Don’t Tell Yourself You’re Good Enough

If Pablo Picasso sucks, you do too

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I got this, definitely thought Pablo Picasso right before he started painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

For sure, right? It’s true that we will never know his thoughts at the moment (the omniscient narrator might’ve been off that day), but a brief pause and an internal mantra of self-assurance before the first brush seems likely.

He got this. He’s good enough to do it. He’s the canonical Pablo Picasso; the official, verified personality. Why would he be doubting himself just right now?

And indeed he didn’t — precisely the reason why he needn’t tell himself that he was good enough

If you’re exceptional at your craft, why would you?

As far as I know about painting — which I warn you, is close to nothing — there are two approaches: the impressionist’s way, and whatever the other guys did.

The impressionist’s way is the “I’m already good at this” approach. You simply go to a regular place, as regular as it can be, with people that are ordinary doing the things that are usual. Then you sit, or stand straight (as those are the two postures available for the painter) and paint the landscape of the everyday.

An “impression of the conventional”, if you want. Then, if your impressions reveal wonder in the trivial, you could sell them for profit.

Then there are the other approaches, which you must use if you suck at painting

If you’re yet not good enough, you must paint hundreds of doodles that you will call “preparatory work” which will be poor in finesse and artistry.

Those doodles would suck. You could not sell them for profit, not even for amateurfit or any kind of fit you could aspire to. The only thing you get from those doodles is the hope that your painting would someday be worthy of the presence of standing people around it.

And since you would be sketching 99% of your time as a painter, that means you’d be sucking 99% of your time as a painter.

What a sweet surprise to figure out that the illustrious Picasso used the sucker’s approach

He was no impressionist. Of course, you would’ve figured that out if you knew any more about painting than me. Glad to know we’re on the same canvas.

Picasso did hundreds of sketches before he attempted to paint Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. And he did it because, early on in the process, he empirically sucked at painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

The sketches were truly preparatory work for the real thing. So he did them.

Here’s what he didn’t do: tell himself he was good enough to paint it.

Because even at the face of sucking, an artist know that there’s no point in trying to convince himself otherwise

First of all, because our brains are pretty inquisitive about the propaganda we try to feed into them.

To whatever I do, I’m good enough.

I’m good enough.

I’m good enough.

Mhmm… but am I though?

Such mantras try to force-feed you self-acceptance but end up summoning the exact opposite

Because tell me what you google and I’ll tell you what you lack. High demand means little supply, and this principle not only applies to the stock market. Or the painting world.

Your brain has the talent of x-raying its way through all the layers of bullshit you’ve painted on the top of the core message: you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re someone you’re not.

And if you’re a kid portraying Batman in his room, that’s fine — except for the fact that there are better superheroes — but it’s not fine if you’re trying to swift through life with a sense of confidence and self-assurance.

What if you need to feel confident before you even set out to do anything?

That’s what pushes us into the bullshitting game, isn’t it? Pick a bunch of mantras, tell them to yourself for 10 minutes before going to bed, and laugh from the top of your fairytale princess Tower of Confidence in a month or two.

And then take a long nap while you wait for someone to rescue you from your lies. It doesn’t need to be a Prince Charming, or Prince Glamorous, or anyone who has their main character trait for heraldic.

It only needs to be someone (or something) real. A bitter reality does always better than a sweet deception. It does better for art, and it will do better for you.

So take that thing you feel “not good enough” for and be real about it

That actionable advice is multilayered:

First, take that thing. Exactly what you feel incompetent for? “Not good enough” rarely extends to the whole entirety of your personality. It might feel like that when we’re afraid to face reality as it is, that our worthlessness knows no boundaries.

(But what could we know from the top of our Tower of Deceit?)

Second, be real about it. Probably, the reality is that you suck. Is that too real? Well, don’t fall into a mantra to convince you otherwise yet. You can make sucking much more manageable.

How about doing some sketches?

Make it easier, make it less intimidating. Break it into parts, tackle them one by one.

But don’t tell yourself that you’re good enough. Because that’s a lie.

You suck, like pre-sketch Picasso. And if you set out to do something as great as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, you’ll need your pile of sketches too.

And isn’t that the joy of painting?

(Is it? I genuinely have no idea).

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Loudt Darrow

Loudt Darrow

Informed. Opinionated. I might be wrong but never boring.