Art and Practice as Anxiety

Anxiety. Even the word itself can throw some people into panic mode. As artists, we are used to living on the edge where anxiety also lives. But we have a choice, a choice to invite anxiety in, or to let it go.

I was recently reading something from a musician who was hired for a big time gig alongside many musicians they had always looked up to. Their first thought was not, “This is great,” but, “What am I doing here?” This is a typical response when we let anxiety take over. 

What am I doing here?

It's so easy to get hung up on this. But the important thing to look at is that someone thought you belonged there and hired you. Now you have a choice: to accept that you belong there, or not. Everyone belongs somewhere, so why not here, why not in this particular situation? Everyone has something unique to offer. Why can't your uniqueness be enough? 

Ah, but anxiety taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, “You don't belong here.” The first thing to learn is that anxiety is a liar. I'm not saying don't feel nervous or uneasy; but don't let these feelings take over. If you've worked on your art with intent, and then get that big gig/show/exhibition, don't shy away feeling you are not worthy. Look at your path leading up to it and see all the time and effort you put in to reach this moment.

I'm not trying to say that it's easy to just shake off anxiety, because it sometimes is difficult. But what I am saying is to not let anxiety paralyze you and your art. I have found meditation helpful because I can center and ground myself. You may find something else. I still get nervous sometimes, but I carry on anyway, because what else am I going to do? And besides, I belong in every situation I am in.

~ MB


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