Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Real Confidence Booster: Keeping a "Praise File"

Sometimes being a creative person can be difficult. Some days, you think you're a genius and other days, you're convinced everything you make/do is the worst thing on the planet. The pendulum is always swinging back and forth, and it's hard to remember at times why you do what you do. To help remind me, I've started what Austin Kleon in his book Steal Like An Artist calls a praise file. It's basically a collection of nice things people think about your work. For him, it's an email folder full of positive emails. For me, it's a collection of screenshots from my phone, capturing positive comments people left for me on my photos. 

Why keep a praise file? It is so easy to dwell on the negative. In fact, if you ask most people about their day, their automatic response is to tell you about the worst part of their day. It's like we are hard-wired to see the negative, and that really sucks. When someone reacts negatively to something you've worked really hard on, it's easy to wallow in that negativity until it becomes this giant black hole for productivity. Kleon tells his readers to forget about keeping a rejection file and delete any non-constructive negative comments immediately.  I love that. Who cares if someone thinks our bathtub pond is white trash and weird? Not me! For every one person that goes out of their way to tell someone something sucks, there are four or five saying it's awesome. It's time to start listening to the people who are uplifting and encouraging and ignoring the people who have nothing better to do than tear your spirit down. 

Start thinking about what your praise file might look like.  Maybe it's an email folder, maybe it's screenshots of your favorite comments. You could start a little scrapbook of positive comments. Once Parrie told me after a hard day of caring for her, "Tristan, you are necessary." When I got home, I wrote it down on a piece of paper with the date on it, and carried it in my wallet for weeks as a reminder. However your choose to record these moments of positivity, keep it easily accessible. Whenever you're having a bad day, read a couple of those emails and then get back to work! 

Your praise file doesn't have to be about your creative endeavors. It can be nice things people have said about your parenting skills, or your ability to coupon like a mad person, or how you're super athletic and fit and can run a million miles an hour. Whatever your gifts and talents might be, remember the positive things people say about it. 

Some might say this idea is arrogant and to them I would respectfully say, "Suck it." It's not arrogant to have confidence in yourself and your accomplishments. Even David in the Bible encouraged himself.  What is arrogant is to assume that your gifts and talents are all you and none of Him. 

Here are some of my favorite happy thoughts. 

I'm so thankful for the friends and strangers who take the time to encourage me. It has become my goal recently to be as much of an encouragement as I can be to others, and I hope you'll do the same. Take some time today and tell someone something you like about them or about what they are doing, and then start collecting for your own praise file. It's surprising how uplifting just looking over a few of the items in your file can be!

Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." 

(If you'd like more information about Austin Kleon and how amazing he is as an artist, check out his official website, his tumblr, his twitter, and his instagram where he posts blackout poems and super cute pictures of his son!)

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