Maria Brophy

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Motivation / Personal / Philosophy

Stop Striving For Awesome and Give Yourself a Break

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Everyone thinks everybody else is doing so great.   But those that appear to be slaying dragons are feeling inadequate, too.

Do you ever wonder why you aren’t achieving what your friends are?

Why you haven’t been able to finish writing that book, or taken the vacation you dreamed of or grown your business fast enough?

Everyone feels this way, even those we admire and adore.

I have a friend who just started a fitness business.  As she talked about the many marketing steps she needed to do to grow her business, tears started streaming down her face, because she was overwhelmed with all the work ahead of her.  She’s a mother to small children and has very limited time, but she’s passionate about her business.

The pressure to get it all done, right now, is so great!  

We see what our peers are achieving, and we wonder “What’s wrong with me that I can’t get everything done?

At the bottom of this post, I give you ideas on how to lighten the pressure, so keep reading!  But first, I have to ask this:

WHY AREN’T YOU AWESOME?!

If you read as many blogs as I do, you’re seeing this message all too often:

The claim that the key to success is to Be Awesome!

Some of the most popular bloggers claim that’s their route to fame.  “Write awesome content, create awesome art, be extraordinary and people will buy from you and you’ll be swimming in the glory of awesomeness.”

Damn, that’s a lot of Malarky!

Most of us are just living our lives the best we can.  And now the pressure to be “awesome” is so great, we don’t know if we are good enough.

How, exactly does one arrive to the state of being awesome?  Are you born with it?  Can you buy it or train for it?  And how do you know when you become it?

There is a big problem with striving for awesome, and it’s this:

One person’s idea of awesome is different from another. 

I can’t be the marketing genius Scott Stratton or the lovely art business guru Alyson Stanfield, because I’m Maria Brophy.  It’s futile for me to attempt to do the things I’m not cut out for.  I can only be myself.

I, for one, am tired of striving for awesome.  So I’m taking a break from being awesome for now and I’m going to wallow in being just a little better than mediocre.  And I’m going to enjoy every second of it!

OTHERS AREN’T AS SUCCESSFUL AS YOU THINK

Drew always says “Everybody thinks everybody else is doing better than they are.  In truth, everyone is just trying to figure it out.”

A guy walked into our studio last week.  He was a fan of my artist husband, Drew.   He looked around at the paintings and the many licensed products with Drew’s art displayed on the walls and said “I’m so jealous; you guys are killing it!

Later, Drew and I laughed about that.  We hear this sentiment often.  To people on the outside, it appears as though we are wealthy.

Though we are happy, we are not where we want to be financially.  Our studio is too small, our income has taken a hit by the economy, and we are working hard to reach the next level of success.  There are many roadblocks we have to break through.

Sometimes we beat ourselves over the head for not having accomplished more by now.  We see other entrepreneurs who are doing so much better, and we ask “why not us”.

And then we have to slap each other back into reality.  Drew will remind me of this:  We have our health.  We live in a beautiful beach town.  We surf when we want.  We are happy.

Success is a feeling more than a number.  If you feel poor, you are poor.  If you feel rich, you are rich.

I know a guy who is a multi-millionaire.  One day he was berating himself and was depressed because he had only amassed $18 million.  Most of his friends were worth double that number.  He felt like a failure in business.  (True story)

And I know people who live very simple lives and feel rich.  They aren’t worried about being awesome or impressing anyone.   They are perfect just as they are.

Here’s a few ways to lighten up on the pressure and help us realize that we are perfect just the way we are:

LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD

Don’t expect so much from yourself.  Keep moving forward, but don’t kill yourself.   Focus on that one thing that’s going to make a huge difference in your career.   Let everything else wait.

TAKE A LOT OF BREAKS

Go on vacation, have fun, exercise.  Laugh a lot.  Your work will be greater inspired when you are enjoying yourself and are well rested.

FOCUS ON YOUR MOST IMPORTANT WORK

Stop trying to do EVERYTHING!  Instead, choose 2-3 of the most important things that you can focus on right now.  Then do them to completion and do them well.

STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS

“What’s wrong with me?”  Is the question we should never ask.

Instead, ask “What is one thing that I can do right now, that I can focus on completely, get it done, and feel good about it.”

CHUNK IT DOWN

Is a big project looming over your head?  Take one step at a time and Chunk it down!  If you have a big thing to do, be it learning French or marketing a new business or painting a new collection, do this:

Break it down into chunks.  Make a list of all the things you need to do.  Choose the first step, and work on that first.  Then, move onto the next, and then the next.

