This is my absolute first blog post! While it's a bit terrifying, I have been sharing my story in smaller groups for about a week now and people have responded thanking me and sharing their own similar stories. My specific experience came about through my journey as an online entrepreneur but I am finding people not in this world appreciate it as well.
Anyway, I've been going through a particularly confusing time for the past few months and am now finally able to glean some inspiration from it.
To start with, I am an artist (i.e. not a business coach, consultant, or teacher) I listen and then translate what I hear. I take my and my clients' ideas and bring them into reality.
While I am not a business consultant, I have benefited immensely from working with various teachers, consultants, and programs. I've created art for awesome people all over the world and get amazing feedback from my clients. I've studied at incredible art centers up and down the East Coast as well as Canada.
My background is that I have an art degree and since 2013 have invested in a variety of nuts and bolts: HERE'S HOW TO RUN AN ONLINE BUSINESS type courses. They have all been good but I felt like something was lacking and I couldn't figure out what. I could see overall patterns in how I did things but no matter how much I applied what I learned, the patterns still persisted. I'm talking about things like never earning quite enough to cover all my very low expenses, overworking, and ending up rushing to finish projects even when I got started on them months before.
I started following the work of various online business consultants and found some of their work felt like the missing piece to my puzzle. I invested in a few, didn't fully reach the goals I had set but I enjoyed the process, connected with some awesome women, and achieved various other goals along the way; so it was all good.
Recently, I invested in a more intense package figuring; "the last one was fun and productive, so why not?" I interviewed past artist clients of theirs and they all said they got a lot out of working with them.
The program was good in the beginning and it helped me out with some pretty major stuff. I threw myself into the course work, listened to the recordings over and over, and spent hours each week doing the homework.
I was determined to achieve the goals I set and stop the shitty patterns. Yet when I did the work my coach suggested it felt awful. I knew intellectually that the things I was doing were proven strategies but it just didn't feel right. I expressed that doing the work felt like getting dental work done and my complaint was brushed off as not important.
And then nothing.
Not just no sales, but multiple sizable commission clients had their credit card companies redact their down payments without warning and checks I had been worried to send out in the first place that my coach had said, "step up and it will work out" about then bounced. I bounced so many checks to awesome people. My bank account, paypal account, and other payment account were so overdrawn they were all frozen. Bills piled up.
I tried to talk to my coach about what was going on but their efforts to get me to "stand up for my worth" or whatever were so not what I needed and just felt like bullying. I know they meant well and thought they were helping but the reality of my situation was not that. I felt so contracted I wasn't able to talk about what was happening so I just shrank in silence. The program ended and I felt so awful I could barely do anything. I had a major commission to finish but I felt so crippled by shame that working felt like I was moving through molasses. I managed to finish it, by working for about an hour a day, and finally started to pay off some of my stacked up bills; all while feeling some intense resentment about pretty much everything.
I did make it through, thanks to good people in my life and my wonderful pets and at some point I started drawing how I felt after not doing so for 15 yrs. Drawing helped tremendously and I was able to ask for help from a small group of people. They gave me encouragement, some cash to open a new bank account, and checked on me for a bit. I got some new clients and was able to mail out projects I had completed.
Through all this realized I have a pattern of thinking I need to learn from people who make me feel shamed and that I no longer want this pattern in my life. Most importantly that I don't want to do the perpetuate this pattern by shaming others.
I had adults shame me when I expressed I wanted to be an artist as a kid, my teachers shamed in in Catholic school for not following directions to a t, and then I was shamed for making art that wasn't 'artsy" enough in art school. Most recently I have been shamed into buying programs that will, "fix what's wrong with me and/or my business" and then shamed when I couldn't market my work using the same emotionally triggering tactics.
I realize traditional marketing often depends on shaming to get people to buy. A company will say, "here's something that is wrong with you. Let me sell you this thing to fix it!" I get it, it works.
Emotionally though I knew this was wrong and could not bring myself to do it, especially with my art which is about joy, humor, and occasionally social commentary. Unfortunately, intellectually I thought shaming people was what I had to do if I wanted to have a successful business and share my art with the world. These concepts were too conflicting and until I realized that this was a major issue for me, I was stuck. I felt frozen and broken all at the same time.
Through this, I was reminded I need to listen to myself first and that if something feels the slightest bit wrong, I need to back off and give it space. When the time feels right then I decide what to do.
There is so much awesome information and amazing teachers out there but only a teeny tiny fraction of it is right for me.
I realized I process things emotionally so when I have something I don't understand I need to draw, think, and take a break. Other people need to talk things out logically, while others need to go for a run or journal. We all process differently and this is ok.
I'm sharing this now because while I have improved my situation tremendously I am still cleaning up the financial mess that I created. I have been tentatively sharing my story and hearing from people that they really appreciate reading it, as they too are not where they want to be in life. I am realizing that this is the most important thing I do with my art. I give voice to my emotions and a visual representation of my experiences. Other people see my work and know their emotions and experiences are ok too even if they aren't what we traditionally view as "good" or "positive"
In the online business world we see a lot of I HAD A 20K DAY posts but we don't see a lot of frank discussion of the other side of this. The 20k in credit card debt, the guilt over not meeting specific goals, the uncomfortable questions of what we are really here for and how we should relate to the world. These questions come up but sometimes get pushed aside in attempt to protect one's mindset, energy, vibration or whatever.
Let's be real here; just because you refuse to look at something, doesn't mean its not there.
I am so glad that online business owners have created spaces to celebrate their wins, and often am inspired by seeing their celebration and the support we give each other but I know I also need a safe space to talk about my struggles. So if you are in any way a coach, leader, teacher, parent, or just a friend who listens to people please consider what I have written.
If you are a customer or student of someone and something feels off, please know it's 100% ok to step back, take some time, and reassess what you are doing.
I am very grateful for my experiences but I wouldn't wish them on anyone. The image above is a pineapple oil diffuser because pineapples symbolize welcome. I hope that somehow by sharing my story anyone who is struggling will know they are not alone and that all their feelings, no mater how messy are welcome.
The image above was also composed and shot recently by me. As I have been working through all of this I have stopped doing things simply because I was told to do them. I was taught to photograph my work on a plain background with no distractions. While I get the purpose of that it's also boring as all hell. So recently I have been shooting my work the way I want to shoot it and writing my copy in a way that actually feels fun. You can check the results out here, just don't click through the pink tea cup listing if you have delicate sensibilities, as it has some foul language.