Dear Dr. Maisel:

I’m wondering how important confidence really is to an artist—and if it is
really important, what can you do if you’ve lost some of it—or a lot of it!

Rachel L., Portland


Thanks, Rachel.

Yes, creativity requires confidence—and life can rob you of confidence. A teacher can choose you as the person she wants to humiliate in her third-grade class and she can succeed in making you feel humiliated. How much confidence is stolen from you in that excruciating year? How many other robberies occur in childhood and adulthood? Over time, how much confidence remains? If you’ve been robbed of confidence, that will manifest itself as an inability to conceive of and follow through on creative projects, a tendency to procrastinate, a fear of messes and a fear of the unknown, and other creativity killers.

Consider the following. A painter opens his email and is thrilled to find a note from a gallery owner who appears to own a nice gallery in a faraway city. The note explains that the gallery owner has visited the painter’s website, loves the painter’s work, but can’t find the painter’s prices posted. What, the gallery owner wonders, are the artist’s prices?

This question sends the artist into a tizzy, as he has no idea if his prices are perhaps ridiculously high or, quite possibly, perhaps ridiculously low (which is why he has avoided posting them on his site). He stews about the matter for several days, feeling his usual lack of confidence grow exponentially. Finally, he visits his best friend, a successful artist with a great deal of confidence. “What should I do?” the painter cries. “I know I’m blowing this opportunity by not replying, but I don’t know what to say!”

His friend shakes his head and laughs. “Get me the gallery’s phone number,” he says. The painter does that. His friend picks up the phone, dials, and says, “I represent Jack Sprat. You emailed him about his prices. We are setting new prices this year and would love your input. His recent works, the ones you saw on his site, are each two feet by three feet. How would you consider pricing them?” The painter watched as his friend listens, occasionally nods, and finally says, “Thanks! We’ll follow up on that in a day or two.”

When his friend hangs up, the painter almost leaps on him. “What did he say?” he cries. “That he would be inclined to charge $4800 retail,” his friend replies, “and that he would like to try out two of your paintings, the blue one and the red one.” The painter is beside himself with joy. Then, suddenly, he exclaims, “How did you DO that? You just picked up the phone and called!” At this, his friend shakes his head. “Jack,” he says, “how could you NOT do that?”

If you’ve lost a good bit of confidence, there are many ways to rebuild it. Perhaps the best way is to create a life purpose vision that reminds you day-in and day-out of your dreams, your intentions and your desire to make yourself proud. Creating your life purpose vision is a three-step process. First you begin by creating a life purpose sentence or statement. Second, you translate those words into a feeling in your body and a message in your brain. Third, you begin to lead with that feeling and that message, making your daily meaning choices based on their congruence with your life purpose vision.

The first step is creating a working life purpose sentence or statement. You take into account the values you want to uphold, the dreams and goals you have for yourself, the vision you have of how you want to represent yourself and comport yourself in the world, and spend real time turning all that enormous, unwieldy, but also intuitively available material into a coherent statement of your core sentiment about your life.

When you do this work you may discover that your multiple life purposes taken together read like the following: “I will make use of myself every day in the service of truth-telling and other important values while at the same time getting some real satisfaction out of life through love and work.” This is one example of a solid life purpose statement upon which a life purpose vision can be built.

Here is the life purpose statement that Liz, a painter, created and sent to me: “I will triumph over the evil that was done to me, which gave me false limitations. I will participate in loving relationships. I will live well and make a meaningful life by working hard to become the best painter I can be, through drawing and painting five or six days a week.” Marcia, a singer-songwriter trying to manage her mood swings and her stress, riffed on the word “instrument”: “My instrument is tuned for the world to move through me. I care for my instrument to keep it tuned. I take care in how I place my instrument in the world.” You can tell by these examples that everybody arrives at a different way of expressing their life purpose statement. There is no single way and no correct way.

Once you’ve created your life purpose statement you’ll want to do the following. You will need to “translate” those words into a feeling in your body and a message in your brain so that your life purpose intentions are really and readily available to you as you lead your life. You want your intentions available to you all the time and in real time.

The third step is to begin to live your life based on your life purpose vision. Your life purpose vision is a starting point; life may alter and transform it. A life purpose vision is not a substitute for continually practicing self-awareness and monitoring the meaning issues in your life. When you agree to commit to active meaning-making you agree to participate in a lifetime adventure of deciding where to make meaning investments, both with respect to the next hour and with respect to the many meaning questions that continually arise over time.

Your life purpose vision, as rich and robust as it may be, is not a static thing. As you take new meaning opportunities, embark on new meaning adventures, and make new meaning investments you are providing yourself with new, updated information about what you intend to value and what you want your life to mean. Accordingly, you’ll want to update your life purpose vision as needed. Identify your vision; live it; and update it as necessary. This is bound to breed self-confidence!


Eric Maisel is the author of 50+ books. You can learn more about him at, subscribe to all of his blog posts at, and write him at

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