ENJOY

Relax, enjoy all that you are doing.  Don’t allow the feeling of pressure take away the joyful process of learning, creating and building something.

I hope I’ve inspired you to stop striving for some arbitrary idea of “awesome” and instead do the best work you can, on your own sweet time.

Please, comment below.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  It would be awesome if you did!

Maria xxoo

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62 Comments Stop Striving For Awesome and Give Yourself a Break

  1. Srinivas

    Hey Maria,

    First let me say thank you for writing this. I felt like you wrote it just for me. One of the things that happens in the online world is we see a success story of somebody and think “why isn’t that me or why haven’t I made it yet?” I’ve been feeling that quite a bit lately.

    But in many ways it’s like trying to control surf conditions. You’re on mother nature’s schedule and I think when it comes to life, the universe works in a similar way. You may not know this buy you played the most instrumental role in the sponsorship of BlogcastFM because of an email. In fact it’s going in my upcoming book :).You were the spark that lit the fyre. Anyways, thank you for this post. It made my day .

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Srini, thanks so much for writing this! I’m stoked to hear that I helped in some way. And I’m super-excited to read your new book!

      You are destined for great things – I’ve been watching you for a long time and I love seeing your story unfold!

      Reply
  2. Colleen Balfour

    Love your thoughts! Thank you for sharing with us and keeping it grounded in what’s real and true!!! Everything I have read from you has been relevant and valuable. Awesome!

    Reply
  3. Joanne

    Maria, thank you for the reminder many times I beat my self up for not being better, but taking a break from it all really does lead to new ideas.
    ( Ms. Stanfield has nothing over you!)

    Reply
  4. Jimmy Springett

    Yes, doing some of the things that you can do well, and to focus on that is a good way to accomplish each step in your goals. I have been listing and selling my art on ebay and is a good way to market my work, and recently I was thinking how nice it would be to show in a gallery and branch out, so when I was in the town with the gallery i took the step to visit the gallery and today i have an interview with owner/artist. I painted two paintings for this meeting, finished them in nice frames and made a portfolio book to show her some of my sales in the last year. Gallery owners know what they are looking for and while this is my first gallery I worked on things that I can do and the rest I’ll learn when we have the meeting. For now I’m happy with how this small goal has gotten me to do work and prepare myself so If this gallery does not have a good fit then maybe another but in that case i’m more prepared.
    Very nice blog and I wish you and your husband a good year.
    Jim Springett-wildlife painter

    Reply
  5. Megan Duncanson (MADART)

    Thank YOU Maria!! This is what I needed to hear today 🙂 I’m trying to run two businesses right now, both art related but completely different and I have so many things I want to get done and get frustrated when I can’t get to them all. But, you helped me to realize it’s okay not to get it all done right now, awesomeness can wait, LOL!! I need to focus on what I CAN do and be awesome at that and not everything all at once, thank you!!

    Reply
  6. jim

    Thanks for the love Maria, you and Drew are light in the darkness, you both are working from the heart, a joy to behold!

    Reply
  7. K. Henderson

    “Everybody thinks everybody else is doing better than they are.” So true! I recently attended a fairly prestigious art show where I had 2 paintings hanging. Yet, I was feeling “why am I not awesome”. These artists are ‘better’ than I am. After talking with many of the artists I realized that few of them were actually making a living with their art work while I am blessed to be able to support my family with my art and have done so for years.
    My dear husband now points that out to me every time I’m feeling less than awesome. Whew!

    Reply
  8. Teresa Walsh

    Maria, I do think you and your family are awesome. I know that you work hard for it. But I like the way you guys know how to have fun and enjoy your life. Thanks for your words of encouragement. I am getting it one step at a time!
    Best!
    http://www.teresawalsh.com
    in beautiful sunny Seattle!

    Reply
  9. Archan Mehta

    Maria,

    It’s great to know you are blogging on a regular schedule, once again, after what seemed like the longest break. We really missed you here.

    What’s important is to strive for excellence, not perfection.Be the best you can be, because comparisons are odious. The fact is, everybody out there is struggling with his or her own life issues.

    So many famous and wealthy and influential people passed away due to an overdose of sleeping pills, addiction to drugs, acohol abuse, etc. just because they thought they just could not cut it. They felt they could not stack up against the best and fell short.

    There is always somebody better than you out there in the world just as you are also better than so many others out there.

    We live in an externally-driven society that values superficial reality instead of authenticity. I know a lot of people who have achieved the moon, but are still deeply unhappy with their lives. There is something missing from their lives, but they can’t put a finger on it.

    Try meditation.

