Self-doubt is one of the leading causes of ‘death’ among people today. Betcha’ didn’t know that one did you? Okay, so maybe it’s not literally life-threatening like, say, a category 5 hurricane barreling down on your home. But if left unchecked, excessive amounts of doubting yourself can - depending on how seriously you heed the warnings - be just as lethal.
Self-doubt: he’s an ornery little devil. Not only is he often much smarter than we are, but he’s got a nasty habit of sneaking up on us, whether we’re alone, or worse, in social situations. Case in point: I let an unintentional self-deprecating remark slip out of my mouth a while back . . . and I have a pretty good idea who the culprit was.
I’d just wrapped-up a quick commercial audition in downtown Minneapolis and was making small talk with a couple of the other actors as we left the casting office together. Turns out, one of the guys was a pediatrician while the other was a 20-year veteran of the armed forces who now taught school. And when they both inquired about my line of work, here’s what came out of my mouth: “Oh . . . I’m just a painter.” Umm, excuse me . . . just a painter? What’s the deal with the whole ‘just’ thing? And who’s doing the talking anyway? Self doubt strikes again . . .
Like most of us, I grew-up with the impression that not only was it impossible to make a living as an artist, but that the people who took that particular Life path weren’t exactly contributing much of anything to society as a whole. I mean, an artist’s work certainly couldn’t be as important as, say, a doctor or a soldier right? I was dead Wrong.
Over the last several years I’ve since come to view creative expression as an absolutely vital component necessary for the expansion of global human consciousness, and definitely one of the most worth-while professions any man or woman could dedicate their lives to. And yet those persistent negative views - the ones that took root in my youth - still continue to rear their ugly heads now and again . . . “just a painter.” That’s a load of B.S.
The way I see it, there’s really only one way to rid yourself of self-doubt: Fake it. Yes, you have to practice your craft as often as possible - I’m in the OM Made Studio 3 to 5 hours each day - but I sincerely believe that an equally important aspect of kicking self-doubt’s butt involves digging in and actually living the part, even if your Life doesn’t currently look the way you’d like it to. And a hefty part of living any part involves a bit of fakery to be sure. Case in point: the making of the film The Elephant Man.
Directed by David Lynch and released in 1980, The Elephant Man was Lynch’s first foray into ‘Big Time’ filmmaking. Lynch explains in an interview with filmmaker Chris Rodley:
“I’d only made Eraserhead and, coming from Missoula, Montana, to London, England, to do a Victorian drama with the best of the best (Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft, John Hurt, Sir John Gielgud) was pretty tough. This punk shows up, this whacko and, you know, if they weren’t nervous there would be something wrong with them! I never was not nervous and I never felt safe. You have to dig deep. It’s like a role that has been given to you, and you have to do it. It’s like putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually you’re gonna get there . . . but you can never let up.”
Inexperienced, nervous, and no doubt very intimidated by the task at hand, the then 33 year-old Lynch was essentially cornered into faking his way through the directing process. Fake it . . . until you make it. Sure Lynch was probably scared out of his mind whenever he walked onto the set, but given the circumstances, what choice did he have except to simply keep hammering away day in and day out. Sooner or later, the negative voices inside your head will run out of destructive retorts and simply fade away into oblivion. So why not zero-in on making positivity your primary objective as you set out to do your Life’s work instead of allowing self-doubt to drag you down?
So in my case, what are my options? Drown out the negative voices with a mess of positive re-enforcement and keep on marching forward . . . or in other words: fake it. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way - and no doubt will make a lot more - but I’m also learning as I go. The days of my being ‘just’ a painter are officially over. I am an artist simple as that . . . and I’m getting better at it one day at a time.
Here’s wishing you all the same in your on-going journey . . . .
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