Carly Swenson • Intuitive Artist

the internal dilemma of managing expectations

Rejection is, at best, an annoying fact of life.

It gets a bit easier over time? I think?

But that sting never really goes away. It never doesn’t hurt. (Yep, correct use of a double negative.) I’ve gotten more used to disappointment. I’m pretty sure the resulting  sadness doesn’t last as long as it used to? (That also might just be the unreliable narrative of memory.) The asshole-voice-in-my-head telling me ‘I’m an inevitable failure’ is drown more quickly now, but there’s always an internal struggle. The thing is, putting my artwork into the world is strangely vulnerable. “Ta-da! Here world, look at my art! I’ve spent years learning, evolving, and growing. Surely you can see the nuance in my work that portrays this integral raw aspect of myself!”

I do hope my art speaks for itself, that someone somewhere will finally see value in my work among all the other inspiring work. (And then the other wonderful magical art success things will start to fall into place! Right!? Probably not right?)

I put positive vibes out into the universe (even though I’m not entirely sure what a vibe really consists of, and I’m entirely aware how stereotypically-annoying-hippie that phrase sounds). I do think remaining positive and hopeful, envisioning success in the opportunities I apply for is the healthier approach. Mentally preparing for success, I’m adamant not to sell myself short when asked what I have been working by adding “I probably won’t get it anyway.”

But the asshole-voice-in-my-head still chimes in, “You probably won’t get it anyway.  You should tell them that.  You’ll look so dumb when you don’t get it, and you didn’t even mention that you knew you probably wouldn’t. Because you won’t. Because you’re a Fail-y Fail-y Fail-ton.”

Brilliant insult, asshole-voice.

My point is without that positive mindset, I’m setting myself up for failure. But mentally preparing for rejection and expecting failure makes the hit more manageable, if I don’t have hope in the first place. So where is that ideal balance between unfettered belief in  limitless creative possibilities, and the crushing realistic probabilities of rejection?

Honestly, I have no idea. I’m currently riding the figurative waves of hope in my endless artistic potential, and the debilitating self-doubt that accompanies frequent rejection.


“Well done, choosing a life in the arts, Swenson. Brilliant decision, loser.”

Shut up, asshole-voice.

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