Have you ever heard yourself saying these things?:
“I want to be a performer, but I can’t. It’s too hard. I’m too old now, everyone else is doing it, they are better than me, the market is saturated, I am not qualified enough, I’m too busy and don’t have enough money.”
There is nothing that kills a creative journey faster than the doubts, and those small, unheard voices are the saddest losses in the artistic world. Those voices could have inspired a Picasso or a Rembrandt. Even if they were not Picasso themselves, they possibly broke a chain of inspiration or chances for connections because the doubts got the better of them.
But how does one get over that, and instead get enough talent to be badass and do it anyway?
First, realize, everyone has them. Everyone needs to fight through them. Every single one of your inspirations reconsiders their priorities and instead chooses to keep moving forward. You can too.
Common doubts all artists have are:
“You’re too old for this s**t.”
You’re only too old when you’ve decided you’re done. If you want to be a contortionist, start stretching. If you want to be an acrobat, find an acrobatics gym. If you want to understand ballet, get a teacher and start learning barre technique (I took my first class last week!).
For some inspiration, here are some people who decided there is no such thing as too old:
- Watch this 86 year old woman doing gymnastics
- This woman salsa dancing like a beast
- This 85 year old man who just broke world records at marathon running.
Unless you are actually struggling because of a disability, stop repeating to yourself you’re too old, and actively resist the messages the world gives us. If you hear it in your mind, get up, and start practicing! Dedicate time to your practice every day and prove yourself wrong.
“In this moment, you are older and wiser than you have ever been, and younger than you will ever be again. Act now. ” – Kevin Axtell
“I need to prove myself to the cool people.”
The Flow Arts community is particularly lucky in this way; there is the wonderful sense of belonging amongst a sea of awkward geeks. Seriously, your awkward is showing, and you’re adorable for it! Let it hang out and you’re actually going to fit in just fine. It’s cliche, but important to only compare your own practice to your own practice. If you do find yourself getting envious, try using that as a sign about what you want from yourself, then go after it. In my case, I lack grace and clean form, so I am now in a weekly ballet class. It will just make all my work more refined and my expression more defined.
Not attractive or thin enough
We are all given a body, and it allows us to dance, play with objects and be free. Being grateful for this body as it is will allow us more freedom and energy to move inside it.
It is important to eat as healthy as we can and develop a fitness praxis. We must practice letting go of any outside ideals placed upon us. This is no easy task. Yet, if you’re actually a ninja, no one will dare critique your physique!
What’s really sad is not even models are “beautiful enough” by today’s magazine standards. Everything is photoshopped, choreographed and perfected these days. Each layer of what we call “professional looking” takes huge swaths of time to learn and money to burn. This includes pro-lighting, makeup artists, costume designers, hair stylists, choreographers and directors, dance teachers, and the photographers or videographers who know how to take great shots from the perfect angles. Really, the only way we can get to the standards of the magazines is to create huge productions with every level of awesome, and an enormous production team.
It’s not going to happen.
Instead, we have to bring it back to the basis of being ninja-level Flow Artists, by practicing healthy habits almost daily.
Give up looking perfect every minute of the day, and instead, own what you’ve got. Wear clean clothes, learn a good makeup style or camera angle for you and allow yourself to be seen in this world without regret!
Not strong enough / it’s too difficult
The only way we get better, stronger, faster, harder is to practice. Getting strong will physically hurt. It should be difficult, and that’s what makes it great! This is how you develop grit. It can be difficult to motivate yourself, but well worth the effort.
Oh, you don’t like pain? Don’t worry, I don’t either. Instead of jumping right in, we can start really slow, and build muscle over a longer period of time.
One thing I find really helpful is hanging around humble, strong, inspiring people. Make those physically and mentally strong friends your new normal. It helps if you go to running meetups, or clubs where people are already strong in the field of your choice. You’ll start to see that if they can do it, you can too! If you don’t want to go to those clubs, start your own, and sucker your own friends into getting fit with you!
If you aren’t strong enough now, you will never be strong enough if you don’t get started. Personally, I often struggle with motivation, both mentally and physically, and it’s why I develop rituals that make me work hard every single day. It’s the work that makes me strong and creates my motivation.
No, really, start slow! Start with what you know and do that well, then start stretching beyond your comfort zone. Just the act of getting that time carved out in your schedule is work! For example, I worked myself up to a half marathon last year. Before I started running, I began walking one kilometer at a time. I began very slow, taking photos and enjoying my walks. I was carving out time every day. When I was able to reach 5 kilometers of walking, I began running one, and walking the rest. Slowly but surely, it all became running, until I did 22kms!
Everyone else is doing it / It’s all been done before
There are a lot more people who are hooping and juggling now. Do you know what that means? There are more community members, more venues for expression, and more awareness in the corporate world than there ever has been before! I understand the need to be unique or the feeling of wanting to be “the best” and have your voice heard, but let’s be clear – you are already unique by the fact that you are you, and there is no one else who will ever have a voice like yours again.
Martha Graham says “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you and into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.”
The tough part about your unique voice is that it takes time to develop enough skill to express yourself eloquently. During the first phase of learning, you will find yourself copying other people to get the technique under your belt. This is normal. In fact, it takes years to develop a form of expression that is both unique to you, and also clear and defined. Yet, your expression will come through, no matter what you do, no matter how long you’ve been at it, even if it’s messy, so keep going. Keep showing up and doing the work. It will only become more definitive and refined over time.
Not qualified / good enough
There is a video that expresses a thought about this that you should watch:
Finished. Not Perfect.
“You’re going to hate whatever you do perfectly now, a year from now, because you’ve moved on. You’ve gotten better. The world wants, and it needs, people who finish things.”
Our world has a very strange value system, and there are a lot of messages out there which attempt to arbitrarily measure your success or failure at any given task. You have all of those outer thoughts and feelings inside you, and you’ve likely added a few of your own. The fact is, none of it matters. You should never judge a piece of work until it’s complete. In fact, some of the work I judged as horrible, I went back to and realized how good it really was, and that maybe I could have stayed with that idea.
Credentials are not necessary for artistic work. Completed work is necessary. All you need to do is the work. Bonus points if you have the courage to share it with the world.
Don’t have enough time / money
This one is the most practical of doubts, and it requires one to rearrange their priorities. For money? Do it with what you’ve got on hand. For time? Changing habits may be in order. For example: Do you use Facebook in the morning? What about taking that moment you wake up to do 10 minutes of mindfulness Flow Arts training? Having trouble making money to buy props? You can try earning Affiliate points through websites like Home of Poi by linking people on the internet to props that you like. There are many ingenious ways to get around the difficulties of time and money. Just trying to put in 20 minutes every day will make a big difference overall, and doing what you can with what you’ve got will go a long way.
Have you seen a pattern here? Getting through the doubts is always about doing the work, completing it, learning from your mistakes, and moving forward. We are all in this together, and if the doubts are really getting to you, call a friend, reach out, and know you’re not alone.