The Scare in the Air: How a creative unwinds anxious thoughts and feelings.
Anyone else feeling the SCARE IN THE AIR lately? We got some scary medical news about my father-in-law. And of course my mother-in-law is anxious...they've been married for 60 years. My hubby is flying down to help them out. Which makes ME a tad nervous with my 60-year old sweetie pie flying and a pretty nasty virus circling around the globe.
Whether it's anxiety about hubby catching a virus, or feeling anxious that my art isn't good enough, I typically use some version of the process below to unwind anxious thoughts that are creating uncomfortable feelings.
As a creative, it's important for me to do this, because I can't create well or create at my best if I have anxiety barking at my heels. So I use a hybrid-my-own-version of the ABC method (by Ellis) to evaluate.
1. I identify the "activating event" that started the everything for me this time around. It can be anything that triggers me...just depends.
2. I identify my "beliefs and thoughts" about this event.
3. I identify the emotional/negative consequences of my interpretation of the activating event and/or my beliefs.
4. I start to dispute the crap outta any beliefs or interpretations that are weak or irrational using solid evidence.
5. I identify effective new evidence/beliefs to replace the irrational/unhelpful ones.
Now I'll walk you through a recent example straight from my art studio.
ACTIVATING EVENT: A couple of months ago, there was a call for artists to design a poster for the #makemenopausematter campaign. Immediately, I knew I wanted to submit. Then just as fast, I didn't and felt anxious.
BELIEFS/THOUGHTS: Here's a few thoughts I had: "I bet there's a lot of competition for this." "They probably want girly-girly soft colored menopause art and mine isn't like that." "I probably won't get it." And the beliefs underlying THOSE thoughts are: "YO...YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH." "ART NEEDS TO BE PERFECT."
CONSEQUENCES (of those beliefs/thoughts): Feeling anxious, disappointed, sad, binge eating, not moving toward art goals, never happy with my art work.
DISPUTE: Here's how I started thinking: Art is subjective depending on who's viewing the art. I've seen art that I think sucks and the artist is making bank. Just because there's competition doesn't mean my art won't get a fair shake at being evaluated. The world is swamped with 'girly girly soft' menopause art; maybe they want something different for their campaign.
And here's how I went after the beliefs: None of my art ever really feels "good enough," so maybe I'M not seeing things clearly. I mean...it ALL can't be THAT bad. Until someone invents a "good enough" instrument where we insert our art into the machine and it measures it, then being GOOD ENOUGH is a subjective belief. I can believe my art is good enough if I practice believing that. Art doesn't need to be perfect to be loved and enjoyed. That's an old left-over belief from years ago when some jerk taught you to color within the lines 'cause THEY wanted life to be perfect. There's no such thing as perfect, but there is a perfectly ME.
EVIDENCE/NEW THOUGHTS and BELIEFS: "I'm going to choose to believe my art is good enough and prove this by submitting." "I'm going to eliminate that phrase from my vocabulary and start to think, "my art is good." "I'll practice believing my art is good without over-thinking it." "Nothing is perfect and that's okay." "I actually love things that are imperfect and wonky!" (think of Rudolph and the island of Misfit Toys..ha!) "I don't know how many are submitting. Could be one person...could be a hundred. In either case, I'm naturally competitive and LOVE to good competition. heeheehee. Gonna knock them outta the park." "Perfect is a ridiculous standard taught to me by adults in my past who struggled with their own imperfections." "I'll create my OWN gauge of what is good enough using a percentage chart to evaluate my OWN art."
So, I went forward and submitted. I was still a bit anxious, but not like when I started. I created art that was uniquely ME with all the bright colors and cartoon style that makes me who I am. I used the evidence/new thoughts as I created, and I never expected to hear back. I told my husband, "They'll probably never pick it."
And then I was contacted by the Make Menopause Matter campaign.
And they wanted to work with me. I nearly sh%& myself and laughed. Apparently there IS a place for cartoon style brightly colored menopause art in the world. And had I settled into the negative beliefs and thoughts...I would never had been chosen, 'cause I wouldn't have submitted. You can download 3 versions here. (And maybe even talk with your doc about it, 'cause menopause can suck pretty bad).
So moral of the story? Don't believe what you're thinking with your art until you evaluate those thoughts and beliefs! If you'd like to hear more about reducing anxiety as a creative and how to think more positively and feel better in general, drop me a comment below!