Art And The Sneaky Shame Spiral

Rahim Nanos
Dec 11, 2018 · 4 min read

Does the prospect of making bad art cause you shame?

Do you ever procrastinate on making art because you’re afraid it won’t be good?

Then, shame yourself for procrastinating on making art…

Causing you to procrastinate ever further…

Which causes more shame…

Then shame is piling on shame and you’re so ashamed of not making art at this point that you feel like you don’t deserve to make art and then…

You proceed to just….

Never make art?

This, my friends, is the Sneaky Shame Spiral.

In my experience, there are two types of artists:

Artists that always feel crippling dread before making art…

And artists that used to always feel crippling dread.

The Sneaky Shame Spiral just happens.

So, don’t be ashamed of it!

Here are some tools you can use to kick the Sneaky Shame Spiral’s ass when it rears its ugly head.

Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the art of recognizing when the Sneaky Shame Spiral comes up and just allowing it to be present without judgment or repression.

First, note how it feels in your body.

Then, see if you can explore it further and find out why it’s here and where it came from.

Don’t run away from it!

Don’t run to distractions.

Don’t use distractions to escape from the Sneaky Shame Spiral.

Don’t reach for your phone or the controller or food or drugs or alcohol or whatever it is for you.

Just sit with it! Refer to numero uno.

Practice the art of forgiveness.

If you forgive yourself the first time shame creeps in, you can break the cycle in its tracks! Replace shame with forgiveness.

Take a practical approach.

What do you need to accomplish?

Is the shame helping you achieve your goals or hindering them further?

Is the shame necessary?

If not, should you be listening to it?

Does it have your best interests at heart?

Is it someone else’s story?

Talk to your shame.

Approach your shame with compassion and interest.

Ask it why it’s showing up.

Ask it where it came from.

Be in the present moment.

Past failures aren’t your present.

Future failures are not your present.

Living in the present means that you’re not looking for a desired outcome or somehow predicting that the past will happen again.

You’re just making art because that’s what you like to do.

And if you don’t like making art, then that’s a conversation you need to have.

Are you doing this for the right reasons?

Do you want fame and money?


Are you doing it because that’s what you decided a long time ago, even if you’ve outgrown it?

Or do you love art for art’s sake?

Because if I didn’t absolutely fucking love writing for the sake of writing, I wouldn’t choose to be a writer, you dig?

Be present. Be true.

Change your relationship with failure.

Past failures don’t mean that you are, by nature, a failure. Past failures are teachers, not a statement of who you are. Failure is a learning process that teaches you how to succeed. There’s no shame in that. Just growth.

Cultivate a balance between compassion and discipline.

Compassion helps you stop yourself from sinking into the shame. Discipline will help keep you from procrastinating in the first place. They make a good team, but it’s important to have both.

Don’t beat yourself up.

Don’t beat yourself up when it happens because that’s just the Sneaky Shame Spiral all over again. He (or she) is a tricky little monster.

Get help when you need it.

Dude, therapists love the Sneaky Shame Spiral. They get it. They’ll help you identify and shift the false story.

Use it for art.

Get creative and use it. Whenever I catch myself in the Sneaky Shame Spiral, bare minimum, I write a journal entry about it- when it occurred, why, and what I learned from it.

You never know what will become a usable artistic story.

Take back control.

Feelings are just feelings. They are energy. They are constantly shifting and they are not who you are. Give them the respect they deserve, but don’t let them own you. Mindfulness is identifying them without attaching your identity to them.

Clear out old shit.

You always have to clear out old energy before you can move forward.

So, if you’re really stuck, then take that time for yourself.

I don’t believe in laziness. But, I do believe in stagnation due to trapped fear and pain.

The only way you can do wrong is if you don’t take the time and space to figure yourself out or get the help that you need.

Remember, pain is a teacher.

You will experience the same pain over and over and over again until you learn your lesson and change your story.

So, if you experience a recurring Sneaky Shame Spiral, analyze, learn, and move forward.

Remember, you are not your shame.

If you have anything you’d like to contribute, shoot me an email. Nine Muse is updated on Monday and Friday.

Until then, remember to align with your true self and take control of your free expression, Creators.

Originally published at on December 11, 2018.

Rahim Nanos

Written by

Productivity & Spiritual Wellness Writer

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