Breaking Barriers: Overcoming Mindset Hurdles for Artistic Freedom

Breaking Barriers: Overcoming Mindset Hurdles for Artistic Freedom

I’m writing this because I believe there’s someone out there who needs these words just as much as I do—a reminder of the mindset needed to navigate the hurdles we face in our work. Many of us in creative industries grapple with the challenges of business, personal life, and seeking fulfillment. When I chose to build my business, I had no clue that the biggest hurdle I’d have to overcome to be successful would undoubtedly be my “mindset.”

I feel It’s crucial to acknowledge that, regardless of whether you see your business through the lens of an “artist” or a “company,” there have likely been moments when things felt deeply personal. Let’s say you received some negative feedback from a client, it can be easy to convince yourself that “They are just a difficult client with unrealistic expectations,” taking no ownership in the miscommunication. But the truth is, we’re all imperfect, and every interaction has a lesson to offer. Often, we’re so fixated on success that we overlook the valuable lessons hidden in our failures—a universal experience, yet uniquely personal. The insights gained through the toughest times are invaluable, even though we may not have seen it that way while enduring those challenges. But, I am a problem solver by nature, as I believe all creatives are. So, I was compelled to make this dialogue more public and break down what I have learned through my own experiences and the feedback from my peers. So let’s get started!

The Question: How do we get out of our own way to allow for success and fulfillment?

By repeatedly asking myself this question, I have determined that 2 common barriers are blocking the road we are traveling on.

The Barriers

  1. The Ego

    The term “ego” pertains to an individual’s sense of self, capturing their thoughts, feelings, self-esteem, and self-importance. “Ego” does not inherently imply anything negative; it’s a universal human condition. The problem is when it gets a little too big…

    According to Freudian psychology, the ego is the mediator between the unconscious desires of the “id” and the moral guidelines of the “superego.” Therefore, we are still in control of our ego and should reflect on it from time to time. If you don’t ask yourself at least once, “Was I wrong in this scenario?” then it’s a clear sign that your ego may be inflated, and it’s time to check in with yourself.

  2.  Imposter Syndrome

    “The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved through one’s own efforts or skills.”

    Many of us face Imposter Syndrome at some point, weighed down by doubts like what if, but, or I can’t.  But, we can, and we should even if we aren’t always consistent with our attempts. Self-doubt develops early in our childhood, making it crucial to shift our mindset. I see this in my stepson, who frequently battles these defeated thoughts. We teach him the value of trying because, without effort, you’ll never discover your true capabilities. The moment we begin to believe in our efforts the moment our career can truly begin.

    Speaking from experience, I have regularly struggled with this, leading to a lack of consistency in showing up to promote my brand. I’ve written content with advice that I don’t always take myself. I’ve even doubted publishing articles on this platform many times rather than just rolling with the opportunity that was presented to me. It can be hard sometimes to see that we deserve something, but trust this: if an opportunity is presented to you, you’ve earned the chance to take it.

If an opportunity is presented to you, you’ve earned the chance to take it.

The Problem = Comparison

Through mentoring other artists, I’ve gained insights not just about myself but also about the common challenges we all face. One major issue is “comparison,” which often halts our progress in many ways. Comparison can cloud our judgment, leading us to undervalue our unique talents and perspectives. It fosters a mindset of scarcity and competition rather than one of abundance and collaboration. This can not only diminish our joy in our work but also hinder the development of our individual voice.

When we compare ourselves to others, we may find ourselves falling into the trap of claiming ownership over our ideas and feeling upset when someone interprets them in their own style. Instead of feeling threatened, appreciate that someone was inspired by your work enough to want to make it their own. This realization can be humbling when you acknowledge how often you have inspired others.

Remember this, originality isn’t about creating something out of nothing but about infusing your influences with your unique perspective. True originality lies in how you interpret and execute your ideas. The only comparison worth making is with your past self, to appreciate how far you’ve come and to fuel your journey forward.

The only comparison worth making is with your past self, to appreciate how far you’ve come and to fuel your journey forward.

The Solution: Finding Alignment

Alignment with your clients, craft, and personal self is the only way to start finding balance in your work. This comes through a true understanding of yourself as a “person” before the “artist.” I know many of you would rather focus on the art, as it is much more glamorous. However, when we focus on who we are as individuals, it tends to bring all the dirt to the surface. That’s when the “Spring Cleaning” can begin. But it doesn’t stop there. Similar to cleaning our homes, regular maintenance will be required to keep everything in order.

Beyond self-awareness and alignment, the key lies in how we embrace each experience. By ensuring that our work reflects our personal values, we naturally cultivate a deeper sense of fulfillment in all that we do. The path to true contentment involves a harmonious blend of self-discovery, value alignment, and a positive embrace of our unique experiences.

The Process

Everyone’s journey looks a bit different, so our process will remain unique. One photographer might struggle with comparing themselves to others, while another finds it tough to direct a shoot or negotiate with confidence. Understanding and moving past these issues starts by knowing your own story and whatever is challenging you. So what’s the first step? Focus on your thoughts, but guide them with purpose. To help you get started, here are some prompts to guide your thoughts:

  • What’s truly holding me back? (Identify fears, limiting beliefs, or specific obstacles.)
  • What’s one small step I can take right now to move forward? (Focus on actionable, immediate steps.)
  • How can I reframe my obstacles as opportunities for growth? (Shift perspective to see challenges as beneficial.)
  • Who or what can support me in this journey? (Identify resources, people, or practices that can offer support.)
  • What does success look like to me, and why is it important? (Define personal success and its value to maintain motivation.)

Our judgment can often cloud our perspective, so I encourage you to find someone you can collaborate with regarding this process. If you don’t already have someone in your life, consider hiring a counselor, therapist, or mentor who shares similar values. An outside perspective can help speed up what can be a lengthy journey. If you’d like to learn more about the value of mentorship, give my article “Mentorship May Be the Missing Piece in Your Architectural Photography Career” a read.

Through these articles, my goal is to create an open platform for us to continue this dialogue. So, let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below and share how you have managed to overcome getting out of your own way.

Mental Maintenance

Once we understand our barriers and have begun to shift our mindset, we will need to strategize on ways to maintain a good headspace. In a world where nearly everything demands regular upkeep to function properly, our minds are no exception. So we need to ensure we are taking good care of our overall health. This can include a variety of activities, such as meditation, journaling, physical exercise, spending time in nature, engaging in hobbies, and sharing time with those who fill our cup. It’s also critical to practice self-compassion, as we are often our own worst critics. Explore and try new tactics to keep your head up.

Beyond understanding ourselves, these new skills provide us an advantage when establishing new relationships. There is an energy that you begin to elude when you have a healthy mind, and you will find that you start to become a magnet for more positive experiences, and people will begin to show you more gratitude. In a way, it’s like the best marketing hack because we will naturally attract new clients and opportunities without having to force anything. This positive energy becomes evident in everything we do, from our work to our interactions, creating a ripple effect that extends beyond our immediate network.

Just remember that this is a lifelong process, and there will be many setbacks throughout the journey. When you find things are getting tough, reflect on how far you’ve come because the person you started as has grown, and you will continue to do so as long as you keep trying.

Lastly, through these articles, it is my goal to create an open platform for us to continue this dialogue. So, let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below and share how you have managed to overcome getting out of your own way.

I'm a commercial photographer and educator out of Southwestern Ontario specializing in Architecture, Interiors, Food, Product, and Lifestyle advertising photography. Click the link below to learn more...
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