The self-doubting creative soul… sound familiar?

Recently I’ve been thinking about creativity, passions, dreams, and also about fear, self-doubt, and a lack of confidence and courage. I’m probably not alone here.

What am I afraid of? Failing. Making a mistake. But I’m human, we all make mistakes. Fear shouldn’t stand in the way of our dreams. I know I can learn from the experience, and improve, so where does this fear come from?

Is it in our nature? Is it nurture? Is it because I’m a woman? Or perhaps because I care about the consequences of my actions? Do I try too hard to be perfect?

It could be genetic; my mum is a bit of a perfectionist too, and would often say “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”. There was never any pressure from my parents for me to succeed. I loved learning, and was diligent. I suppose I earned a reputation for being a good student, so it became expected that I would do well. But whose expectations where these? Probably mine alone. I was motivated to get high results at Secondary School so I could study Architecture at University. Although I was a confident teenager, I still remember being in shock when my VCE results came through and I was one of the top students at my school – I had seriously doubted myself.

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong” and

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do” (both gems from Eleanor Roosevelt)

I then went from being a big fish in a small pond, to being a teeny-tiny fish in a massive University ocean. I felt pressured to do well – I had a fear of failure. The subject of “Design” was so different to my high school studies. It was so subjective. There was no correct mathematical answer to get right. I was always nervous to make that first tentative line on the page that would begin the creation… what if it didn’t turn out the way it should? (There is a also whole other story here about how “Design” was ‘taught’, with many tutors giving very little in the way of helpful encouragement and guidance, but plenty of criticism which rocked the confidence of many impressionable students).

When my eldest son was just 2 years old, I noticed that when we sat down with crayons and paper, he too seemed to lack the confidence to draw. He’d ask me to draw things for him. He knew that his ability could not match what it was that he wished to see on the page, and it frustrated him enough to give up. I came across a fabulous book at the time called “The Dot”. It is described as being “for anyone who has been afraid to express themselves – from a child in art class to an adult whose fear has shut down a long-held dream, Peter H. Reynolds’ book “The Dot” is there to remind us all to “Make your mark, and see where it takes you.

My son has since become very creative with his drawings. He was just going through a phase, like we all do. He just need some time, and some gentle encouragement so he felt supported which boosted his confidence. We all need encouragement, motivation, and reminders to help us on our way, and I guess we need to learn to rely less on others to provide this guidance, and try to find it from within so we don’t forget how courageous we really are.

“Creativity takes courage” Henri Matisse

"Fail while daring greatly to never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat" Via Twitter: @CatherineDeveny Quote from Theodore Roosevelt 1910

“Fail while daring greatly to never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”
Via Twitter: @CatherineDeveny
Quote from Theodore Roosevelt 1910

I believe that by staying interested in the world around us, finding beauty in nature, being inspired by the creativity of others, nurturing ourselves and connecting with loved ones, all help keep that positive inner sparkle alive. Taking risks makes you feel alive too! Especially when you do succeed, what an enormous confidence-boost that is! We have to be prepared for the inevitable failures too, but know that they will only make us stronger. A wise woman recently told me to “fail while daring greatly“. So that’s what I plan to do! And another of my mum’s favourite sayings was “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Thanks mum, that’s good advice.

I have taken a few risks recently, and it felt good! It felt right. Things started falling into place. We packed up our family and moved from Melbourne to Ballarat for a “tree-change”, and to be closer to family. I’ve started my own Architectural Practice, no longer an employee, but having to take full responsibility. These were both big scary things, but I followed my intuition, and everything seems to be falling into place.

Joseph Campbell said it this way: “…if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s behind the next door…

Talina xo

Tell me, have you been courageous lately? If not, why? Go on, just do it! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. Susan Nethercote on May 6, 2013 at 7:43 am

    What a great post. I have been noticing lately how self-doubt manages to make its way into nearly every new venture at some stage and paralyse me with fear. But I have also learned that acknowledging my fears and gently continuing to nudge myself out of my comfort zone and see the uncomfortableness as a functional part of the creative process works wonders for me.

