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Don’t Give Up!: Persisting Through the Discomfort of Not Being an ‘Expert’

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

When first encountering art therapy and considering the idea of trying something different or new, we might feel a range of emotions. Some emotions might support our curiosities and others might fuel our fear of engaging in something we don’t believe we are good at or something we don’t believe is worthy of our time. It is important to validate that trying something new or even reconnecting to a skill that may not have been used since childhood, such as the process of artmaking, can be a mixed experience. We may have tension of wanting to explore something that has been shut down or un-used in a while and also of wanting to protect ourselves from potential shame stemming from our own expectations as to who makes art or what art is.

For many of us the thought of missing out on something out of fear is motivation to at least try and see what happens, despite the thoughts that our fears generate about potential failure or not being ‘good enough’ to create art. A lot of times when we start something new, we have a lot of enthusiasm and excitement when anticipating the potential of what we can learn and develop in time. You're getting to explore new territory, learn new things, and build something new and exciting. But sometimes, that feeling wears off and we get discouraged, feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and even feel like giving up.

Starting something new can also be daunting. We may not see the results that we want right away, or we may not be good at it right away. The paints may not blend together smoothly or the drawing in our mind is not translating as well onto physical paper. This can cause us to give up on our new habit or goal prematurely. It's normal to feel discouraged when things don't go as planned, but it's important to find ways to push through and stick with your goals.

Here are a few reasons to keep at it and not give up on something new:

1. You’ll learn a lot along the way.

Every time you try something new, you're expanding your horizons and learning new things. This is a valuable experience that will help you in the future.

2. You’ll get better over time.

When you persist through the challenging parts of something new, you're strengthening your skills and willpower.

3. You’ll find your passion and purpose.

All too often, people will dismiss something without trying it. Art is about exploration and bringing something unique into the world which had not yet existed without your inspiration and active creativity. You might find in your persistence that this is actually a process you find meaningful and worthwhile to return to for therapeutic purposes.

4. You’ll be proud of yourself for sticking with it.

When you start something new, it takes time to see results. Don’t give up in the early stages when you don’t see results right away. Keep going and you will eventually start to see progress.

5. You'll never know what you're capable of if you quit.

You might be surprised at what you can do if you keep going. Quitting means you'll never know what your potential is. Sometimes you need to give yourself a chance and keep going.

Visualizing success is a great way to keep your motivation high. It's important to set realistic goals for yourself, otherwise you're likely to become discouraged quickly. When you're first starting out, it's best to focus on smaller goals that you can accomplish easily, rather than trying to do too much at once. Working with an art therapist in an art therapy session can be a great way to explore these curiosities with art in a safe and contained space.

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