Have you ever tried to absolutely love something you wrote, made, filmed, painted or choreographed, but as soon as you shared it online, the magic disappeared?
To any artist in 2020 there is one thing worse than criticism, and that’s invisibility. If you’re not capable of separating what you do from who you are, 0 likes, 0 followers and 0 comments on your art will be your worst fear confirmed:
“what you have to say doesn’t matter”
and: “you are not good enough”.
Why social media can be GOOD
Let’s start here, since it’s important to acknowledge the amazing opportunities that social media platforms are giving artists now-a-days. Instagram is basically your portfolio, it’s where you can promote your brand and your art, dancers are no longer just “background visuals” but are being showcased to a point where there are literal dance celebrities. It’s the fastest way to get in touch with people from all over the world and share your work – AND it’s free!
Social Media makes the industry come together and people who don’t have access to the best training can easily find inspiration, motivation and tutorials through YouTube, Instagram and now also Tik Tok.
Growing up in a small country, YouTube-videos were one of the main reasons I ever thought about pursuing a dance career in L.A.
So what’s the issue?
With everything in this world, there needs to be a balance. A burger is delicious, but it’s dangerous to only consume fast food. Self love is good but narcissism is damaging to you and your relationships.
Social media can be good, but relying on all types of external validation of your art to feel good internally, is probably why so many young people and artists suffer from anxiety and stress.
How athletes measure progress
How do athletes measure their progress? Usually with numbers, right? In most sports we get motivated and excited when we run faster, jump higher, score more goals or make more assists than we did yesterday.
If you’re a soccer player and someone says: “You suck, I don’t like how you play”, but you literally scored 11 goals and played 90 minutes, you know deep down that you didn’t do that terribly. If you run slower today than you did a month ago, you can use that number to your advantage and switch up the way you train.
How artists measure progress
If you’re an artist and someone says: “You suck, I don’t like your art”, it takes another kind of mindset to move past that comment since art is subjective. If a lot of people don’t like your art, is your art then factually bad?
You can’t measure art, but oh, we’ve been trying! At competitions for instance we have judges giving dancers a score based on the judges’ individual opinions. Obviously there are certain technical things that we can judge as good or bad like pointed toes, a turn out and if your knees are stretched when you kick.
Other than that, it’s just your personal preference against mine.
But since dancers are artists and athletes, it’s natural to crave a unit that will factually tell us if we’re succeeding or failing.
Enter social media stage right, please.
Social media suddenly gave dancers a way to measure how talented they are. Since we can’t measure ourselves in centimeters, kilometers and minutes (can you tell I’m European), we start to measure ourselves in likes, views, followers and subscribers.
We accidentally look at these numbers as objective facts, when in reality it’s just opinions dressed up as numbers.
Now you tell me: is it healthy to measure your art by the opinions of others?
“If you always think about what other people want to see on your platform instead of sharing what you want to share – it’s no longer your platform, it’s theirs.“
It’s funny how we think the human species is superior to other species on Earth, when in reality, our brains aren’t that different from lab rat-brains.
Once we’ve figured out which button to press to get cheese and a dopamine rush, we basically abuse that button. When we find a way to get praise and approval, we get addicted to reproducing that feeling:
“I get more likes when I post heels classes and when I look sexy than when I post my own choreography in my sweats, so let me share more sexy content”.
It’s easy to start navigating your art towards what we think others want from us: “If people like when I do this more than that, I should probably pursue and produce X instead of Y.”
Let’s say you’re really good at X, but you’re drawn to doing Y. Because you don’t like the immediate feedback you get from posting Y, you get discouraged and don’t feel good enough.
It’s actually a huge problem, because as a young artist you never get to explore Y or reach your full potential within what you’re naturally drawn to, because you let the feeling of shame online discourage you.
Being yourself when no one is watching
As artists we have to learn how to be true to ourselves no matter if you get 0 likes or 90 million likes. One of (in my opinion) biggest artists of all time, Vincent Van Gogh, sold O-N-E painting and barely got any recognition while he was alive. He left behind 900 paintings and 1100 drawings. Now, after
his death, his art is worth millions.
What can we learn from him? Glad you’re asking.
- Create art for the sake of creating art instead of creating art for the sake of outside validation.
- Your worth as a human being and the worth of your art and self-expression stays constant whether it’s seen or not.
- Vincent was rejected from the arts community over and over again but he never stopped painting. He stayed true to who he was. We need to stop letting the feeling of rejection dictate our lives.
If we live a life based on what we think other people wants from us on social media, we will never discover our true potential or who we are as individuals.
When arts become a career
I don’t consider myself as a complete idiot. I know rent is rent and we have to “secure the bag”… that’s what the cool kids call it in L.A. If you want to make art a full-time job you are selling a product and you can’t ignore the audience completely. The audience is what you’re profiting from.
We just need to be more cautious about staying authentic and true to who we are in the process to live a happy and fulfilling life. Yes, you need to audition, you have to put a price on your work and you have to promote what you do for others to buy it.
But you have to find your own voice.
Finding your voice by using it
The best way to convince yourself that your voice as an artist matters, is by using your voice. Instead of thinking your way to confidence, you must act your way to confidence.
You have to get comfortable with the sound of your own voice and not be one of those who watch a video of themselves and go:
“OMG, I didn’t know I sounded like that, EW, what is that voice?
The goal is to know exactly what you sound like. Literally and figuratively. To accept what you sound like, decide that’s more than enough and then use that voice to say the things that are important to you.
Yes, I can speak with a lower voice, a lighter voice or I can whisper – but in the long run it all causes pain in my vocal chords. Pain that I can avoid by simply just talking like myself. And by being myself.
Fear of promoting art on SoMe?
To get over the fear of promoting your authentic self and your art, you have to make sure that what you’re sharing is authentic to you. If you switch your mindset from “this is self promotion” to “this is self expression”, you most likely won’t feel that icky feeling of trying to force people to buy, read,
watch or like something that you didn’t even believe in in the first place.
Don’t let fear stop you
I don’t think any artist deep down wants to hide. We want to be seen. Whether you sing, dance, act, write, paint or something else, there is nothing better than sharing that passion and love with others.
I truly believe that your unique voice and your art will make this world a better place. Please don’t let your fear of judgement and shame stop you from sharing it with the rest of us,