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Marisa D. Aceves. Satellite 2 Valley 1. Digital Photography

 

You’ve been surfing the web and combing the pages of countless art publications looking for the perfect opportunity to showcase your work.

You know that you have a limited amount of time to get your jpegs and artist statement together to send to a handful of promising juried exhibitions.

As you prepare your entry, you can feel the anxiety begin to build.

Will it be good enough?

Do you have enough experience?

Have you met the requirements for each competition?

One little doubt is added to another and another. 

Then, just when you’ve begun the baby steps to reaching your goal of increased visibility you do something stupid…

…something completely and totally irrational….

You decide not to enter.

The opportunity is gone within a couple of days, but the self-loathing and internal brow-beating can go on for weeks. 

Finally, you come to realize one small yet important fact that you have deliberately chosen to ignore: You’re your own worst enemy.

We want good things for ourselves; We have an innate desire to share our work with others. So why do we consistently do things to kill our chances for success?

There are as many different reasons for engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors as there are self-sabotaging behaviors. Self-sabotage in the arts in not a unique phenomenon. It seems to cross professions and is an otherwise equal opportunity problem.  

So how do we know if we have a tendency to self-sabotage and what can we do to address it . Here are seven warning signs that you may have a problem with self-defeating behaviors:

1. Procrastination- We have all been a party to procrastination at one point or another.  However, when it becomes a habit and an excuse to avoid things and people associated with our job (that make us uncomfortable) it can keep us from the work we need to put in to achieve our career goals. If you know that procrastination is a problem, write a list of all of the goals that you would like to achieve.  Break these goals into smaller tasks so that you don’t get overwhelmed.  Set up a daily and weekly schedule for working on these smaller tasks. If it helps, keep a monthly calendar with the tasks for that particular day written in the space for each day of the month.  If it is a social problem and you are avoiding seeing people within your industry, friends and family, try to take small steps to expose your self to more people. Join a local arts council etc. Learn from good friends who can help you understand how to successfully communicate with people.

2. Negative Self-Defeating Thought Patterns- Sometimes we punish ourselves when things don’t go our way (opportunities fall through), people we love disappoint us, or we simply fear the unknown.  The problem with repeating negative thoughts about ourselves and our situation/s is that eventually, we start to believe our own hype and those destructive thoughts eventually become actions. Generally, the negative self-sabotaging thoughts we have about ourselves have a deeper underlying cause that we need to address. Try to find out the real reasons for your negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities. Is it fear of failure? Is it fear of rejection? Once you are able to positively identify the areas that are emotionally difficult for you, you can begin to make a plan to move forward in these areas so that they no longer serve as emotional triggers. 

3. Difficulty Handling Emotional Stress- When people correct you or make negative or hurtful comments do you automatically become defensive? Do you make excuses or shutdown?  These could be signs that you have difficulty handling emotional stress.  Instead of falling into self-destructive habits like drugs, alcohol etc. to deal with the emotional stress, consider this: Is their criticism valid?  Who is making the negative comments and why?  We can never completely avoid emotionally stressful situations. All we can do is learn to deal with them in a positive, mature manner. There may be times, when we have to fix a problem that is due to our own lack or responsibility. Other times, the problem lies with the individual or individuals making the negative comments; it is not our problem to fix.

4. Dysfunctional Relationships- As I have mentioned before in a previous post on stress, there are some people who care more about themselves than they do about you. Their negative decisions and self-destructive behaviors can often effect you and the way that others see you.  In the course of your relationship with them, you find that you are spending all of your time trying to fix their problems instead of working to solve your own.  This game can lead to a load of resentment.  Sometimes, we want influential friends or a career affiliation so badly, our “neediness” makes us an easy target for abusers and users.  Inside we feel that  something is wrong, but we purposefully ignore the warning signs. There is also a reverse example of the aforementioned negative relationship, where we have unrealistic expectations of the people that we know and love.  We may place an unnecessary burden on them to “keep us happy at all times”. When this scenario inevitably fails, we lose our cool and they lose us permanently.  Don’t rely on others to make you feel loved, happy or worthy. Treat others with love and respect. When they don’t reciprocate, politely and calmly wish them well and let them go on their way. 

5. Entertaining Negative Past Events That Make You Angry-  Constantly reliving the past doesn’t give you hope for the future.  What has happened has happened. It is officially over.  To allow yourself to remain angry about something that has happened in the past automatically gives that past event or person unnecessary control over you and your future happiness. Whenever you find that this is happening, move from where you are.  Try to engage in another activity like reading or a hobby that you enjoy. Watch a television program that you like. Call a good friend or family member on the phone and start a great conversation.  Do not allow yourself to entertain these past events.  Calmly tell yourself that the problematic situation has already occurred; you are not going back in time to fix it. Tell yourself that you have already decided to move on. If this method doesn’t work try writing down the reasons why that particular situation made you angry? On paper tell the person or persons involved what you would have wanted to tell them.  Don’t hold back.  Now rip the paper into shreds and toss it in the trash. Give yourself permission to let it go forever.  It may take some time and practice at first, but all unprofitable habits can be conquered with time and effort.

6. You Blame Others- Sometimes, it really is their fault. Other times, it is simply our own lack of action or bad habits that eventually bring us down.  If we continue to blame others for our problems, we develop a bitter victim mentality.  It gives us the perfect excuse to avoid the change we need to make a difference in our lives.  

7. Inability To Commit To Specific Goals- We all face an uncertain future.  No one really knows what will happen tomorrow, but if we work hard and prepare we have a better chance of succeeding.  Often we find that at the core of inaction is fear.  We can experience fear about the future or about wether or not we can meet the goals we set. Nevertheless, we have to define our goals anyway so that we know were we want to go and what we want to achieve. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish with your work. Boldly set about making a list of goals you would like to achieve. Be realistic with a keen understanding of your present abilities and knowledge. Place these goals in an area where you can see them so that you are constantly reminded of your intentions. While your goals may change over time, it is good to have your goals in front of you.  In this way, you can monitor your actions to see if they are helping or keeping you from reaching your goals.  

While this article doesn’t  begin to cover all of the self-sabotaging behaviors that exist, it does help to identify some common ones that may be directly effecting your business.  Like many other problems, time, consistency and patience pay off.

 

 

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