By Nicci Palmer
If you’re an artist, it’s likely that you have entertained the thought of posting pictures, videos or other content of your artwork on the internet. You might have even taken the necessary steps to do this already, only to take down your work days, hours or minutes later. It’s a tennis match between your heart and the part of your mind that becomes filled with anxiety at the thought of Aunty Jo leaving a rude comment or someone else taking your posting as an opportunity to turn themselves into a professional art critique – and let you know you exactly what you should be doing! It is sensitive business, and when the part you that feels really anxious about posting online is active, it blocks out a chance for the part that feels alive, inspired and confident to post to be active.
They say we can either be in one of two states: fear or love. It took me a while to understand this, but I get it now. Let’s get to the base (and the truth) of what it takes to arrive at a place where posting your artwork and sharing yourself online feels not just doable, but enjoyable! Yes there are trolls (sometimes closer to home…), or people that simply won’t see, will ignore or flat out dislike your work, but there is also a huge ocean of people willing to hear what you have to say and ready to contribute and even cheer you on – yes even people you have never met! A wonderful feeling of connection can be established this way. What it takes to feel confident and enjoy posting your work online, is creating a healthy relationship (by laying foundations – I’ll talk about this more in a moment) with yourself, your art, the internet and even the trolls. I’m not saying you need to befriend the trolls, but you must become aware of what you are filtering in – taking on or taking personally. Then, decide if you want to speak to what they are saying or ignore it and let it go, remembering it is a choice. When you make a decision about how you are going to handle other people’s comments or critiques, you take your power back and you are not allowing yourself get caught up or enmeshed with it. Having healthy boundaries in this way (a sense of ‘yes I will accept that’ or ‘no, I won’t’ for example), is one of the ways to create a stable foundation for online posting and even building a business online.
So, where does this torment come from?
Our relationship to the internet as an opportunity to share our work, really comes down to our relationship with ourselves, our art and other people. It might sound over-simplified, but if we feel really good about an artwork that we made, it is much easier to feel confident to share it for example. If we feel good about ourselves and our relationship with other people, it will also be much easier to share our work. Now, there is an underlying biological reaction (or state of being) that is actually beneath the surface (until triggered) and is alive and active in so many of us (particularly sensitive artist types) who are hesitating sharing our work online. Some say this is an emotion, but that is not correct, this reaction has developed in human beings over many centuries as a coping mechanism. The reaction is shame. When we are triggered (generally by an external source, such as an internet troll), we can lapse into a state of shame. This can set fire to a million different thoughts (some that were even established in us many years ago!), which can turn into a downward spiral of self-hate and blame, such as “I shouldn’t have posted that, that was stupid!” or, “They all hate me now, I’m never posting that again.” If we experience this pattern enough, we can start to live our lives in a continuous revolving cycle, then we can get stuck in the torment of feeling like we can’t post anything online…
Take your power back.
One of the first ways to break the pattern and feel free to post online again or for the first time (without fear of being dragged or judged), is to acknowledge that we are allowing other people’s reactions to us to control or navigate how we feel. We need to recognise that it is a choice to let people speak or react to you in a certain way, or not. Even if they are not right there in person, we are still feeling the effects of someone’s critiques on the opposite side of the world. On that note, I’m not saying there is a way to never be affected by internet trolls ever again, but there is a way to liberate yourself from the painful fear that sharing your work online is dangerous and/or painful (even when deep down you know it’s time to share!).
Now this next step can take time, and it is wise to have someone help and support you with this. This step is about exploring and getting curious about the biological reaction of shame that is happening. Once you become willing to feel what it actually feels like, it will simply release. When we feel ashamed about our artwork or ourselves as artists, we don’t want to be posting anything online let alone even engaging in that world. I lived in deep shame for 25+ years and I know this state of being all too well. I know it can be crippling and lead to feelings of hopelessness and overwhelm about life in general. I also know that it is not permanent or fixed.
When we get to know the state of shame, we get to see how transient it really is. It’s a similar process to a tree shedding the autumn (or fall) leaves it doesn’t need anymore. Here is a way to start becoming familiar with the shame (and trust me this IS one of the fastest ways out of torment about posting things online).
- Get comfortable and close your eyes. Set an intention to come face to face with the state of shame that’s residing in you (for example say, “I intend to feel the shame present in my being right now.”)
- Notice what you sense or feel within the physical body and in your emotions. Don’t worry if you can’t feel anything right away (even doing step one alone is powerful).
- Let the body surface the feelings of shame, you might feel it in your heart, shoulders, eyes or hips for example). Note: Women tend to carry a lot of the energy of shame in their hip area.
- Try to go with whatever feelings come up, let yourself cry, shake or convulse, and repeat to yourself “allow” or “open” or “it’s alright” or “it’s ok”. You want to stay with it long enough to reach the breakthrough or opening. This often feels like relief!
- Stay with it as long as you need (maybe minutes or hours, you might need to return to it after some days).
- Write down some words or sentences about your experience.
This process must not be underestimated. We can literally transform our relationship with ourselves and hence, other people, if we engage in allowing ourselves to feel and experience the state of shame. Perhaps try this exercise when you do feel triggered by what someone says about your work, for example. Pay attention to how your feelings and thoughts towards sharing your work online changes. You might find that one day you wake up and realise it is safe and you can post and share your artwork in any way you choose! We can free ourselves from torment and liberate ourselves with confidence to attract greater health and wealth this way as well. Finally, this is a practice, I am not guaranteeing a quick fix but I’m confident there will be a permanent one if you try this exercise. If you have any questions or want to share your experience of posting online or anything else, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org