Life is a journey, that’s not new to anyone. We often say that the journey is what matters the most in life and that we should enjoy it. That might be true but it doesn’t undermine the importance of a destination or a goal. Because it’s a matter of fact, the destination is what will determine the roads you take. If you want to end up in Japan, you won’t type Chicago on your GPS. You need to know where you want to go. There might not be a straightforward path but you will aim towards your destination and map out the best possible pathway.
The question that unfolds is: where do I start?
The answer is unpretentious. It starts with you, and that is what makes it both so simple and yet so complicated. Simple because you don’t need more at this moment, you have everything you need to get started right now, that lies within you. Complicated because your brain is hardwired to think and define yourself in a certain way, that you are a certain type of person tied to things such as work, family, and friends.
To discover yourself as an artist it all comes down to how you define yourself and who you believe you are. Your strongest thought of who you are will always drive your behaviour. For example, if you define yourself as an athlete you will create behaviours that result in the outcome that you believe about how an athlete looks and lives.
Perhaps your personality has become more rigid over time and change is no longer a simple matter. Character is built over time; both good and bad at once. Despite the fact it might be hard, it might take time to change the course of your life, what would be more painful? To end up at the wrong destination and never get to see the beauty that was meant for you? Or to face the fear of changing some narratives in order to become everything that you are created to be?
It is a matter of choice, your choice.
You might right now have a gnawing sensation that there is something more inside of you, some flavour you haven’t added to the plate yet, some stanzas to the music that are missing. That is the signal, an intention. A signal not to be ignored but to be explored. If you are not sure what you want to do, don’t stop searching. You will know when you find it, your heart will tell you. Never settle for less than where you feel most alive and thriving. So if you feel like the artistic field is where you feel vibrant and joyful and like you can be yourself, it’s likely it is something you are created to do. Go further and discover more.
Let me tell you about my story. For me it started small with a signal. A signal or an inner voice that told me I was supposed to do something more than what I thought others expected me to do.
Today we see a lot of people living only to meet others expectations, therefore it’s not strange for us to adopt the same behaviour. It’s cultural. We become a product of what we think others want us to be, or we simply adapt to the cultural expectations that surround us all the time. But it might not be the truest or the best way to live.
I write this because I know there is a way to discover your artistic self and to live a life beyond your biggest dreams. You will be able to live outside the box and not fix yourself in a corner where you feel stuck. You are created for more. A lot more.
Before I became an artist I believed I had to study, be the smartest, have a great CV, work harder, and earn more money. I have two bachelor’s degrees one in nursing and one in business administration and I tell you this because instead of taking time and listening to the inner signal I was always trying to do more, work harder, to get rid of the signal. But it didn’t go away, instead it become louder. Too loud to ignore. When I look back I can see that my body was also reacting in a negative way. My feet started to swell up, something I had never experienced before. It was so unpleasant and painful and today I know that was because I was not listening to the signal and doing what I was created to do.
We must understand that everything is connected; body, soul and heart. Your body never lies. Never. If you have a problem or a symptom, then something needs to be addressed. It’s the same with your emotions, your emotions are messengers. You need to listen and become aware.
After that experience, I started to draw and paint more. I felt that it resonated very well with the signal. And after painting my first oil painting, I knew, this is it. It came with ease, I felt a flow. Challenges will always come along. But in the moment when we do what we are here on Earth to do, it’s often something that we are good at and feel enthusiastic and passionate about. There are some great indicators if you’re still looking for your creative way to deliver your message.
You might be in the middle of your career as I was when I discovered myself as an artist, or you might be a student, or you might even be in your 70’s. The point is; age doesn’t matter. The time to start discovering your true self is always now which is also the only right time there ever will be. The preconditions will be different for everyone, but it’s not an excuse for you to not start. Of course you will have different seasons and responsibilities depending on where in life you are. But that can’t hinder you from becoming more of who you truly are.
I know what I’m talking about because I have experienced a life without expressing my creative side and it’s a bit like being the living dead. You existing but without fire and passion. You are moving in the mud, and your vision is someone else’s. You do things but it’s not wholehearted. The greatest advantage of the process of discovering yourself is you become wholehearted and you can live with passion, peace and integrity. An enthusiastic person, with a purpose, loving what one does will always go longer, last longer and most importantly feel fulfilled, then someone who is just moving through life without a sense of meaning.
I want to give three keys to facilitate your journey. The keys are to get the right stand with your identity, your belief system, and your confidence. After going through the foundation I will leave you with some practical tips on how to get going. Building the foundation might not be the most fun but it is the most important. An unstable foundation will never withstand the storm so let’s look how to get your foundation solid and ready to build on.
The first key is your identity. It’s what you believe you are as a human, at the core. We can identify ourselves as a human, father, mother, business leader, student, or worker. There is a lot to be added to the list. This isn’t your identity, these are roles or characters you appear to have but your identity goes deeper. You are never what you do, this is your advantage. You can easily start to identify yourself as an artist. By appearance not by core. You start saying ‘I am’ – known as the power affirmation above all else. But you do that only if you intend to actually be an artist. The magnitude of your artistic life will grow but there is no need to say something you never want to work for.
You can, for example, identify yourself as the perfect image of the Creator. Loving, kind, humble, and strong are other words you can add to your identity. What you believe of yourself will help you big time when you are facing set backs, traumas, failures, or any kinds of challenges. Because your identity goes beyond what is happening to you in the outside world. That can never determine who you are. Especially when you have done the work to define yourself. Some people tend to say ‘no, I can’t do this or that.’ Really? When was the last time you defined yourself? It’s probably time to reframe your definition about yourself if you think low of yourself and that you aren’t capable of living your dream.
