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Unlock Your Creative Potential

5 Signs of an Insecure Artist

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Three years ago our family decided to get a dog. We discovered a sweet Australian shepherd named Madison at the local animal shelter. She had been abused by her former owner and was terrified of men. It took several months before she would even let me pet her.

Over the last three years she has changed dramatically, but she still requires constant affirmation and approval. We could pet her for hours every day and it would still not fill her emotional tank. There’s a part of Madison that will always be needy and insecure.

You and I can fall into the same emotional state if we’re not careful. As artists, we naturally crave approval and affirmation. But we can take it too far if we are not emotionally healthy ourselves.

The word insecure means “subject to fears, doubts, etc.; not self-confident or assured.” We all struggle with this sometimes, but it’s not a place we want to live.

In this post we’ll look at five signs of an insecure artist. These can be useful for identifying and correcting unhealthy emotional patterns in ourselves. It’s easy to see these patterns in others, yet completely miss them when it comes to our own hearts.

By the way, how do I know these seven signs so intimately? Because I have been guilty of all of them at times. Maybe you have as well.

1. An insecure artist constantly finds fault with others.

When my son Ben was in fourth grade I had a conversation with him about school bullies. He asked why some kids pick on others. I explained that some people feel so badly about themselves that they must drag everyone else down so they can feel better. Unfortunately, some people keep doing this way past the fourth grade.

If you peel away the crusty shell of a critical person you will find a wounded little boy or girl who can’t give or receive love.

2. An insecure artist can’t accept constructive criticism.

None of us likes to be criticized, but the truth is that even the most stinging criticism can contain a kernel of truth. An insecure person doesn’t possess the maturity to extract that kernel and use it to become a better person. They can dish it out, but they can’t take it.

Early in my teaching career I received a nasty email from a student. He leveled some pretty harsh criticism about my leadership of our music program. I felt angry and defensive that he had the nerve to send me such a note. Plus, he had not been a good student and I wanted to dismiss his comments since he was not successful in academics.

But in my heart I knew the truth: there was a bit of accuracy to his statements. There were several areas in which I was coming up short. He was a coward for not speaking to me directly, but I was a coward for not admitting to myself that I was too insecure to admit my own weaknesses.

3. An insecure artist always wonders what everyone else thinks.

An insecure person is unable to make his own decisions. The reason is because he lives and dies by the approval of others. Therefore, he is constantly asking what everyone else thinks about this or that.

The advice and counsel from others is like a set of crutches. At times we need them to help us move in the right direction. But rely on them too long and you’ll eventually become too weak to stand on your own.

4. An insecure artist relies on external measurements for his sense of self-worth.

There are many ways that insecure people measure their value: their car, house, clothing, personal appearance, titles, friends and associates, income, size of their business or organization, degrees and awards, and even the success of their children.

None of things are bad. In fact, they can all be wonderful things when put in the proper perspective. But none of those things is a true measurement of your value as a person. I have known a lot of people with money, advanced degrees, and all kinds of outward signs of “success,” yet who were very unhappy and insecure.

Your sense of self-worth must come from a place inside that doesn’t change with the shifting tides of people’s opinions and other external measurements.

Your self-worth comes from three things:

  • Knowing who you are (confidence in your gifts and purpose)
  • Knowing who loves you (confidence in the unconditional love of those closest to you)
  • Knowing whose child you are (confidence in your eternal standing as a beloved child of God)

5. An insecure artist sees everyone as a competitor.

An insecure person always has to be the center of attention. They don’t have the emotional maturity to compliment, encourage, or publicly support others without expecting something in return. They can’t rejoice in others’ success because they believe a win for someone else means a loss for them.

This type of thinking stems from a “scarcity mentality” that views success and resources as a limited pie where there’s only so much to go around. If you get a bigger piece, that means there’s less for me, right?

It’s much healthier to have an “abundance mentality” whereby we see ourselves and others as having unlimited potential for success. We don’t view others as competitors, but as fellow travelers who can teach us and help us become better. Your success is my success, and vice-versa. As they say, a rising tide lifts all ships.

Look Inward, Not Outward

As you’ve read this list, you’ve probably thought of one of more people who are insecure. I can certainly think of a few!

But my real purpose here is to help us look inward, not outward. Read through the list again and search your heart. Do any of these describe you? I’ll bet you struggle with at least a couple of these. (I know I do!)

The goal of this post is not to help you be critical of others, but to recognize unhealthy patterns in your life. When you’re at your best, you can give others your best.

Can you think of any other qualities of an insecure artist?

Photo courtesy of Gratisography

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.

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  • I think these are true with anyone (whether an artist or not). Insecure artist do whatever they can to look good and make other people look bad. Great post!

    • Thanks Dan. Totally agree – I think we all struggle with this (at least I do).