Wanting approval or feedback from others about your art when just starting out is understandable. We often ask others for opinions on other matters and so value an outsiders point of view. But if you’re only looking for external validation that what you’re doing is worth the time investment and the feedback isn’t 100% encouraging, you may find yourself disheartened (keeping your art secret may be a good idea).
Tara Mohr in Playing Big says “Feedback gives us facts about the opinions and preferences of those giving the feedback. It can’t tell you about your merit or worthiness. When we understand this, we’re free; we’re free to seek, gather, and incorporate feedback.” When creativity is subjective and personal taste so varied, there is no one ‘right’ opinion. When we let go of what other people think, we leave space to discover what we think. Being self-reflective about your own art helps grow tastes, preferences and your ideas as an artist. Seeking others opinions won’t get you any closer to discovering what art lights you up.
Mohr make the point that women are more likely to have a dependence to praise: “When a woman is trying to unhook from dependence on praises, it’s no trivial matter. She is working on retraining her mind from generations – old conditioning about what is required to survive.”
It’s no easy feat to let go of seeking eternal praise, especially when it can feel so good. But unhooking from the dependence of that praise and replacing it with your own feedback, your art doesn’t have to fit someone else’s expectations. You can instead get on with the fun task of making more art – art that you find interesting and you love to make.
You don’t need anybody else’s permission to make art except your own. It’s challenging to ignore seemingly ‘helpful’ negative feedback and criticism from those around about your art. Criticism can cut deep, especially when sharing something as vulnerable as your first attempts (or any attempt) at making art. It could even stop you from making anything else, asking yourself “why AM I bothering making this when it’s not any ‘good’?” But good is subjective and irrelevant to the joy that comes from making art and feedback isn’t necessary to continue having fun making.
It’s best not to seek approval, criticism or even praise from anyone outside yourself. Tara Mohr in Playing Big describes that “Attachment to praise and avoidance of criticism keeps us from doing innovative, controversial work and — more simply — from following the paths we feel called toward, whether or not those around us understand or approve.” Seeking praise may mean editing your art to seek approval from others, instead of focusing on what YOU enjoy making.
Be your own cheerleader and advocate. Make art YOU like and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks because they’re not the ones making your art. Opinions are subjective thoughts, not facts. You only need to please yourself, which allows you to get on with the task of making art joyfully.
Roald Dahl explained in a 1985 interview how his first story got published. “I remember saying to myself, my goodness, it can’t be as easy as all this? … It’s terribly hard work [writing] but it’s easy the way that if you do work hard enough, then it appears that what I write is enjoyed or bought always.” Looking back now given Dahl’s success, it’s may be no surprise that he was able to become a writer without resistance from the outside world. Perhaps it was enviable that he was to become a prolific writer, or luck; being in the right place at the right time.
David Bowie said in Bowie: The Man Who Changed the World, “I don’t have a problem writing. I do write a lot over the course of a year. It’s never really been hard for me to do that.” That’s not to say other elements of Bowie’s career weren’t hard or challenging, but the process of regularly writing was straightforward.
While hard work is often required to achieve your goals, there’s a difference between it being a struggle and getting down to work on something with focus, grit and determination. Satisfaction can come from “working hard” on something you’re interested in. But is there a link to needing to feel like you’ve you really struggled through something or overcome adversity in order for you feel good about reaching a goal? I’m only worthy of the win if I’ve had to fight to get it?
Tara Mohr in Playing Big says “…often our fears about playing bigger find cover under the conviction that we have to build something large and complex.” Perhaps building, making or trying something small and simple is just as rewarding, nourishing and beneficial for growth?
“The cake you baked is delicious!”Oh it’s from an old recipe I’ve been using for years, it’s nothing really.” It feels like nothing because you’ve done it so many times and don’t even have to look at the receipt to know the measurements. It’s easy to make that delicious cake so it’s not worthy of the praise because perhaps you didn’t really EARN it. You didn’t stay up all night working on it, it wasn’t effortless but it wasn’t burdened with effort. Don’t diminish your skills that come easily; they are your silent superpowers.
Danielle LaPorte asks us “Ever feel suspicious when something is all flown and easy and just comes together? Same. We should probably get over that.”
Easy can be as valuable as hard, if you acknowledge it.