    It has worked wonders for yours truly. Instead of searching for happiness, it is perhaps more important to find the bliss within.
    You are that bliss: it is just a matter of delving deep into your self.
    That self is whispering your name. Go and meet it half-way. You can’t go wrong with bliss. And then keeping up with the Joneses will fall by the wayside. You will transcend to find the wisdom you already have in your heart.

    Why compare anyway? We have only one life to live. Better we cultivate objective interests and pursue our hobbies. There is nothing like personal growth and professional development for those who constantly worry about climbing up the social ladder. Cheers.

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Archan, so nice to see you! Yes, I agree, meditation is an amazing way to strip away whatever that ego thing is that makes us strive to be like others. I meditate most every morning, and it makes me feel so peaceful and happy. I think more people should try it.

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

      Reply
  10. Kara Rane

    Hi Maria~
    You are Awesome*! This is such a powerful idea, to have contentment, to FEEL your happiness, success, Love and Being in the present moment, as You are right now.

    Reply
  11. Marie

    This was a refreshing blog post and it’s a nice reminder. It is so easy to get caught up in people who make more sales than you, who have more followers, on and on into oblivion. I think it is just the contrast between where you are and where you want to be and it is SO EASY to get overwhelmed. I will definitely share this post 😉

    Reply
  12. Luis

    Maria!! thank you so much, I love reading your articles they are always insightful and inspiring! I wana be like you when i grow up 🙂

    Reply
  13. Erin Sparler

    This is SO true. The name of the game in this industry and esspecially knlind is to make yourself look bigger and better and more awesome them you really are. (Or feel you are.)
    I find that I often have to remind myself, “one thing at a time. One thing at a time.” With this montra in place I get much more done, and I’m able to enjoy each project more. When you try to do a million things all at once nothing gets done, nothing gets promoted or shared, and you get no feedback. Without feedback you feel like you accomplished nothing, and this can lead to paralysis. So Maria thanks for saying it, I definatly concur, stop trying to be awesome and give yourself a break.

    Reply
  14. Syl :)

    *** BIG HUGE HEART-FELT SIGH***

    Maria – THANK YOU! I sooooooo needed to hear EVERY WORD of that today girl! Found your blog via a Facebook post by the fabulous Sara Close. THANK FREAKIN’ GOODNESS for you and your insight.

    Looking forward to checking out your other posts and sharing your wisdom sister! Keep ’em coming! 🙂

    Reply
  15. Shari Sherman

    I think I can manage a little better than mediocre today! Whew, that IS a big weight off! Thank you, Maria, for putting it out there and reminding me, that I can only be ME! And that’s pretty awesome just as I am, and so are YOU!

    Reply
  16. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Maria,

    I scanned this post a couple of days ago and thought it was wonderful. Then it shows up in my Google Alerts because my name is here – which I missed before.

    You have said so much here that needed saying. It also serves as a reminder to be conscious of our language and the way we advise artists.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  17. Daniel Sroka

    One of my biggest pet peeves are all of the self-proclaimed business gurus who claim that the only thing you need to do to succeed is “be awesome”. It is such a load a crap. It’s like telling a single person that dating is easy — all you need to do is be gorgeous! Or telling a student that school is easy — just be really smart!

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Daniel, that is a great analogy! Yes, I’m sick to death of it, too. That’s why I wrote this. I had no idea it would hit such a nerve for so many people! Guess we are all a little over-worked…..

      Reply
  18. Sue

    OMG- are you talking to me? I just found your blog after hearing you do an interview on Artists helping Artists and this post jumped off the page and smacked me in the face. This is just what I needed to hear. I feel like i have taken on some large projects all for the good of growing my art business and I’m getting overwhelmed. This was my wake up call- Thanks!

    Reply
  19. Lynne

    I owned several companies and many of them didn’t make much money. We hadn’t learned what we needed to know. What you and Drew are doing now is exactly what finally worked for me. My last company was pretty successful. I learned one secret: multiple streams of income. When one wasn’t doing so great, another stream of income would step in and make up for it. Really worked.

    Reply
  20. jennifer ressmann

    Maria – You always have such poignant things to say. We all appreciate your honesty and the real life experiences you share! You and your husband are very brave, talented and inspirational!

    On that note, I definitely feel Americans have more pressure on them than is appropriate. I have also heard that statistic about the wealthiest having the highest drinking problems. Life can be hard.

