Want to be a wildlife photographer? "You're not good enough for that and will never make it, there's too many photographers in the world, you'll starve to death." The inner critic says. The inner critic may be voices from concerned family, friends, or former bosses. We're taught to be humble and "realistic."
Take the photo above for instance. I desperately want to delete it and feel embarrassed showing a couple of my creative rewards. But looking back on your accomplishments can be a huge confidence booster. And being a full-time creative person is brutal. We need all the confidence we can get.
There's a simple exercise that can help clear up that clutter and help you get your courage back. You ready with a pen to participate? Let's do it, it's easy.
Do This: Write down every single time you've received an award or felt proud and accomplished in your life.
Think hard on it, and really list every single thing, no matter how banal or minor it seems. Did you win a spelling bee in 2nd grade? Write it. Were you particularly proud of a crayon drawing you worked hard on in kindergarden? Write it.
When I finished my list every accomplishment was related to writing, photography or art. It made me feel less lost, like I really was moving in the right direction. It encouraged me to keep going the route I'm going, to add more to the list into the future. I won't share every example on my list here but here's a particularly funny one I almost forgot about, this list was an entertaining trip down memory lane!:
I was late to school one day, senior year. It was AP World History class. When I arrived at the door I heard something like, "Hey, Vanessa's at the door, hey, everyone, let's..." and there was a suspicious hush over the class. When I cautiously cracked open the door (probably expecting to get chewed out for tardiness) the whole class erupted into applause. They explained the the teacher read a comic I drew on the back of our test on ancient Greece aloud to the class, it was "so funny" most classmates were in tears. I would occasionally answer test questions in comic form. The question was, "How did Greeks help stop wars with the Persians?" and I drew a same sex Persian/Greek wedding with a lecherous Greek and a distressed Persian. Graphic detail. Use your imagination. I nearly forgot about that day. I used to get told I was hilarious regularly by classmates and readers of past websites. It makes me feel good I have that potential in me to be hysterical or even entertaining with writing and comics. Gotta bring it back out!And another semi-embarrassing one from middle school. Oh the tales I could tell you about the infamy of "the twins"!:
I started middle school after the nuclear fallout my brothers (twins, 5 years older than me) left in their wake. The faculty told us that no one had ever become popular as quickly as my tall, beautiful brothers. A novelty act, two for one! I was "Harold and Ray's sister" and got tired of hearing it. I complained to my mom and she said one day I'd be recognized for being me, "the smart one". In 8th grade I won a city-wide essay contest, my Principle was ecstatic because our D-rated school that sorely needed good PR. My English teacher cried. Soon after I was stopped in the hall by someone and was anticipating the typical "Aren't you Harold and Ray's sister?" comment but instead she asked, "Aren't you the girl who on the computer?" I'd made my mark.The two stories of seemingly irrelevant school-age accomplishments above make me feel so much lighter and happier. Behind-the-scenes I'm an extremely brutal self-critic and the accomplishment list exercise helped shut out the negative voices. What a reprieve to silence them for once; refreshing as a like a sudden relief from a nagging pain.
Pay special attention to your early school years when you write your list, this is when possibilities seemed endless. These are the years we're more in touch with our true wants and desires, before we're told creative pipe dreams were unrealistic. Look at all you were able to accomplish, and remember you can still do that now. I hope this exercise gives you the confidence to work toward any of your creative aspirations every day.
I hope you try this exercise no matter what, you may be surprised by the results!