By Carolyn Edlund
Douglas Eby, M.A./Psychology is a researcher and writer, and founder of TalentDevelop.com. His many years of study in creativity, giftedness and mental health issues originated from self-exploration into his own development. TalentDevelop offers diverse resources, written by authors who are experts in their fields. Emerging artists and other creatives will find this wonderful site one to bookmark and follow.
AS: Many artists, even seasoned professionals, struggle with self-regard
and confidence. How does our culture encourage this?
DE: For centuries, people have enjoyed performances and artwork, while
holding attitudes that artists were “vagabonds” or “disreputable.”
And still, young people may get messages about choosing a “real” career
versus being an artist.
There are many examples in culture of attitudes about artists being on
the fringe, or emotionally unstable. Just think about how musicians,
actors and visual artists are often depicted in movies and the news.
Writer Brenda Ueland once wrote she thought it is our materialism that
makes us feel, “What is the use of writing, painting, etc. unless one
has an audience or gets paid for it.”
But, she added, Van Gogh “loved something, the sky, say. He wanted to
show human beings how beautiful the sky was. So he painted it for them.
And that was all there was to it.”
So being an artist as a vocation can include pressure to make it a
financial success, and if you don’t achieve that success quickly, it can
be hard to maintain your positive self-regard.
Arts and entertainment careers can flourish with fame – but if the
acclaim isn’t there, an artist can deeply question their identity and
the validity of their passion as a way to make a living.
AS: Could you describe how artists can get past these barriers?
DE: One of the keys to developing our talents is believing in our
abilities and competence, regardless of public recognition.
The creators of The Passion Test point out, “There are only three things
that prevent anyone from living their passions: false beliefs, false
concepts and false ideas.”
See my post: Self-limiting beliefs and developing your talents,
False or distorting ideas are all around us and can affect our choices,
confidence and esteem: like the notion that the arts are a “soft” or
“secondary” career – or that if you choose to be an artist, you must be
So, question any concepts or beliefs about being an artist. Endless
numbers of people have disregarded the biased ideas of their family and
culture to make successful careers in the arts.
It can help to read biographies or watch interviews with artists, to
learn more about ideas and attitudes that work.
AS: The common myth about the crazy artist may actually describe a
“highly sensitive person”. What does this term mean? How does the highly sensitive person feel?
DE: Being a highly sensitive person is a trait of 15 to 20 percent of
people, but it seems to be much more common among artists.
It means you may be unusually sensitive to noise, pain, chemicals,
caffeine, music, visual art, other people’s emotions, or other input.
It can also relate to being introverted – which is not a socially
“approved” trait in this country, though it is in others.
A CNN article on “sensory processing sensitivity” reports that people
with this trait “tended to have more brain activity in the high-order
visual processing regions” – so it can help your skills as a visual artist.
Read more in my post Better at noticing subtle details.
In her article Highly Sensitive Personality and Creativity, therapist Lisa A. Riley writes, “Throughout my practice, I have encountered a connection between highly sensitive people and their own creative impulses.”
The “crazy” aspect is mostly other people not understanding it and being
critical: “Why are you so sensitive?” – which can lead to feeling
“wrong” or “disordered” for having a “finely tuned nervous system,” as
some coaches and psychologists describe it.
AS: Could you suggest resources to help cope with this condition, or
find out more about self-help methods?
DE: First, it helps to see that it is not a “condition” in the sense of a
“disorder,” but rather a valuable personality trait that may be one of
the reasons you are creative.
If you are highly sensitive, to work at your best and be most creative,
you need to take care you don’t drain your energy from being overwhelmed.
There are books about that, and a number of coaches.
Jenna Avery, for example, explains, “Coaching focuses on helping us
claim the truth of who we are, steep in self-acceptance and
acknowledgement, nurture our own well-being, and celebrate the
expression of our gifts and true selves in the world.”
See my page of High sensitivity related sites for links to her site (and my audio interview with her) – plus a number of other coaches and information sites.