    Christine Kane had a nice post regarding getting through painful experiences: http://christinekane.com/the-personal-happiness-formula-for-high-achieving-women-in-business/

    A lot of what you see is appearances. Don’t Worry – Be Happy! (maybe I write this last part for myself)

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Jennifer, thanks for the comment, and for the link to Christine Kane’s post. I LOVE Christine Kane – been following her for awhile now. This post you linked to is just awesome. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Reply
  21. Rick Davis

    Maria,
    We all are awesome in one way or another. Maybe we dont know it yet, but try asking your young children. (untill they become 15 and know it all) Finding your true talent takes time. Once you do, your already more than half way up the ladder. That makes you awesome to at least 50% already. Graet Post as usual!!

    Reply
  22. debra disman

    This is a fabulous post, and I just shared with my 1000 plus FB friends! The spate of recent suicides,and deaths from drug overdoses shows how fame, wealth, success, and even adoration from the outside world don’t always make it OK within. It is so sad to hear of the loss of Whitney Houston, who was not only beautiful, spectacularly successful and adored, but one of our most magnificent voices, silenced at such a young age.
    Perhaps we all need to cool out a bit in this society, warm our hearts, get still, and go inward to go outward.
    Thank you for the post!

    Reply
  23. Kathy Alpert

    Maria, You are awesome! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and upbeat attitude. It’s refreshing and inspiring. Your tale about the “poor” guy with $18 million is so telling. It’s been my experience that the richer the individual, the less generous he/she tends to be. Having known a few people with megabucks, I’d say that extreme wealth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Cash flow continues to be a challenge for me, but I aim to look beyond financial limitations and cultivate my creative spirit. Money is a tool that allows me to do this, while enjoying a relatively simple life and stimulating work. Life is full of fun and surprises of all kinds. Stay curious, positive, and open to change! Happy Valentine’s Day to all, Kathy

    Reply
  24. Art Goddess

    What I want to say to you, Maria, is that you are honest and authentic; no posing or posturing. These attributes seem to be in short supply these days and I want you to know I really appreciate what you have to say and the way you say it. Thank you!

    Reply
  25. Kerri Kerley

    Hi Maria,
    I am one of your newest fans, your site was sent to me by a good friend (could have said angel). I use it as a sort of sounding post. When ever I have a question or a problem relating to moving forward, I look for inspiration in a number of places, your site being one. Another is a little book I carry everywhere called The New Earth by Eckhart Toll. Your comments in this post resinate with me particularly.
    Kerri
    Thank you

    Reply
  26. Jeff Dolan

    Maria!

    This is such an important post. What’s funny is when you realize that when you stop striving for awesome all the time, the world does not end. And you actually feel more awesome.

    Reply
  27. Sari Grove

    Sometimes I sense people thinking I am awesome…Very quickly I tell them as many flaws about myself as I can…Look, my bra has big pads in them, I am really flat as a board, look, my hair is bleached blonder than it really is, look at the roots, look, …I don’t like people walking around feeling insecure…

    Reply
  28. Anna Kullgren

    Great post – thank you! For a while now, I have been feeling massively and simultaneously pulled in far too many directions, where everything is happening too fast for my abilities, and the time I have to properly devote to things, so I have been feeling overwhelmed on an almost daily basis. I think life is one long learning experience, and for each adversity I’m a little closer to awesome than I was yesterday. But what you said is so true – do the most important few things first, and let everything else wait. In that grounding and focus lies the magic. Thanks again for a great post – it made me feel better about my mediocre juggling capabilities. Mediocre juggling is far better than no juggling at all. Thanks also to Debra Disman for showing me to your blog! 🙂

    Reply
  29. Indigene

    Maria, you write such amazing, supportive articles! This is the best this year! It spoke volumes to me. We understand this mentally, but emotionally, we need to hear it outside of us, too! Thank you for this. For me, it’s one baby step at a time!

    Reply
  30. Cynthia Morris

    Thanks for this brilliant post, Maria!

    I think most of us are already pretty awesome at base; being a human is an extraordinary experience, if you stop to think about it.

    This urgent insistence on 100% awesomeness all the time is exhausting.

    And, its vagueness invites our inner critics to leap in at every minute to criticize and question us – ‘was that post really awesome? Did you leave an awesome comment every time you piped up on Facebook?’

    Being ambitious and wanting to exceed expectations is healthy. Always feeling like you have to be on like a neon sign is unreal and dare I say, unkind.

    If I were in Drew’s studio and saw your lifestyle in person, it would be clear to me that you and Drew are ‘killing it’. Not by how much cash you have but by how you are showing up brave and willing to make a stab at making art and making people happier with that art.

