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“I am not an artist.”
That is what I used to say three years ago when someone would catch me drawing in a notebook or doodling on a napkin.
I felt too unqualified, unseasoned, unaccomplished to call myself such a sacred word.
That imposter feeling was the same when I started my design business in 2014, but at least I had hope for what I could become. I heard about this whole “online business” thing and I thought maybe, just maybe, I could figure it out and I wouldn’t have to go back to a soul-stifling job I hated.
But when the blind naïveté and buzzing novelty of my first six months in business wore off, and when the clients weren’t knocking down my door begging to give me money, I slowly started to drift into the heavy, jarring void of uncertainty.
Was I good enough to be doing this? Was I just pretending to be a designer? Who would pay me to design their brand when I had no formal training of any kind?
For three straight months these are the type of thoughts that rang in my head. They left me feeling frantic and desperate, with no clear direction on how to pull myself out of this spiral of self-doubt.
Like a moth to a self-sabotaging flame, I was drawn to every other creative entrepreneur around me that looked like they had it together. I was so clouded by my own negative self-talk that it felt like literally every designer was more qualified, more talented, more experienced, and more confident than I was.
This feeling persisted to the point that I truly considered the fact that I just wasn’t cut out to be a designer or a business owner or actually a creative person at all.
Until one day I just got so TIRED of feeling helpless and desperate that I considered a radical alternative: to simply STOP.
What if I stopped questioning, stopped comparing, stopped letting fear rule my thoughts?
What if I stopped fixating on what I wasn’t and start fixating on what I knew that I WAS.
I knew I was conscientious with my work. I knew I was good at communicating. I knew I had a sense for people and had the ability to connect dots. I knew I had an eye for design (even if I didn’t know all the technical aspects of how to create a brand.)
In other words, I focused on my strengths. I focused on the things I knew to be TRUE, which I realized didn’t actually feel like pretending.
About this same time, I met a new friend who was struggling with a similar crisis of confidence as me. In conversations I heard her question her talents, vacillate between this idea and that idea, and speak as though her current situation had happened to her by mere coincidence. Like everything she had worked for happened TO her not BECAUSE of her.
After a while of listening to her question herself, though my heart went out to her, I have to admit I started questioning her too.
And that’s when it hit me: SHE was ME.
Witnessing her lack of belief in herself was like holding up a mirror to my own doubts.
Suddenly I was able to see that if I was expecting others to put their faith in me and pay me for my design services, I had to first cultivate an unwavering belief in myself.
Finding a way to believe in your own abilities is the seed from which confidence will grow.
But it has to start with YOU.
We always tend to think of confidence as something that is delivered to us from the outside world. If others would just give us positive feedback or validation, THEN we’ll feel confident, right?
But confidence is not something that comes TO us; it comes FROM us. It is planted within us first and is cultivated and tended to through experience and practice.
So, this month I’m going to ask you to Color Your Soul with CONFIDENCE.
Is it possible to just flip a switch and in a matter of moments go from feeling small and powerless to strong and powerful? No, I don’t believe confidence is instantaneous like that.
But, is it possible to use the contents of this issue mindfully and intentionally so that by the end of this month you feel just a bit more capable in some aspect of your life? I have no doubt that is possible.
This month we’ll talk about where confidence comes from, how you can make it grow, and some ways to conjure it up when it’s nowhere in sight.
The three sub-themes that I want you to explore this month are: OWNERSHIP, COURAGE, and PRACTICE.
Confidence is ownership.
I use the word ownership to describe the responsibility we take for ourselves and our lives. Ultimately WE are the authors of our life story, therefore WE have the authority to decide what it will become. Confidence begins with a decision to believe in ourselves even when we feel powerless. We can decide that even when we don’t feel presently capable, we still have the ability to believe in the potential within us.
Confidence through ownership is about claiming the power within. It’s about planting seeds of belief that can grow into something true and tested. It is the acknowledgement that it’s not the world’s responsibility to build our confidence; it is our own. It all begins with belief.
Confidence is courage.
When a seed of belief is planted, in order to flourish in the world it needs to be supported by experience. It needs to be tested in order to ring true. That is where courage comes in. Courage is not the absence of fear but the decision to move forward in the face of fear. In order to test our confidence, we must be willing to put ourselves in vulnerable situations.
Confidence through courage is about stretching beyond your fears and assumptions to prove to yourself how capable you really are. It’s about putting yourself in situations that may be uncertain to test your inner faith and to create a new normal, one where you can see your belief supported in FACT. It’s about showing up, even when you feel afraid (especially when you feel afraid), and proving to yourself that you are powerful.
Confidence is practice.
In my personal experience, there is no match for the confidence that is created through deliberate practice. If belief is the seed of confidence, and courage is the fuel it needs, then practice is the daily tending that allows it to turn from something potential to something real. Showing up once takes courage, but sustained confidence comes from showing up over and over and over again. As Aristotle says, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Practice is the proof your confidence calls upon when it’s summoned.
Confidence through practice is about stacking tiny building blocks of courage on top of one another until you find yourself with a solid foundation of truth to stand on. Practice is about repetition. It’s about confronting fear over and over until it’s not so scary anymore. It’s about creating a body of work that you can refer back to in times of doubt to say, “Look, I DID THAT. I know I am capable because I’ve already done all of that.”
I’ve thought about this topic of confidence deeply, I’ve lived this topic deeply, and I’ve scoured the web gathering up resources and perspectives hoping to deliver to you some kind of framework for approaching your own confidence in this issue.
I’ve also asked two of my friends who’ve had lots of experience cultivating confidence to share their insights with you, so you’ll see two contributor articles for the first time this month!
I hope that the inspiration, instruction and insight you find here will lead you to a stronger sense of confidence in yourself. Whatever doubts you might hold right now or whatever areas of yourself or your life that may leave you feeling weak, I hope this month’s issue wakes you up to your own strength -- a strength I KNOW exists in us all.
I was fearful those first six months into my design business, I was fearful launching Color Your Soul just a month ago, and I know I’ll be fearful for the rest of my creative life -- BUT I will not allow that to stop me from cultivating confidence in my spirit or my work. I hope you feel the same way!