Another way to look at it is this, you deserve your dream.
The second key comes down to your belief systems and that goes hand in hand with your identity. What you believe to be true about yourself and the way you act. The people around you will to start to believe the same things you do about yourself as well. They reflect back what you believe about yourself.
Don’t distrust yourself in the process. At first it might not look or be exactly like you have imagined, but if you stop believing you will never reach your destination. As mentioned before goalsetting is extremely important and so is having faith, it means you will operate in uncertainty but you will keep going. Along the journey you will have to look at faith instead of fear many times. But if you are intentional about your life you can make a decision even before you face the situation. So when fear and doubt come knocking on your door you have decided in advance not to let them in. It means you are decisive and are not dwelling on fearful thoughts. It’s not always easy but it will be more easy if you are in a strong emotional state and have decided what you will do. Choose faith over fear, both are belief, because the future has not occurred yet, you predict it by your thoughts.
Let’s get this clear: You don’t know what will happen in the future being an artist or not, but you have a decision to make if you are going to face your circumstances with faith or with fear. I had to discover my artistic self during a pandemic. I had a lot of time alone, I was isolated most of the time. I was paying less or no attention to other events and other social gatherings. The opportunity to get to know yourself is something we should appreciate and value much more than we do today. Everyone would benefit if we were more real and had the audacity to speak the truth, no matter the price.
The third key is your confidence, also known as trust in oneself. It means you keep your word to yourself and others. You do what you say you’re going to do. It’s ok to change, but don’t say you will do something and then you don’t. Because it’s very destructive to your self-trust and your confidence.
Build your confidence step by step. If you want to become a painter, start to paint. If you want to write music, start with a few words; want to record a song, start simple. It is not about the quantity of time spent even if that in the long run will set the tone for how fast and how much your business grows. Never despise the small beginnings. If you start from scratch, that’s even more freedom to create whatever you want right there.
Protect your projects initially until it’s strong enough to meet the world. Think of it like a new-born, you don’t give a baby to a stranger or take them to places that might feel unsafe or frightening because that can cause unnecessary hurt. Your family and your loved ones are the first that will meet the baby and their reply should hopefully be nothing but love, grace and appreciation.
Art is an expression that needs to be allowed to flow freely. Don’t try to figure out how to do the best piece of art to fit in, do your thing. This is not about being accepted or evaluated. Some people will love you and some won’t. It’s as simple as that and you don’t need anyone’s approval to create the way you create. If you have your motives clear, have written your goals and take action one step at a time then you are doing more than 90% of the population. Most people just think and don’t believe and therefore don’t take action. That is not you. Because you are reading this I know you have a message to deliver, a piece of art that needs to be created and shared with the world.
We are living in a time when we can’t afford to live small lives for ourselves. You are here to make a change. And that is why I’m so passionate about sharing this with you. The time to unlock your greatness is now. And I want to help. Yes, I’m here to tell you that you can do it, just as I did. I believe in you.
And last but not least, the practical tips:
- Create a vision of you as an artist that is as clear as possible and true to yourself – you can’t be and do everything but there will be certain areas or forums that fits you.
- Be aware of who you are and who you want to become in order to place yourself in the most growth-friendly environment.
- Create a portfolio – of your work, paintings, lyrics, music, designs, crafts, anything.
- In the process you will learn more and develop your talent and skills and grow self-confidence.
- Protect your “new-born” help it grow a bit stronger before complete exposure to the world. This is YOUR brand. Make it strong and solid.
- Create a platform – website, Instagram, Facebook, or other that you find most useful (several if it suits you) to make yourself visible.
- Build your network – relationships are very important. Hopefully you create relationships both for yourself and to serve others, there is nothing so important as people. Listen to them, engage and be supportive and everything you give will come right back at you.
- Let it take time – this means you have to go wholehearted into the process even if it at times it means you have to spend time on side projects or other works for a period of times. That doesn’t mean you are not going towards your goal. You are still committed 100%. It is a mindset and an attitude.
- Ask for help – seek mentorship in other people that have done the same thing – not to copy paste but to facilitate your journey.
- Keep learning – never stop the personal growth or excelling in your field of work. There will always be something new to catch up with. This is not only beneficial for your craft, but also for your physical brain where there will be new neurons built.
- Work but rest. Don’t think you won’t have to sacrifice some things, you will, but you can’t run forever without taking a rest. I will encourage every entrepreneur, or every human in fact, to let everyday be a day of celebration and thanks. Small things, big things, anything. Be grateful. You are blessed with a life, don’t take it for granted, you are a blessing.
- Stay aware and listen to the signals. If the work you are doing is making you feel stressed, sick, grumpy, or tired then it needs to be dealt with. Life is too short for unnecessary pain or challenges due to a certain lifestyle that is made by choice.
- Modification and adaptation are your friends. The forest has several paths. Do what is best for you and create high productivity habits.
- Enjoy every day. Smell, feel, and touch, use all your senses. Care for your loved ones and make happy memories. Your destiny is your destiny and that can’t be taken from you. You are created with what’s needed to fill the desires of your heart.
Annamaria Johansson is a full time artist based in Stockholm. She was born in 1986 in a city called Östersund which lies in the northern part of Sweden. At an early age, Annamaria had great urge to paint and draw. Her work is strongly influenced by the candid description of being a human in today’s society. Annamaria’s travels have allowed her to collect a lot of experience from all parts of the world, including inspiration from Zanzibar, Cape Verde, Vietnam, Dominican Republican, New York and Europe.
Annamaria’s latest artworks can be found at: www.beyondartwork.com
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