once I stopped drawing portraits I felt like I was freeing myself from something that had kept me in a safe place for a long time but that was no longer bringing me joy. That safety had kept me from growing as an artist, and as a person. As I went on I started getting fewer likes, fewer compliments. Less of the things I craved, BUT, I gained so much joy from doing it that it turned out I didn’t crave external validation as much as I actually craved having fun again. I was exploring, I was creating and I was slowly freeing myself from other people’s opinions.
Throughout all of this, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. I feel like there’s so much out there to discover. And while I keep continuing to explore the fears that come with that (Like writing about it which is also super scary!👻). More and more things start to become looser in my mind.
People might end up disliking us, and dislike what we do. But it’s not about them, it’s about what we like. The joy that comes from being authentic is in the end far greater than the opinion of others.
You don’t have to do life-altering things all at once. It’s about doing the small things, step by step, as insignificant as they may feel right now. In the end it all adds up. In a few weeks, months, or years, you’ll see how far you’ve come, and how much you’ve grown. I’m inviting you to go out and start by doing those little scary things. ⭐️