    This is a time in my career when I must be awesome. It’s a leap year for sure. But I am doing what you so wisely and kindly advise, taking breaks, having fun, savoring meals and laughs with friends and enjoying each day as much as I can. It’s helping me dial back the pressure.

    Reply
  31. Jen M.

    OMG. I’m so glad I saw this today! (Yes, today. I got to it via a newsletter, and I always save my newsletters for “later.” My in box is a nightmare!)

    I’ve been to a few events lately where my peers in each situation are doing so well, while I plot along, trying to coax my tiny business to growth. I’m genuinely happy for them, but it IS really, really hard not to compare. It really is!

    Lately, I’ve been doing just what you say here: Focusing on what I CAN do, doing it well, and enjoying it all as much as I can. Selling my art is nice, but the main reason I do it is that it brings me joy.

    Great post!

    Reply
  32. Mike

    The phrase, the grass is always greener, comes to mind. Throughout the past three years I have been struggling to make a decent living writing computer programs. People try to encourage me by telling me that I’m smart and I somehow became a sounding board for so many terrible business ideas. Of course, when someone tells you their idea for how to get rich, it is hard to slam reality in their face and tell them it isn’t going to happen.

    I really like your post, because to me it says that we need to accept your humanity. The human condition is brutal, but their is beauty in it as well.

    Reply
  33. Brooke

    Hi Maria,

    As always you are VERY inspirational! It seems whenever I’m feeling down if I visit your site there is always some wonderful advice to help lift me up!

    You are right about the perception of success. I have people write to me about my work saying they are jealous of my ‘success’ but I am yet to make my first contract!

    It’s funny I never realized that the people I greatly admire, while certainly successful, may not have traveled the easy road to success I imagine.

    To me the ‘big picture’ often seems overwhelming. Your advice to take life one step at a time and to value a happy life as a successful one, is the best kind of advice an artist can get (especially when wallowing in the biggitude of the marketing mountain)!!

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Maria

      Brooke, great to see you here! Thanks so much for the comment – so glad you find my site an inspiration. Music to my ears!

      Reply
  34. Danie at Pasadya

    Maria,

    I’ve never commented until now, but I just want to let you know that your writing is always so inspiring and helpful for me. I recently made the decision to begin a small business instead of working as an interior designer after graduating, and it has been daunting to say the least. You’re right, though; if we see ourselves as happy, then we’re happy. It sounds corny, but it’s true that happiness can never be bought. I still have such a long way to go when it comes to comparing myself with anybody: artists, bloggers, other business owners, or even some stranger I’m standing behind in line at the grocery store.

    Your posts on how to price murals and never get ripped off completely saved me this past December when I was learning how to price a large custom piece for a client. I know it would have been a terrible process without your advice (which you made understandable).

    Thank you so much for taking the time to teach and encourage us!

    Reply
  35. claudine hellmuth

    this is so true! I also think because people only post good news on their blogs, it’s very easy in the blog world to think everyone else is doing better than they are. there are some stories I would love to share if i didn’t think it would be career damaging to do so!!

    Reply
  36. lakshmi

    Maria, this is really awesome stuff. You see the glossy images and the beautiful stories of success and people showering praise on one another for being awesome. But its not all like that, is it ?
    We all live different lives, different issues to deal with. Everyone takes different paths to success – and success is such a relative subject.
    I tend to compare myself constantly and it really does me no good. I work better by not dwelling on others’ work and their success.
    Thank you for this reminder . I came across it at the right time.

    Reply
  37. Ebenlo PainterOfSong

    I just wanted to say “Thank You,” for this post. I’m among the crowd that people think is already a great “success,” when truthfully, I haven’t sold a fine art work and have only received a handful of commissions. But I see how patience is one of the keys to making it; as on the upside, I’ve recently started to be featured in other people’s blogs; so I know that the word about my art is getting out there, and that people do indeed like my art, it’s just going to take some time for the right collectors to find it.

    Thanks for the words of wisdom, and I really enjoy your blog and Drew’s art! Cheers! Ebenlo

    Reply
  38. Mark Sisom

    Maria, that is EXACTLY the advice I needed to read right now! I definitely bed to relax and focus on just a couple things and do them WELL …. then move on to the next items! Too often I am overwhelmed by the feeling of overload and I lose focus when that happens. Trying to be Superman comes with mixed results, some not always positive and progressing.

    Thanks

    Reply
  39. Amanda Rose

    Thank you! I felt some relief and literally sighed after reading this article. I am a young fine artist and just starting my first collection… along with portraits, building my portfolio, being a mother, wife, and also full-time student.
    I may call you for a consult one day in the future. Just know that you are appreciated!

    Reply
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