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“When we try to make art that everyone will love - we aren’t being generous, we are trying to protect ourselves from the vulnerability of making art that is disliked.” - Amy McNee


When artists make art that is “palatable for everyone”, they aren’t being generous, they are keeping themselves safe, avoiding vulnerability. I think we all experience that in some way… and I’d like to share our experiences with it.

My Answer:

This comes up for me when I feel insecure or threatened… when I feel I need a “win” to feel worthy. When I feel that I need some sort of validation. Whether it is via social media, live performance or in a class setting, insecurity can creep up… and sometimes a little dose of people-pleasing (I am super aware I am doing this) staves off the dark thoughts.

Thoughts and Actions:

People-pleasing involves speaking and behaving to accommodate the emotional needs of others, sometimes to the detriment of your own well-being. People pleasers often have poor boundaries, struggle to say “no,” and are constantly apologizing or qualifying their actions.

People-pleasing is also an anxiety response. Anxious about not being liked or anxious about being rejected. Anxious about “rocking the boat”. It has been widely studied as a trauma response (esp in childhood).

Sometimes people engage in people-pleasing behavior because they don't value their own desires and needs. Due to a lack of self-confidence [in their work or in the rest of their lives] people-pleasers have a need for external validation, and they may feel that doing things for others will lead to approval and acceptance. Specifically as performance artists we see this manifest in the inclusion of “compulsory” skills - such as spin, split, drop. As if including these “things” will MAKE us liked and accepted as a “silks artist” (for example).

Some amount of people pleasing is necessary in the arts. We have to give the people what they “want” at least some of the time. But the artists job is to re-imagine things… to reinvent the rules, so it is first good to understand what people like or what “sells” or makes “good” art. You have to go through that cookie cutter process to have an educated perspective. In art school, we copied the masters… in performing arts it’s similar: we learn choreographies and skills and even entire acts from others in order to find our own voice. Eventually (hopefully) we do find it and our work can gradually become more more authentic and original. As we build confidence in this process, we become less and less concerned with pleasing others with our work and more concerned with creating for the sake of expression.

5 Ways to Stop Being a People-Pleasing Artist

  1. Figure out what is unique about you and what you are passionate about

  2. Be true to yourself (and your values) instead of trying to fit in 

  3. Set healthy boundaries

  4. Spend some time working alone

  5. Remember that you can't please everyone

Remember at the end of the day, we admire uncompromising people – people that pursue a vision or a purpose with unwavering commitment. These people are role models. By their very nature they attract some and offend others, but their belief in themselves and their vision, does not allow them to be concerned with that. These are the true artists.

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