Why You Need Something to Believe In
When was the last time you thought about what it is that you believe in? I’m not talking about religion (though relevant), but that essential belief that, at the end of the day, gets you through the doubt and fear inherent in creative life? That one thing that gives you the strength to pick yourself up after rejection, doubt and uncertainty have thrashed you to pieces and left you in a bloody heap. What do you believe in? Luck? Fate? Karma? God? Success? Hard work?
We don’t often think about it, but it matters; because the creative life isn’t for the faint of heart. And no matter how much others encourage, praise, award, buy, and respond to our work, at the end of the day, every artist is alone with the work, with his or herself, and with the decision to get up or stay down.
Tenacity is what is required; but tenacity built on sheer will power won’t last. It’s the thought that you refuse to stop believing in that will either keep you in or out of your power.
What is that thought?
If you’ve never thought about this, I encourage you to take some time for yourself and ponder it. It doesn’t matter if you are starting off on your creative journey or if you’ve been on it for a long time. Now is the time to pause and consider:
1. What you believe in will determine where you go. It’s so easy to externalize the beliefs for whether or not we achieve what we set out to do. The market, competition, circumstances, budgets, rejection, misalignment with representation — they may make the journey tougher, they may cause us to change course, but they can never prevent us from creating the work itself. If you believe in these external factors, you give others the power to determine your identity. You may easily see your dreams and your voice die at the hands of others.
2. Success isn’t strong enough to save your artistic life. Success tempts us to believe in it as our source of strength. If we succeeded once, we should again, right? This sounds comforting and logical, but it’s not necessarily accurate. Past performance cannot predict future performance. Why? Because the challenges change, the stakes grow, the qualities that helped us succeed before may not be the ones we need to succeed in the future. Relying on a belief in past success sets us up for giving up too easily when the future presents challenges that we need to grow into.
3. What you believe in will determine the quality of your experience. This comes down to our power to choose our perspective. If you believe in something greater than pleasing others or hinging your value on others’ opinions, then joy will be yours even in the midst of pain. You will find satisfaction in the process of creation no matter what the commercial result may be.
4. Your beliefs are the ONLY thing that can crush you. What we believe in is the only thing that has true power over us. While we may feel as if others’ beliefs determine our journey, that in itself is just another belief we continue to believe. We always live what we truly believe. That’s why some people can achieve high levels of success and appreciation by others and never be able to embrace it and feel it – their own beliefs about their success prevent them from enjoying it. It’s also why some people are incredibly happy continuing to create art even when they find little commercial success.
5. You can choose your beliefs. That’s the good news. When you examine what your beliefs are, you can choose to change them. You can let go of beliefs that no longer serve you and try on new ones. Left unexamined, you’ll go on believing whatever it is that you default to and it may or may not support you as an artist.
If we put so much effort into learning our craft, and become highly skilled, shouldn’t we put as much effort into making sure our own beliefs are the ones that will truly support us?
Ultimately, you need something to believe in. And that something is you. It may be you supported by a higher power, but it is you. Because at the end of the day, your faith in yourself is the only thing strong enough to pick you off that floor, wipe the blood away and start again.