We despise people who are self-satisfied. We think of them as smug, complacent, condescending and arrogant. Self-satisfaction is the mark of somebody that has stopped listening and who is happy with the way things are, even if things are not particularly good. It’s despicable because it means they are no longer willing to progress, to learn, to improve or to do anything new. Self-satisfaction is considered to be one of the less attractive human traits. Nobody likes a “smart-artist”, right?
Unfortunately, we sometimes take our aversion to self satisfaction too far. We forget to take any satisfaction at all in our achievements and accomplishments. We think that being self-satisfied is so unacceptable, that we avoid even noticing or acknowledging how remarkable the thing we just did might have been or how special our talents are. Underrating ourselves is epidemic and it holds so many of us back.
Nobody is suggesting you should become a boorish braggart or rub anybody else’s nose in your abilities and talents, but if you have done something amazing, you deserve to pause for reflection and note, at least to yourself, not only what you could have improved upon and done better, but also what went well. You are allowed to savour your victories, at least momentarily. In fact, building self-confidence as an artist requires that you aren’t forever minimising your own works and talents, in a race to be the most self-deprecating. Learning from your successes is as important as learning from your failures.
Maybe that’s why erroneously we see some successful people that have self-confidence as people worthy only of contempt and scathing criticism. Perhaps we mistake their realistic assessment of their own artistic abilities as loathsome self-satisfaction. However, being realistic requires that you not only seek to improve and rectify things you are doing wrong, but also that you keep doing the things you are doing right. If you don’t, you’ll wander aimlessly forever.
So next time you make a painting, produce a song, write a poem, build a new piece of software, design a product, or create anything from nothing, allow yourself that tiny moment of pride in a job well done. It will only spur you on to doing more of that. You’re not as bad as you think, you know.