When was the last time you've gotten a compliment about your art? I'm sure you get them all the time. How about a negative response to your work (your own or someone else's)? Ever gotten one of those?
Now, which one of the two have you spent more mental energy on? I think I can guess the answer.
The psychologist Rick Hanson outlines in his book Resilience that the human brain has a "negativity bias", which stems from its oldest, reptilian part. That part thinks: "Better to avoid getting eaten than risking your life for a potential reward". Useful when you need to avoid predators, not so much when you are trying to lead a modern life of security.
This bias affects how we perceive our day, our work and ourselves. According to Hanson it makes us scan for, over-focus and over-react to bad news. Our brain is structured to behave like "Velcro for bad experiences, and Teflon for good experiences".
I find it really relieving that it's not my personal shortcoming that I tend to dwell on negative experiences longer than I'd like, but that it's just how our brains are set up.
The good news is that there is such a thing as positive neuroplasticity?
It's a scientific insight showing that your brain is malleable (plastic) throughout your entire life and that you can change it for the better if you so choose. You can train your brain to "stick" less to the negative, and integrate more of the positive. How?
Next time you experience a positive moment, like the successful completion of a project, don't just let it slip through your "non-stick, Teflon-brain experience".
Instead, spend a bit more time with it. What about it pleases you in particular? The way it all came together? The way you were able to communicate your idea?Next, soak in how that success makes you feel. How does this feeling affect your body? Feel that for a few moments.Lastly, link the experience to one other experience you've had that's similar.
Instead of just having the experience and it "slipping through" your brain without leaving a lasting mark, this will give your neural structure a chance to weave new, positive connections and strengthen your mind's positive traits.
Do this with one thing every day and become a more resilient artist, ready to build on successes and ignoring that what doesn't matter.
So stop dwelling on your last sh*tty drawing and remember all that you have accomplished!
Go get 'em!