Severe anxiety + taking a risk = “OMG what am I doing?!” If you have anxiety, you know what this feels like, if you don’t; let me explain.
How is displaying my work different from anything else?
As someone with severe anxiety disorder, putting my work on display is terrifying! It’s not the same as in a high school art class; the teacher picking projects, from various students, to put in the display. There’s security in a group like that. All the other students have similar projects, with varying degrees of skill, but similar content nonetheless. You can safely fade into the “masses” of other students groaning.
When I choose to exhibit or put items on display, it’s different. It’s like saying “Here’s my work!” I expect most people have nerves, or doubts about the choices they’ve made. I have confidence in my work, but to put it out there for the public to see; judge, form an opinion about, is quite simply terrifying.
So what does anxiety feel like?
Anxiety is a beast of a thing. It’s illogical, irrational, and flat out makes no sense. I can have everyone telling me how wonderful a project turned out. I will be proud of my work, and have a sense of accomplishment! The close friends, and family that would have seen the work, are honest. I get excellent feedback. I know when they think a piece is well designed, but not their personal taste. If they see an improvement, or have a suggestion for improvement; I hear about it. This is where the anxiety kicks in.
It’s important for you to know; anxiety doesn’t care. It tells me people are being nice, not honest. Anxiety says no one is interested, and no one cares. It sounds like this should be mind over matter right? It’s so much harder than that. Anxiety doesn’t take a break, doesn’t stop for reassurance; it doesn’t matter how close you are to someone. Anything goes! I can tell myself that it’s ridiculous, illogical nonsense, but anxiety keeps trucking on!
My battle, and the victories that encourage me.
So why display my work? Why go through the stress? I do it, because I refuse to let anxiety win. The first time was the hardest. I chose to exhibit a custom ordered rose I’d made. The client was generous enough to lend it back to me, for the duration of the event. I was confident in my work; I was proud of this piece. Anxiety was screaming at me. “Are you really that good though?”
The day dragged on forever. Eventually all the judging had finished for the evening. I had stayed as far away as possible, but now; I was free to go look. It was terrifying, I was shaking, and worried my heart would give out. It was beating so fast! Finally I could see it. Is that a 1st place ribbon?? I thought I was going to faint! Did I want to do a happy dance, call my friends, or take a picture? I ended up doing all of the above.
That gave me the encouragement to try again, and even have a piece shown at NOVAH. This year (2018) I entered 2 categories at the Powassan Fall Fair Exhibition, and I was fortunate enough to have placed 1st in both. I still have anxiety over entering. I’m not sure that will ever stop, but it is getting a little easier. I worry less, have a little more confidence, and feel encouraged. This helps me build up the the nerve to push myself a little more, and look at other events, or exhibitions.
With loved ones cheering me on, and experiences to learn from; I finally feel like I can take those risks that always seemed too far out of reach.