No cannonballs allowed, as the month of May is full of exhibits for my artwork
Jumping in head-first isn’t so bad after all. I mean that’s how you do it to get acclimated to the cool water right? In this case, I dove right into submitting my artwork to juried exhibitions. With positive results to show for it.
Since this was the first attempt for me, I chose to submit my work to digital galleries, rather than physical ones first. This allowed me to send over images of the paintings to be judged and shown online. Eventually, I’ll submit to physical shows, but baby steps – need to learn to float before I do the breaststroke here.
I began my art exhibition journey, by looking over shows posted at artshow.com for exhibits I thought my style would fit into. Though I do more obscure abstract paintings, I do have concepts with a decent amount of pieces. I ended up submitting work to five shows, I missed the deadline on one that I thought I would have a good shot at.
Among those five shows, I submitted 11 pieces of art, with eight of them being selected. Not a bad first dip in the proverbial pool.Below are the pieces of art selected along with the galleries showing them through May. To follow more of my artwork on social media click here.
When the positive vibes turn to thoughts of self-doubt
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
– John Milton, Paradise Lost
I never understood why I was so drawn to this quote from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” ever since I read the book until I started taking a deeper look at my phobias. Learning to understand how the Fear of Success and Imposter Syndrome work, just make the gravitational pull to his profound words stronger.
There are times, I’m feeling great, positive things are working and moving forward, then out of nowhere I start to doubt myself. The latest of these moments, was today.
Ever since I started acknowledging my phobias at face value and mentally talking through them I’ve been able to keep them subdued 90 percent of the time. Today though, that fraud feeling and self-doubt came on strong. The past two weeks have been hectic, to say the least, which definitely built up to today.
I now have eight paintings in five digital exhibitions throughout the month. That flurry of acknowledgment and inclusion hit me hard. As Milton said, my mind was in heaven and this positive stimulus was reinforcement to battle back the Imposter Syndrome. Find the paintings and exhibitions in a post on Thursday.
But as the quote says, the mind can quickly turn that Heaven into Hell – whether you let it or not.
This week I was tasked with putting together a sample e-newsletter for a project. I initially pieced it together in Microsoft Word, to get all the pieces in place, however, I was not feeling any of the templates and Word just did not want to load the images in a test e-mail. Outside of downloading Mailchimp or the like for a one-off project, I needed to find another option. I had recently downloaded Canva to create fresh posts for my art social media pages, so I ended up creating the newsletter there.
The process was a crash course on the platform, and a bit tricky to navigate in the beginning, but as I went on, it was coming together nicely, and I felt confident in the final product. Today, the self-doubt started telling me I rushed the project and I screwed it up. Throughout my school years, I always hovered in the middle of the class so as not to be noticed or to be considered to be better than the rest of the class. This knew high I was feeling left me confident in my work on the project, yet Milton’s words crept in like a cat in the night, only to turn into a lion roaring. Welcome to Hell in my mind.
The more I thought about what I completed (cue the over-thinker), the more I picked it apart; finding holes in areas I thought were solid less than 12 hours before. These holes, weren’t necessarily real, but to the imposter showing itself within they were sinkholes. It took me a bit, but I was able to pull myself out of this mindset, a large part of it came through talking it out with my fiancé. She listened and made me focus on my initial feelings I had when I put the project together. I’m glad to be back on level ground and no longer in Hell. I’m learning that even though I’m understanding the Fear of Success and Imposter Syndrome I have and how to handle it; it always helps to have a few people in your corner to help when you can’t do it alone.
Understanding and overcoming the fear of failure and fear of success
It is socially more difficult to admit to being fearful of the effects of success, and hence many people would not be in a position to recognize or admit these fears even privately to themselves
You have probably been there at least once, paralyzed with no idea where to start when the tasks feel like they’re stacked all around you. The indecision of knowing you need to start somewhere but that overwhelming sensation of “but where” ultimately leading to the brain saying, “I’ll have a better start tomorrow.” For some that’s it, the next day arrives and the path is clear, and tasks are completed, for others, nothing has changed.
For those of us in the latter category, the reasoning could be due to the fear of failure or the fear of success. For some, both of these fears can play a role together under what is referred to as the fear of self-promotion – related to imposter syndrome.
I’ve been a fraud all my life.
