Sylvia Plath

“The Worst Enemy to Creativity is Self-Doubt”

Sylvia Plath

Sometimes we do not realize that what is holding us behind is our self-doubt and not procrastination. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. The only feeling that can hold back your words, your art, and your creativity is nothing but self-doubt. Doubting yourself works like a reminder that no matter what you do, you are going to fail, you will not be able to complete it and your work is not as good as others. Self-doubt often leads us to concentrate on things we are not capable of instead of things that we are good at.

Sylvia Plath’s unabridged journal is an example of why she wrote this quote. She not only experienced torment from her undiagnosed psychological issues but she also questioned her creativity even though her escape from this universal existence was her writing – ‘I am jealous of those who think more deeply, who write better, who draw better… who love better than I.’ She is considered one of the best confessional writers of all time and one of the best American poets.

The Worst Enemy to Creativity is Self-Doubt
The Worst Enemy to Creativity is Self-Doubt

Self-doubt not only comes into view when you are in front of failure, but it also appears when you are progressing. No matter how confident you seem or appear to be, rejections are potent enough to plant a seed of self-doubt in your head. But when you win, you can still face the emotion of self-doubt, it could be because of certain critics that you question your capability or a certain comparison that makes you think you are nothing in front of others.

Even though some of the greatest artists and writers had or seem to have narcissistic personalities – self-doubt was present in most of them. Vincent Van Gogh, the most known and celebrated painter of all time, whose best painting is considered to be The Starry Nights – he was disappointed with his work. Leo Tolstoy was ashamed of his writings – Anna Karenina and War and Peace. Franz Kafka hated his works so much that it is claimed that he burned about 90% of his work and even on his deathbed he requested his best friend to burn all the unpublished writings unread – but fortunately, his best friend did not listen to him and published posthumous edition of his unpublished novels.

Claude Monet destroyed about 15 of his paintings with a knife and paintbrush, right before an exhibition and those paintings took about 3 years to be completed. As they say, a piece of art is always incomplete, but merely abandoned. The reason behind self-doubt could mostly and often be the urge for perfection. No one can ever please a perfectionist. No matter how the world accepts it, the artist is somehow going to find a flaw or something more they could have included in their work to make it ‘perfect.

The Worst Enemy to Creativity is Self-Doubt
The Worst Enemy to Creativity is Self-Doubt

One of the many reasons why artists grow to dislike their work is because once it is out in the world it is not their work anymore. It belongs to all the viewers or readers and it is up to them how they are going to perceive it. It often happens that artists regret writing or drawing something because of the reviews they receive because the audience does not reciprocate the intention with which the piece was created. This is the reason why Basil in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray did not want to exhibit the painting of Dorian because it will not remain safe and personal once it is out in the world.

To create something on its own and put it out in the world without knowing how the world is going to look at it, accept it, or reject it is a matter of courage. But artists are sensitive about their work because it is not just a few pages or a canvas full of painting – it is not about being better than others it is always about being better than yesterday that is how I believe we would be able to fight the demon named self-doubt and flourish our individuality.

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