Because you’re an artist, you often hear, “If you want to be successful, you have to show up!”
Over and over again you get the same messages. Show up in your art! Show up in the world! Bring your art to those that needs it!
But, sometimes, you feel confused. You keep showing up and not really getting anywhere, despite being so actively engaged, determined, and sure of what you want.
You want recognition. You want to have an impact. You want emotional and financial rewards. When you don’t see yourself on a path that gets you closer to what you aim for, you wonder if you’re missing something or you’re doing something wrong.
When you don’t have the success you long for you may become full of self-doubts and questions. You wonder if it’s just the arts and entertainment world where “the normal success rules” don’t apply.
Here’s one question you may not have asked yourself: are you avoiding something?
Despite the way you’re showing up and actively pursuing your dreams, is there something you’re still avoiding? And, if you are, what would that be?
Sometimes avoidance operates at unconscious level. That means you fall into patterns of avoidance without being aware you’re doing it. Deep in your mind and your heart, you feel like you’re showing up. You’re pouring your energy into creating your art, developing your skills, taking classes, going to events… How could you be stuck in avoidance when you’re so actively pursuing your dreams?
Yes, you may be very active in pursuing your career, but still avoid taking the actions that matter. Yes, you may be very determined about what you want to create, and still avoid feelings you need to feel in order to perform or make your art a reality. Yes, you may show up and still not make a genuine connection that brings forth all that you are and all that you have to offer.
Your determination and big wish to accomplish something is a beautiful energy. And yet you might be misdirecting that energy and expressing it in a way that is not aligned with what you want to create or with the people that are right for you.
If you aren’t aware you’re avoiding something, how do you know you are avoiding?
The signs can be subtle, but you can learn to see how and when you may be avoiding something unconsciously.
If you find yourself trapped in a certain pattern, not really moving forward on a journey, it’s a sign. Going in circles without getting to any destination is a sign. You’re looping around, not seeing growth or transformation.
Yes, the arts and entertainment industry is tough, but you should see yourself moving in some direction, not repeating patterns. Even if you’re not where you want to be, you should still see some progress. Either your skills and talents are becoming really honed and sharp or you’re getting some leads that will bring future work and opportunity,
Also, you may find yourself not doing those things that you need to get closer to your dreams. You want to take piano lessons, but you don’t. You love to write, but you don’t. That acting class with the instructor you admire? You’re still not taking it.
Yes, you have valid reasons not to take the next steps, but those “valid reasons” are not the whole picture. When you want something, you find a way to do those things that can take you closer to where you want to be. Your life energy pulls you into that direction. Despite challenges, setbacks, or the unknown, you go for what’s meaningful to you. Unless you’re trapped in avoidance…
Yes, you have valid reasons not to take the next steps, but those “valid reasons” are not the whole picture. When you want something, you’re on a search to find a way to make it happen despite all the valid reasons. Your life energy pulls you into that direction. Despite challenges, setbacks, or the unknown, you go for what’s meaningful to you. Unless you’re trapped in avoidance…
“Unhealthy showing up” isn’t the remedy for avoidance
You might think that showing up is the opposite of avoiding things. In fact, it’s possible to show up in unhealthy ways. Do any of these patterns sound familiar to you?
A compulsive showing up.
Doing, doing, doing… Pursuing, pursuing, pursuing… You’re showing up out of desperation and a fear of losing opportunities. You’re stuck in the fast track. You’re not able to see where you are going, connect with who you are, or take in the special moments that make your journey worthwhile. You just keep going to the wrong destination, which makes you more desperate and unfocused as you blindly search for your destination. You’re certainly active, but you’re energy is all over the place. You feel frantic, agitated, maybe even tired.
A false showing up.
You show up, but you feel disconnected, unreal, and not energized by what you’re doing You don’t experience the good energy or real connections. You’re not present and connected to who you are as an artist and you might feel lost and under-stimulated. You can’t seem to connect to what feels important, meaningful, or joyful that could motivate and inspire you to move forward.
Symptoms of anxiety or depression.
There are many reasons why one would have anxiety or depression symptoms, but often these symptoms cover some repressed emotional pain. As you unconsciously avoid painful memories, these symptoms are reinforced. Anxiety, panic attacks, or phobias can be clear signs that you may be avoiding something. Depression is also a strong sign.
What are you unconsciously avoiding?
Many times when we avoid something, at some level, we know we’re avoiding it.
It’s possible, however, to block painful experiences, which then become repressed memories. This is what we avoid without awareness. We are actually avoiding past painful experiences that we didn’t have the chance to master.
It’s not the piano lesson, you’re avoiding. Or your acting class. Or writing your novel. It’s some painful feelings may be associated with showing up to be seen and do your creative work.
A painful memory doesn’t have to be an extreme traumatic event or a severe abuse situation to become a blocked memory. It may be just that one time you showed up at your school theatre event and kids ridiculed your costume. It may be that time you looked in the mirror happy for your new dance dress and someone made a comment about your weight. It may be that you dared to write something and someone totally trashed it. Or that time you showed up to your audition and someone told you you’ll never get anywhere.
Past stories and experiences may be at the root of why you find yourself busy but not going anywhere. They may be why you’re desperately trying to make things happen or feel disconnected when you do show up.
These unprocessed repressed memories are like broken pieces on your railroad. They leave you looping in circles or divert you to a different path, perpetually searching for a way to get to your destination.
How can you help yourself?
If you are having any of the avoidance red flags, psychotherapy is a powerful way for you to revisit painful blocked experiences. Support from a trained professional can give you a sense of mastery over your own unconscious world. There are effective psychotherapy interventions designed to find and target blocked memories.
Once you bring these memories into the present to be re-experienced in a healing and empowering way, you can go on your life journey supported by healthy, growth-generating memories
Yes, you have to show up! Yes, the arts and entertainment career is tough. But, if you decide that this is you life journey, you deserve to give yourself a fair chance. To show up on a path of growth, transformation, and possibilities — instead of looping into nowhere or going to the wrong destination.
I am Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology. I help creatives and performers with their life struggles, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creativity, relationships and love, PTSD, and addictions – to become their own best version.