At least that is what my brain has wanted me to believe, let me explain.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt this constant tug-of-war within me that has led to countless unfinished goals and projects (a poetry book, a novel, a young adult sci-fi book, a comic book, and more). When I say goals and projects, I am referring to my dreams and aspirations outside of a professional setting. Somehow, along my career path, I was always able to sidestep this battle and excel at my job. I was very aware of not only this battle but of the fact that I was able to discard it at times. But none of it made sense. I’d always said I had an equal fear of failure and success, and only recently have I started looking into this more.
Why now more than four decades into my life?
Because of a growing fire within telling me I am meant to do more than I am currently doing.
My wanting to understand these phobias has shown me, that fear of success and imposter syndrome are the main culprits of my paralyzing moments. “Often, a person may believe that it is a fear of failure that is stopping them from trying or achieving something in their professional or personal life,” coachcampus.com explains in the introduction of “Power Tool: Fear of Failure vs. Fear of Success.” “However, exploration may lead to the discovery that it is actually a fear of success, which is far less understood and acknowledged, compared to the fear of failure.”
As the biggest criteria I have linked to the fear of failure tends to be “excessive anticipation of situations that bring on fear” as reported in “What Is Atychiphobia and How Can You Manage Fear of Failure?” I regularly envision future conversations or scenarios with full anticipation of them being negative rather than positive. This alone is crippling, as there have been thousands of times I’ve walked away from something already seeing the made-up outcome. Like getting that one girl’s phone number in college and knowing it was a fake number without even calling it. It wasn’t.
In “Explaining the Fear of Success” healthline.com says fearing the consequences of success can appear in setting low goals, procrastination, perfectionism, quitting, and self-destructiveness. This fear can also lead to feeling guilt, anxiety and pressure.
Coachcampus.com says “It is socially more difficult to admit to being fearful of the effects of success, and hence many people would not be in a position to recognize or admit these fears even privately to themselves… fear of success is about how others will view us.”
According to healthline.com “Childhood experiences stick with us for life, … If, as a child, you were belittled for success or scolded for showing off … you learned to avoid success rather than face the negativity.” This is a perfect setup for fear of success according to healthline.com.
When I was in kindergarten, I recall and have heard my mother retell the story numerous times, about a bad experience with a particular teacher. Every day I would finish my coloring projects ahead of the class, my coloring was inside the lines and complete. In return for being the first one done my teacher would make me stand in the corner until the rest of the class was finished. After arriving home in tears on multiple occasions, my mother had a parent-teacher meeting. The teacher’s reasoning was that she wasn’t going to give me more classwork putting me ahead of the rest of the class, so she made me stand in the corner. My mother suggested just giving me a blank paper to draw and color (since I’ve loved drawing from the start), but the teacher adamantly told my mother no. Needless to say I never returned to that school again.
Throughout my school years I would do just enough to keep myself above passing, but rarely push myself to excel. I always chalked it up to me never being one for the spotlight or the attention. Turns out all aspects of that are connected to the fear of success. Also, of fear of self-promotion. Verywellmind.com states that “If you’re afraid to highlight your own positive traits, you could be suffering from a fear of self-promotion.”
My research has started to bring clarity to these moments of my life that I vividly remember, and it is allowing me to start navigating a path to breaking the self-destructive habits. I’m identifying those key situations and how I inwardly reacted to them for what they were now. With each memory I unravel and take a deeper look into, I feel that negative energy and that fear falling apart.
One such memory was my senior year of high school and captain of the wrestling team. Our team was awful that year, to the point my teammates would make remarks on how we wouldn’t be shut out on the night because I would at least win my match. Though the comments were made in jest to try and relieve the tension of just how bad we were; the pressure going into my matches seemed to be more. Then those matches I would lose, I felt like a letdown – like I didn’t hold up my part of the deal. This pressure is a catalyst for fear of success as well as imposter syndrome.
Coachcampus.com breaks down the imposter syndrome as a cycle that immediately creates anxiety and self-doubt; this leads to over-preparation or procrastination. Habitual procrastinator here. However, over-preparation would always be my approach to my professional work. While I was an editor, I would constantly make sure I always had stories from writers sitting in the “hopper” ready to be loaded on the site. I’d often have a week full of stories scheduled for posting regularly. At the same time, I have been working on the same book for more than two decades. I tackle it in spurts, get a great surge of energy and crank out thousands of words, and chapters, then it sits for months. It appears I’ve managed to separate my work from my personal life completely into my phobias.