    • talinaedwards on May 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      Its comforting to hear that I’m not alone in these feelings. Your wisdom of experience shows, and I hope to also remember to embrace being outside of my comfort zone (because I am a creature of comfort and this is quite difficult for me!). Thanks Sus x

  2. Renae Barrass on May 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I hear you Talina! I took a risk about 18 months ago when I left my job without another one to go on to. I ended up establishing my own design practice and its going really well! I am very lucky as I had the emotional and financial support of my husband to take that risk – but now I feel I am building a business for both of us for the future. My mantra when I started was ‘Fortune favours the brave’ and I still draw on this from time to time when I feel I would rather take the safe route.

    • talinaedwards on May 6, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      I LOVE your mantra Renae, and I don’t think I’ve heard that one before! “Fortune favours the brave” will now feature up on my pin-board as a reminder – thanks! 18months doing your own thang already! I absolutely admire your courage…and you are a shining example of what is possible! I always think back to Field of Dreams, which was not just about baseball: “if you build it, they will come”. x

  3. jennyojoy on May 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    I applied for a paid web writing job after umming and aahing over it for 6+ weeks…. Sent them three samples and I got it. Just like that.


    • talinaedwards on May 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      You go girl! Love hearing success stories of others who have dared to put themselves out there! x

  4. Romy Sai on May 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Dude, we posted about mistakes on the same day! Blogging as myself, not as I want to be seen, has been a courageous act for me lately. SO afraid of making a mistake and being judged, but I’m also aware that mistakes can be amazing catalysts for change, so I’m risking that.
    I’m keen to follow up on ‘The Dot’, too. Another recommended in that vein is Quentin Blake’s ‘Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered’.
    Thanks for your post, Talina. Good read.

    • talinaedwards on May 6, 2013 at 9:03 pm

      I so agree about the fear of putting yourself out there on a blog! Its very new to me too, and each time I hit “publish” I get nervous! Peter Reynolds has some other books on a similar theme, but I haven’t read them yet. I’ll be following up on the Quentin Blake one – thanks for the heads-up! x

  5. on May 9, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Living with a creative soul is certainly not easy and you are certainly not alone ^-^. I think everyone struggles, especially on the beginning, especially when you move to a new country, place, culture. But once you’re through that initial period, the confidence grows and it becomes a second nature. The progress in natural.

    • talinaedwards on May 20, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Thanks for your comment Aldona – It’s reassuring to hear your wise words of experience!

  6. wendymc12 on May 28, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    I loved this article!!! I am passing it on to my daughter to read. I hope it inspires her as much as it did me. :)

    • talinaedwards on May 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks Wendy! Hope it helps your daughter too.

  7. Nicole on October 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Great post Talina (just found it via Susan’s post!). My daughter was the same, she never wanted to draw. We responded with ots of encouragement and a refusal to draw ‘for’ her. Sounds mean, but I believe doing so would only encourage her reluctance. It paid off, she now LOVES drawing and her work is absolutely delightful! And yes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…like you I am a perfectionist. But that’s ok, we just need to learn not to be so hard on ourselves xx

    • talinaedwards on October 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks Nicole – glad you could relate! This ongoing BHB journey is definitely helping me, and being able to chat about these things with like-minds sure does help! x

  8. Mj on November 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Searched the internet for architects who experienceself doubt too. I myself am a design student and a lot of failures have come in my way of becoming an architect. Still building myself up. Sometimes I don’t believe in my skills and creativity anymore due to all these failures but then I realize how much I love architecture and design so I get up, shake the dust off and go on my way. Every single time. I hope I do get to reach my dreams!

    • talinaedwards on November 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Mj – Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment on my blog. I’m interested to know how you managed to find it? For me its been rally helpful to connect with a wider creative-community (not just fellow Architects) as I’ve learnt that we all feel this way at times but its important to follow our hearts and trust in our instinct! I certainly found that the way design was taught was not nurturing or encouraging of students, but the way design-studio crit sessions were run were often very daunting and we ended up being belittled and bullied by tutors. You may be interested in following which is about women, equality and architecture. I’d love to know more about your experiences. Good luck with your studies!

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