Do It So Good That You Don't Doubt Yourself Anymore

“Do it so good that people can't doubt it anymore.”
This advice to artists is from the movie about the struggles of women artists, Who Does She Think She Is?*
I'd like to offer a corollary—a quote that I think is more powerful:
“Do it so good that YOU can't doubt it anymore.”

J'Nell Jordan, Ten-twenty-five. Oil and acrylic on masonite
J'Nell Jordan, Ten-twenty-five. Oil and acrylic on masonite, 24 x 35 inches. ©The Artist

In my experience, it doesn't matter whether others believe in you or not.
What matters is that you believe in yourself. You can't make something happen if you're constantly reinforcing the negative thoughts.
Doubting yourself usually takes one of these forms:
• You doubt your talent.
• You doubt your ambition.
• You doubt your courage.
Most artists have a certain level of confidence, but doubt creeps in from time to time. It could be set off by an event, a conversation, or the alignment of the stars. Whatever it is, you must counter the doubt before it overtakes you.

To Conquer Doubt

Work more. Work less.
Work harder. Work smarter.
Work with others. Work in silence.
Work more meticulously. Work feverishly.
Work on something different.
Work toward a deadline.
Work for a bigger purpose.
Try all of the above. And do it so good that YOU can't doubt yourself anymore.
FINAL WORD: A certain level of doubt can be useful as motivation. Dwelling in doubt can be debilitating. Conquer the doubt. What matters is that you believe in yourself.
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*I believe it was Tiffany Schlain who said this in the film.

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15 thoughts on “Do It So Good That You Don't Doubt Yourself Anymore”

  1. Pingback: Art Marketing Action Podcast: Conquer Doubt — Art Biz Blog

  2. As artists, we can be our own worst critics. On the one hand, we can sometimes focus on every little imperfection instead of seeing the picture as a whole. That can be counterproductive. On the other hand, we need to be critical of our work, we need to try and see where and how the work could have been better, at least as a lesson learned for the next painting. But we also need to give ourselves a pat on the back for those things that turned out well. We need to keep in mind what stage we are at, ie beginner, intermediate or advanced, or struggling to learn vs experienced and accomplished.
    I believe it’s a good thing to have some doubt, to question ourselves, to question whether we have done our best, or whether we need to try harder next time. But too much doubt just means a lack of self confidence and that is not good as it will be reflected in the quality of our work, through a lack of spontaneity and assurance and personality.

  3. Brainard Carey mentioned something along these exact lines recently. He was taking the “is your art good enough?” approach. And I liked what he said about it. He stated that if you are in a gallery or museum engaging in the internal conversation of “How EVER did this work get in this collection, exhibition, show? MY art is better than that!” You are having a dialog with the art world, art at large, and YES you are good enough. He also points out that it’s wise for us when in doubt to remember the artists that jab us (It is a jab isn’t it?) into asking this question. He says, deconstruct how they go where they are, a simple google search can reveal a lot.
    When I am in doubt, I remind myself of all I’ve achieved. I look over the body of my work. Then I say, “Damn the torpedos! Get back to work!” Which is what I’m going to do right now….

  4. I thought this was a great post.
    I know now that I will always be tortured with doubt…no matter what!
    Huge waves of self abusive doubt.If you let it stop you, nothing will get done.
    I also think this is pretty healthy because it means you are pushing into new territory. If you were doing the same thing over and over, you would know the exact outcome.
    Just keep working, that is the important thing.

  5. I am going through this right now. I woke up the other night with a voice screaming “who are you kidding…you’re a terrible artist”. It screamed all night and since then I’ve wondered and fretted and have been beating myself up over lack of finished work this year and why it’s just not improving as I expect/want. This is debilitating. I am hoping I can move past this soon.

  6. It’s funny – we never question our life when things are going swimmingly. It’s got to be a circle. Up down, round and round. Confident or full of doubt.
    I have a wall of inspirational images – artists at work, things I want to accomplish and a binder of inspirational reading to refer to when I’m feeling “blah”. It always helps get me going!
    Sometimes a good walk can make you feel good – you gotta find what puts you in the Up Mood and remember to call on it when you feel like tossing in the towel. Or take a break and know – it’s ok.

  7. Sandra Cherry Jones

    Sometimes when I experience self-doubt I get my guest book out from exhibits that I have had and read the comments. That is always an uplift.

  8. Hi Alyson…
    I LOVE the podcast!! Your voice is, for me, ever a dose of grounded enthusiam and a gentle balm simultaneously…and I enjoy it even more hear with a sound track…ever so bubbly!!
    I don’t have an itunes account so I’m not leaving a review there but I am leaving one here and it is 5 Star *****.
    Thanks for all the great news that you share with us on a continuous basis.

  9. Self doubt can be, as you say, debilitating, but acknowledging that there is more to learn, more to experiment with, and more to Art and the Universe than one person can ever know fully is to be inspired to learn, work, and grow. That said, I have to come back to myself and admit there are occasions (fewer now than before) when my lack of self-confidence has allowed outside remarks or events to stir that negative emotion to the top. When that happens it’s best to just get on with things, to throw myself into my work (creating art or business) with the admonition that if I’m not as good as I want to be, only working on it will bring improvement. It also helps to remind myself how much I have accomplished in my life.
    Patricia C Vener

  10. Ever since I learned that even the greats, even Monet, suffered terrible self-doubt, I changed my attitude about the pain. Now as soon as I hear myself say “Yuk, I can’t do this. I don’t know anything!”, I reach up, pat myself gently on the opposite shoulder, and murmur “Good, Sylvia, this is good. Just what you are supposed to be feeling. Now make a stroke; make another stroke….”
    And somehow it works, and I get past the muddle. I’m reminded that this happens in almost every painting, and I get past it.

  11. Carol McIntyre

    When I get into one of my Doubting-Carol modes, I try to remember to go and read my file from collectors and followers. I have letters, notes, emails that I keep for just this purpose! (They are also good for writing testimonials on web sites, marketing materials, etc. with permission.)
    And if necessary, I go and talk to one of my “Cheerleaders!”

  12. Thank you for the post! I have out of the art game for some time, 3 kids, after studying fine arts in college. I’m finally getting back into it after some time. I think it was just difficult starting and believing I could do it. I have been pleasantly surprised of the positive response I have received. Thanks again for the post.

  13. Pingback: Don’t Write a Grant Proposal Without This Book — Art Biz Blog

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