Recently I've been thinking about how to balance doing the work to achieve your goals with keeping yourself healthy so that you don't burn out.
Obviously, everyone is under more stress now than ever before, so too much "hustle" can easily lead to burn out.
In the past my solutions were rather clinical. Essentially, keep pushing until you begin to break and then ease up on the throttle at that point. But I am not that clinical, and neither are many artists.
So I was thinking about when things were flowing in the past and I realized that those were the times when I was collaborating and I forgot about me.
Why did that make a difference?
How the hell do I collaborate in today's isolated world?
But then it struck me that the real factor was getting away from myself.
See the thing is, I hated myself. Or at least felt that I was not enough. I was one of those gifted kids who was told that they weren't living up to their potential whenever they had normal human failings. (Note: actually had great parents, but this "potential" idea got lodged into my subconscious early).
Because of this, being a smart kid; I figured out that I could learn the things that were making me lacking. I could learn how to be social. I could practice skills in areas that I lacked. Hell, going to the gym and lifting weights was amazing. The one place in life where you could see measurable results from your effort almost immediately.
So I crafted a persona of who I wanted to be. I tried to become the best version of myself.
A lot of this worked.
I was coming at it from the wrong place.
When you are busting your ass to make something work and it fails, it is really easy to absorb that and feel that you are the failure. "See, I knew you were talentless garbage. Even strangers on the internet agree!"
If you don't love yourself, every stumbling block knocks you down and every setback feels like a punch in the gut.
If you are driven and working on your art constantly because you love it, it is nearly impossible to burn out emotionally. But working the same way "to prove them wrong" or to seek validation is certain to destroy you.
You are perfectly fine where you are. Yes. Even if your peers are surpassing you. Even if the critics hate you. Even if the piece didn't turn out like you wanted. You are an artist making progress and progress is messy. Don't hobble yourself by making everything you do a test of your worthiness.
I used to believe that you needed suffering to be an artist, that true artistry came from bleeding for your audience and setting yourself on fire for them. But they still might ignore you or hate you even when you give them your soul. And if your worth depends on their validation, it is going to be hell to try and create something else.
So learn to love your perfectly flawed self. Get therapy if you need it. Meditate, whatever; but you have to come from a place of loving yourself while you grow as an artist and a human.
Strive like hell for your goals, but love yourself doing it.
All the best,