In my freshman year of college, I was taking courses to be a technology education teacher. I wanted to teach what I enjoyed, but also be a wrestling coach at the time. I had one professor first semester who constantly shredded every student’s assignments. He’d crumple up prospective writings, toss them over his shoulder into the trash, after reading only a few sentences aloud. Projects that were built, were critiqued in a similar manner stopping just short of a sledgehammer swinging through them. By the end of the semester, I felt so defeated and at a loss. At the time I can see how this only added to my phobia but unpacking it I can see this moment for exactly what it was. This professor’s class style was harsh for an incoming freshman. And I take it as meant to be, to weed out those whose heart wasn’t into being a technology teacher. At the time it definitely rattled my cage, and I changed my major at the end of the semester. I bounced around a few majors before graduating with my degree in creative writing (a degree that my mother knew I would end up with).
In 2011, I was offered to relocate to New York City with the media organization I had been serving as Managing Editor of since 2008. There was a lot going on in my personal life, and this offer seemed to come at a time I needed it most. However, I couldn’t make a decision without running it by my family first. Inside, I knew I wanted to take the chance, to see if I could hold my own with some talented journalism professionals who had been cutting their teeth for years in New York City. Yet, it took the full support of my family for me to commit to it. Another sign of fear of success.
In 2017, the company that I had given my all to shuttered, and I found myself at ground zero of a rebuilding process. I’d never been fired, and only left previous companies to progress up the corporate ladder. Rewriting a resume after almost a decade was a learning process as styles were light years from what I had as a skeleton. Since then, I’ve churned out hundreds of resumes with some of them leading to interviews, some vaporizing into the ether, and on a couple occasions, coming down to the final selection to be passed on. My emotions dipped, as that fraud mentality started to settle in, as days turned to weeks, to months, and now years. Never was their bitterness, as in those instances I just missed the position; I understood where I just fell short of the situation. But bitterness and fraud mentality aren’t connected.
At this same time, there was a lot of soul-searching and self-reflection. I began addressing some of the issues and feelings that had been weighing me down for so long. Like the constant feeling that I would be letting my family down if I didn’t have children. Opening up and speaking on this subject with my mother and father, it became evident this was a manifestation within my mind. After those powerful conversations, something clicked, and I started to address each item I felt was a weight. I’m not done yet, however, this year I’m feeling more motivated than ever to complete projects and go after my goals.
So much so, that I finished an early reader’s book in the first quarter of 2021, I’ve shared it with a small focus panel and have started to search for a literary agent. In April, I began submitting my artwork (putting me in a corner wasn’t going to stop me, just slowed me down) to juried exhibitions. I currently have six paintings showing in three digital exhibitions throughout the month of May. I’m in the process of officially starting a business with my brother who just beat cancer in 2020. And have two other small businesses in the works with my fiancé. Watching my little brother and his battle in 2020, along with a handful of other close calls and tragedies, outside of the global pandemic reminded me how quickly life can be gone. My brain shifted from focusing on the feeling of being a fraud or that I wasn’t good enough to I’m going to do what I enjoy and share it with the world.
Like the Roadrunner dropping an anvil on Wile E. Coyote’s head, this quote hits me hard for multiple reasons.
First and foremost, my creative mind is always bouncing from project to project as the urge for one avenue shines through one day, and another the following day. A blessing and a curse. And if you were to ask my fiancé, the biggest annoyance about me.
As she always says, I have 15 projects started, but none of them completed or close to it. I haven’t told her that number probably only accounts for everything that falls under what I blanketly refer to as “writing”. However, this year I did make a formidable attempt to complete projects before starting another one, and I’ve tackled them according to the seasons as well.
Lately, though, I’ve found myself struggling with the fact there’s just not enough hours, minutes or seconds in a day for me to do everything I want to do. See I don’t just write. Though writing is my first passion and will always be a main avenue for me. I also paint/draw, do woodworking, epoxy resin work, and vegetable and flower gardening. Often it feels, that just as I’m hitting my groove within any of those avenues, it’s time to hit the pause button to eat dinner with the future Mrs. as I believe in family dinners – even our dog eats with us at this time – when he feels like it that is.
