If you’re an artist or performer, you were drawn to this life for a reason. You yearn to be seen, heard, valued. Perhaps you want to make a positive impact on the world. You want to connect with your audience through your art and you want to be rewarded for your work. These are all very human aspirations—healthy yearnings to live the life you feel you were meant to live.

But how will you get there from here? Maybe you’ve just started out. Or perhaps you’ve already gotten great success but still have not achieved what you’re longing for. Maybe you are uniquely talented but just haven’t met the right people. As we all know, the right connections can make a difference. No matter how talented you are as an artist, you don’t achieve success in a vacuum. You need those people who can see you, believe in you, and help you rise to your potential.

Who will those people be? Producers, casting directors, agents, managers, production company owners? And what will they ask of you to help you succeed?

As we’ve seen recently, all over the news, many talented artists feel torn apart between choosing their career or their emotional integrity.   Yet, what about others who have risen to the height of success without compromising their integrity at all? Was it just luck, or did they make different choices along the way?

Yes, you can create your successful career without compromising your emotional integrity. You can work your way to success while asserting your emotional right to say yes to yourself and no to abuse. You don’t have to accept the outdated culture in the arts and entertainment world that you have sell your mind, body, or soul to succeed. Of course that reality exists in Hollywood, and elsewhere; there are those who abuse others for their own selfish gain. But there’s another reality right alongside it—people of influence who have integrity, people who will authentically value your talent and endeavors, who will support you toward your success because it’s mutually beneficial; they want to make art with talented artists and they value genuine professional relationships.

It comes down to what you feel is possible. It comes down to having the courage to walk away from situations where your integrity is challenged. It comes down to believing in yourself and your emotional right to say no to anything that is not good for you.

Abusers lurk in many shapes and forms in the arts and entertainment world. There are those who are obvious—bullying everyone around them and making outrageous demands the moment you meet them; others ease slowly into their abusive behaviors after first gaining your trust and dependence. You may find yourself in a situation you don’t immediately recognize as abusive, and it can be heartbreaking to face this truth.

Complicate this situation with the most basic of human emotions—the desire to succeed and be seen. Your hopes of becoming an accomplished artist or your fears of  not “making it” in a highly competitive field are normal. These feelings are there to guide you toward building your career, but they can also cloud your ability to recognize the true motives of the people around you, especially those who seem to be offering you a pathway to your dreams.

Your situation may be even further complicated by painful childhood memories or family patterns of dysfunction or abuse, clouding your discernment even further.

It can be helpful to ask yourself—now, before you ever face a compromising situation—what your vulnerable spots are. What could lure you into an abusive trap? Might it be the opportunity to work with someone you’ve long admired? Is it the feeling of being the “chosen one,” pulled from a pool of talented and attractive artists? Might it be your belief that you have to accept disgraceful treatment, just like others before you did? Knowing your vulnerable spots before you’re ever faced with an abusive situation will help you stay awake to other people’s ill intentions and allow you to make choices that align with your own values and integrity.

If you’ve already made some choices that made you feel less than respected, less than intact, you might be telling yourself it’s just temporary, until you get closer to where you want to be.  The problem with abuse is that it takes away your opportunity to navigate your career from a place of confidence, that place inside you where you trust and value your abilities and talents and believe that they’re enough—that you are enough. Accepting abuse can leave its imprint. It can begin to affect your self-worth, your identity, your emotional makeup, and your ability to stand up for who you are.  When you’re mistreated you lose connection to your real value.  You forget how good you can be at your craft, and it’s hard to trust that you have what it takes to succeed on the merits of your own abilities. This trap can deepen with the growing misconception that you have to tolerate abuse to keep your career going.

When you’re mistreated, you can forget how nourishing and empowering genuine relationships feel, how rewarding it is to work with those who appreciate you for your true value. Abuse can leave you with shame, humiliation, and anger that can spill into your creativity and performance without you even being aware of it. Instead of continuing to hone your skills, your emotional energy is sucked dry by the messiness of the abusive cycle. Abuse is an energy vampire and saps your creativity and stills what you are.

Accepting abuse eventually gives others the message that it’s OK for them to mistreat you. Therefore, you are more likely to get stuck with abusive “opportunities” and repeat such self-defeating cycles.  If you’ve ever said yes to something that is damaging to you, to someone in a position of power, it will be more likely that you will be approached with similar “offers.”

Success gained with abuse can lead to showing the world a false image of who you are, and invite the world to see you and respond to you through that false front.  Ultimately, you will be cheating yourself of opportunities that reflect the real you, and you may get trapped in a persona and a life you cannot relate to. Abuse prevents you from becoming your own best version.

Wherever you are in your career, if you have said yes when you wanted to say no, if you find yourself in an ongoing or repeated dynamic of abuse, or if you’re continually invited into “opportunities” that compromise your integrity, it is not too late to say No. Starting today.

If you haven’t dare to say No to mistreatment before, doing so might make you feel scared. It’s a normal of fear the unknown. Embracing your fear is your ticket to freedom. It may also feel empowering. A mix of emotions is not unusual when trying on a new way of being, in particular when creating a emotional boundary with someone in power. Try it once. Say No. Walk out. See how it feels. You will find that it gets easier with practice.

This is how you begin navigating your world with emotional integrity.  Every time you say No to abuse, you make room for those opportunities that are good for you. Every time you say No to abuse, you stay grounded in your unique aspirations, and allow your talents and abilities to guide you toward developing those relationships that are based on mutual respect and appreciation—relationships that bring out the best in you.

The very fact of you being an artist is a testimony to your confidence, endurance, and strength. You’ve believed in yourself and you’ve been passionate about becoming an artist, working hard to develop and hone your talents. Don’t let abuse take you away from creating and performing from a clean, beautiful, and authentic place—that genuine core of who you are, the real you that you want the world to see and respond to.

No matter your dreams or aspirations, I will bet that you want to feel confident and valued. You want to be seen and rewarded for who you are.  You want to stand up with grace, pride, and strength.  You want to work with those who value real connection. This is being successful with emotional integrity. This is real and strong success, that no one can take away from you.

It can be challenging to navigate the world of arts and entertainment with emotional integrity, to say the least. An outside observer – a therapist or similar professionals – can assist you in discerning which people and situations are healthy or harmful, so you can build your creative career with the emotional integrity that you deserve. The real and strong achievements that no one can take away from you.  Achievements that are based on your value as an artist and working with those those that can see you, the value that you bring, and treat you well.

Yes, it is your right to succeed with emotional integrity!

Contact me to set up a free 15-20 minute consultation to see if psychotherapy can help you further your career and your personal life.

I am Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology. I help creatives and performers with emotional trauma, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creative blocks / creative issues, relationships, and addictions – to be and live their own best version. You can read more about Therapy for Creatives and Performers here.

Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Psy.D. LMFT

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