For Students: Protecting Artistic Confidence

As an aspiring artist, what is your strategy for nurturing self-confidence? If you’ve never considered this issue before—and especially if you’re a younger artist—you may want to put together a solid approach now. Your sense of security in your own ability, more than anything else, will determine your lifelong feelings about yourself as an artist.

It all starts on the level of thought. Habitual self-talk, usually learned from others, inevitably shapes overall self-concept. Technically, we are the only ones in charge of our thoughts, but it can be tough to separate what we think about ourselves from what other people, especially authority figures, have said about our work—and, by extension, about us. The trick is to separate the two, hone the ability to readily discern between them, and choose only thoughts that uphold our true goals and aspirations.

When I studied in France during my junior year in college, my advisor discouraged me from pursuing studio art there. I decided to take it anyway, and soon found out why she had made this recommendation: my fellow students were light years ahead of me, having already chosen and refined their area of concentration for the baccalauréat. Though the students in my class were supportive, my professor mocked me for my inexperience. I ended the year by dumping all of my work in a trash bin before heading off for a summer filled with travel. 

Protecting Artistic Confidence

Classroom - SCAD - Hong Kong.

Similarly, back at school, my dance teacher, who had drilled me in strict ballet technique for years, decided one day to use me as a public example: “This is what happens when you focus too much on technique and forget your passion for the dance.” Her statement caused me to lose hope for the future, because even though I had tried to give everything she asked for in class, I had lost my own artistic identity in the process.

As a student, it’s up to you to develop a thick skin and avoid taking to heart any harsh comments that may arise from insensitivity or simple lack of awareness on the part of others. Keep your intention focused on the positive. Make it your goal to let negative statements wash away from your consciousness, and keep your mind focused solely upon your personal set of intentions. What do YOU think about your art? Is it what you want it to be, or will it take time to arrive at that place? What is your vision? Let your own thoughts and feelings guide you forward.

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