Having been raised on Disney movies, I was told the following, or a variant, over and over again: Believing in yourself is magic. All you have to do is believe and you will succeed. Just be yourself. And believe in yourself! That’s where your power is.
Suffice it to say, I haven’t found this to be the case. And when it came to endeavors like art, I found that confidence and ability didn’t sync up.
I can vividly remember a terrible poet hollering her work at the top of her lungs while a room of people told her to stop.
An awful avant-garde jazz musician honked up nonsense while nearby nonconsensual listeners clapped their hands over their ears.
They believed in themselves. They believed in themselves so much.
Or did they?
They believed in themselves when it came to their emotions anyway. They focused their feelings around the power of positivity. It was a kind of magic — they felt that if they loved their work and really projected that emotion as they shared that work with others, then that love of their work would be contagious.
But being an artist isn’t about mind control. Not that way anyway. (Some could argue that the key to success as an artist is controlling your own mind and using that discipline to your advantage, but that’s another thing altogether.)
I did my best to improve as a young artist, and while I generally didn’t seem to come off as annoying as those memorable examples, it would be much later that I realized I’d fallen into the same fallacies. I’d find myself engaging in a sort of prayer as I submitted poems to magazines. Purposefully letting my emotions swell and nigh convincing myself somehow that it mattered when it came to the outcome.
If I loved the work, the editor would love it too. That’s how it worked, wasn’t it?
The same with auditions. Getting super nervous beforehand about the outcome meant that I’d wow the judges.
But that’s not how it works. Instead, placing too much emotional stock in any one outreach can backfire. Because if you’re rejected, you risk becoming so demotivated that you try less in the future.
No, I’d eventually realize… believing in yourself is important — but not as far as how revved up you get emotionally when you’re putting yourself out there. And certainly not about forcing your work on an unwilling audience. Instead, believing in yourself is about taking the right actions — practicing, improving, and risking rejection. It’s about having faith that all the hard work you put into honing your craft is worth it — even if it takes a very long time for the outside world to agree.