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12 Months of Gratitude 2022 - Number 12!

Updated: Jan 25, 2023


Learning to Let The Greatest Gift to Yourself!

If like me, you are a little fed-up of others (especially the media) telling you that you are probably suffering from so called 'January Blues, lets use this so called 'doomed month' to reflect on all of the good things that we can take from the past year and consider how we can implement what we have learned into 2023!

Over the past few years I've experienced a few hard 'life-lessons' and I guess that this will continue to be the case at any age. I suspect that the older we get, the easier it will be to read the actions of other people and situations and, as a consequence, we will hurt less. I wonder if our body-armour toughens with every new wrinkle and our hearts eventually teach us where to channel our energy and where not to bother?

All of this REALLY MATTERS when you create art because the very motion of creating it comes directly from the soul. I can only speak from my personal experiences when I say that 'emotional clutter' (all of the rubbish that floats around inside the head) is just as distracting as being surrounded by the physical stuff (dust, dirty laundry, paperwork etc) around the home and studio. It would be great to just switch off from it all and goodness knows I do try and am getting better at it (particularly when it comes to leaving the housework), but ultimately it nearly always gets the better of me and I eventually have to deal with it!

Last year my daughter Hannah, had her second baby and I wanted to provide her with as much support as possible. I decided that after May, I would take on no new art related projects and instead dedicate what time I could to 'being there' for may family. Taking time out and away from social media is quite a big deal and I have seen several high-profile artists temporarily walk away from all of the momentum that they have worked incredibly hard to achieve because something 'more important' (typically a family matter) has pulled them into a new direction, albeit temporarily.

Building-up 'Followers' is not easy and its hard to get noticed in a environment that relies on constant exposure, so when it takes years to reach an amount that is considered to be modest, there is a genuine feeling of loss when those numbers start to decline. It's a constant battle to retain your 'position' in most industries but especially the art world and after a while, you start to question whether the fight is truly worth it? Here's a few soul searching questions that I have recently asked myself:

1 Do I enjoy having a social media presence?

2 Why do I enjoy or dislike being a part of that community?

3 What can I do to change the things that I don't like about the roles that I play on social media?

Well, for a start, I wouldn't have experienced anything like what I have if it wasn't for social media, so let's get that straight. I have so much to be thankful for and I have connected with so many people whom I have known for years and others that I am likely to never meet. There is a wealth of inspiration and encouragement that I will always continue to tap into in order to improve and grow my art business, it is an ever-changing environment that is incredibly exciting to be a part of. The flip-side of course (as there is always a flip-side to everything) is that it is incredibly easy to feel inferior, threatened and inadequate by looking at the work of others who appear to be at the very top of their game. I don't know about you but I certainly don't like having those negative feelings? Those feelings are the very things that I refer to as 'mind clutter' as we slowly get sucked into the 'deep black hole' of self-depreciation'. So, how can we take the positives and ditch the negatives? Here's my solution:

1 Create content that excites me in a positive way and makes ME feel good instead of posting what I feel others expect to see such as 'on-trend' themes or 'work-in-progress shots' that I'm not feeling good about! Why bother? If what I am struggling with is making me feel bad, why re-emphasise negative emotions by telling everybody else about it (unless of course, I'm seeking reassurance or advice)?

Here's a perfect example of what I'm talking about...on Instagram followers like to see images, lots of images because that's the main purpose of that platform, it's what it was built for. So, adding a snapshot of my latest Journal post is going to have the opposite affect because it's essentially not the usual artwork that my followers are expecting to see. It doesn't make business sense! However, these Journal entries are all part of my artistic journey (hence the reason why I refer to it as my Journal) and by putting my thoughts into words is hugely liberating to me, its taking all of the 'clutter' out of my head and feels incredibly cathartic. How it is currently making me feel is what matters and if I feel that it is a form of therapy or self-care, then that to me is worth far more than 100 new 'likes'.

Don't misunderstand me, I am more than grateful for all of those lovely kind people who do take the time to 'like' my posts and leave uplifting and supportive comments, who wouldn't?! It makes you realise just how many amazing people there are in this world and that's always a good thing. I'm just saying that sometimes we need to set our egos to one side and focus on the really important stuff and take good care of our mental health first and foremost.

2 Quality is better (for morale and self-appreciation) than quantity - stop committing to endless posting for the 'sake of it' and just post what I want to post...when I want to post it!

How many times have you looked at an artist's feed only to see loads of un-interesting posts about what their dog is eating for breakfast, what they are eating for breakfast, or even worse, their sweaty forehead shot after a full work-out? NO people...just NO! This may seem like a contradiction given to what I've just said about adding posts that make me feel good, after all a snapshot of a blog post is relatively boring, especially given that you can't add a direct link to an instagram post. But, that's just there to let followers know should they be interested.

What I'm referring to here, is the pressure of posting something, anything just for the sake of posting regularly as we are often told that this is a sure fire way of increasing our online popularity. NO, I'm not playing that game anymore, it's exhausting, stressful and takes up far too much of my precious time. Time that I could spend on creating great artwork is most definitely wasted time! This decision will also have a negative impact on my online presence but quite frankly my 'studio time' is far more important to me than trying to keep-up with my online 'competitors'.

My focus has shifted from a more 'business minded' attitude to one that encourages more 'creative freedom and expression'. This is what makes me happy, my studio is my 'happy place". I always disliked the game Monopoly and yet I studied business at GNVQ and NVQ to advanced levels in addition to obtaining an honours degree in Marketing. I know a lot about business and the strategies required to be the best in the field, yet it doesn't make me feel happy when it comes to marketing myself!

This doesn't mean that I'm just going to switch-off and play around, it simply means that I am allowing myself the freedom to be creative without worrying too much about the business side of things. I'm slowly learning that it's okay to take my foot off the gas pedal now and again in order to give myself the freedom of creative time without pressure.

3 Turn off my 'like count' - it can be so demoralising if you get less that you expect and does it really matter? Not everybody who follows me will even see the post anyway because the audience reach declines when frequency of posting is reduced. So, if only a very small percentage of your audience get to see your post, it can never be a true reflection of how many of your followers actually like it. And, when you consider that many 'likes' are gained via (paid-for) sponsored ads or by 'playing the like-for-like game' it's not always a fair game anyway!

In considering all of the above and how I will now approach my social media presence, it feels like a heavy weight has been lifted and much of the 'mental-clutter' has been cleared away. I've realised that I am ultimately in control of my feelings by the thoughts that I have put into my head and by approaching things differently, I will begin to enjoy the process so much more.

The same is true of any relationship and if the negatives outweigh the positives, it's time to walk away and release all of the anxieties and stresses that go with it. We deserve better, far better and we need to set an example to our children. There will always be people who are willing to 'blow your candle make theirs look brighter' and in these situations we must simply hand them our old candle and move onto a new and better one. Allow your lovely new candle to burn even more brightly on its own! You are all that you need and I am all that I need to be happy, it just takes time and courage to let go and to trust in yourself without the need to seek constant reassurance from others.

Being a part of the vast social media community can make you feel like you are loved, supported and special but it can also make you feel like you are meaningless and unimportant. Much of what is going on in our lives will also play a part in how we perceive the outcome to be, a bit like being drunk as it exaggerates our current thoughts and feelings. This is not the first time that I've made the decision to jump-off the 'magical ferris wheel' to take time to pause and really think about what I'm actually getting out of it and, more importantly, how it truly makes me feel about myself. Toxic energy is a waste of time and time is the most precious commodity that we have on our time here on earth.

I will end this journal entry with the words of the amazing Whitney Houston:

"Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all!"

Well said beautiful lady RIP.


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