I guess these are the curses that I mentioned before. Inside I feel myself being pulled in multiple directions, wanting to tackle everything every day. I mean in a perfect world, I’d wake in the morning and work on my creative writing, venture outside in the coolness of the morning and work in the gardens, before shifting gears to some of the woodworking projects I currently have on my list that could probably rival a child’s Christmas list. But because none of these avenues are currently my full-time job, this isn’t my reality so I do what I can to make it work. I almost said, I do my best, but I know that’s not accurate. If I was doing my best, I wouldn’t let the inner conflicts of where to start on projects take control. I’d just pick one and run with it.
The blessing in having such an active mind for me is in the fact that I always have something to do. I’ve heard a few podcasts by Rob Dial on The Mindset Mentor where he’s spoke about how individuals have a hard time letting their minds essentially be inactive. That we need to constantly have something going on to allow us to hide from our worst thoughts or issues that we aren’t able to face. I don’t know if that’s necessarily it for me, because I do have times where I’m completely zoned out from anything and everyone around me, with my brain on pause and it’s been fantastic. But then those five minutes end and I need to find something to do ASAP as I start to get antsy.
As I touched on briefly, I am making a formidable effort to complete projects this year, and I have set solid goals as well. Now, my challenge is making each day as productive as possible without sacrificing family time. The seasons approach was a mediocre system where I would paint and writing in the winter months, then tackle the projects that involved the outdoors during warm months from late spring into the fall. As I write that sentence out though, I already feel guilty that my time isn’t being split more evenly across all avenues that I enjoy.
I’ve thought about dedicating certain days to certain creative outlets, but I have days where I’m “scheduled” to paint but everything inside me is telling me to write – so I write. Maybe that’s my subconscious fear shifting me in one direction. Maybe it’s my gut pointing me in the direction I need to be focusing at that time. I’m still trying to figure out this mind and body of mine after all these years.
Currently when I have tried to stick to a “schedule” I’ve found myself falling into a routine that I remember doing in my weightlifting days. I found myself doing a routine of one body area a day. Many of you may know the routines – it’s Chest day, today’s arms, but I never skipped leg day. Actually, it seemed to be back day that ended up being missed the most, and as a result I dealt myself a painful rotator cuff injury. I focused too much in one region that it started to overcompensate for my back – pulling my shoulders forward. Took some time, but I corrected the issue, and ended up doing more total body workouts after that so as to make sure there was an even distribution of work across the muscles.
The seasons approach to these avenues, is not an awful one, however, the biggest issue with that approach, is that writing and painting are most definitely the two that need a more consistent appearance to maintain a sharpness and freshness; not to mention overcoming the dreaded writer’s block or painter’s block.
Back to that quote though, I struggle when the weather is a sunny 73 degree day outside, and I know it’s perfect time to be revamping flower beds, and moving plants around for a continuous variety of colors; but at the same time my mind is pulling me to sit down at the computer and write. Write until my fingers bleed, write until something of semblance comes out of my mind to just get the juices flowing through the form of sentences. This last thought is essentially how today went. However, the mind started pulling me to write, while I was in the yard working on things – wasn’t a flower bed, but it was flipping compost piles before the cold weather hits in hopes for them to be used come next season.
Maybe there is a hint of Attention Deficit Disorder there as well. I tend to chalk it up to my wanting to do everything I enjoy every day. Someday the hope is that will be an option, but it isn’t currently. There are goals set though that will allow that to happen, and actions are being set to achieve them, but in the meantime, I still need to navigate my creative mind to focus on the tasks at hand. And I’m curious as to how other creatives navigate their inner struggles with projects as well. Consider this step one, towards those goals, towards navigating that creative process, and towards the future.
Each breath we breathe
Is not free
Someone has to pay; duly
Our Police officers
They are those that face what you fear most
They fight and they sacrifice
And yet overlooked is the tag
I have a writers mind
With creative rhymes
You wouldn’t know
Unless you took a trip
Behind my blue eyes
I’m a busy bee
Trying to make this; co-exist.
How I find time,
I do not know
But my life is never dull
I kiss your picture
Because I can’t kiss your lips
I lay wide awake
Dwelling on my mistakes
I dream of you
Because your all I want to see
I wake up in the morning
And dread what’s coming
I put on my mask
And hide behind my blue eyes
For my pain won’t go away
I have no morphine
I have nothing
Because you were everything.
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