By Ekaterina Popova
On a cold January day around 2017, I faced a negative bank account balance, a heap of anxiety, and barely any strength to keep going in my creative business. At this point, it’s been about a year since I left my day job, and life was not the glamorous vision I once had. I was packing orders that I had to send out to my collectors and barely had enough to cover the shipping (hello, underpricing money blocks!). I had to borrow money to send out my orders because of how bad my cash flow management was at the time. I’m shaking my head just thinking about that season of my life, but I also want to have grace for myself because I pulled through.
On the outside, it looked like I was experiencing success. I was growing my social media audience, getting featured in galleries and more, but behind the scenes, I carried my coin jar to the local Acme to have enough money to survive the week until I got paid for my next sale. It felt like for years, I was living in some vicious cycle. Any time money would come into my life it would quickly vanish. It felt like the minute I got paid, expenses, unexpected bills, or weird circumstances would come up and take it away again, fueling my anxiety and causing me to overwork. I would have to keep creating and working harder. The cycle never stopped.
I learned so much from being an artist and entrepreneur for the past seven years. Most of what I learned has little to do with business strategy and a whole lot more with self-worth, the boldness to dream bigger and the belief that there is a better way. I had to shake off so many limiting beliefs about what is possible for me as an artist and set myself free from the artworld box. I had to know I was worthy of ease and that the struggle was not my final destination.
When we are in a difficult season, sometimes it feels like nothing will ever change, and that burning fear at the pit of our stomach is a permanent part of our existence. It does not have to be. I want to share a few essential practices that helped me survive some of the scariest financial moments to support you too.
Anchor Your State
Anchoring is a known NLP technique, and I used it early on before I knew what it was. I would imagine myself receiving the money I need or getting a lucky break in the darkest moments. Maybe it was just a fantasy, but imagining a different reality, would help relax me and help me focus on the solution instead of the mounting debt in front of me. When I was able to refocus my mind on where I was going instead of where I was, I moved forward little by little.
“Anchoring is a useful NLP technique for inducing a certain frame of mind or emotion, such as happiness or relaxation. It usually involves a touch, gesture or word as an “anchor“, like a bookmark for the desired emotion, and recall it again later using that same anchor.” (http://www.nlp-secrets.com)
Anchoring can help you trigger the desired emotion. You can imagine a time when you felt at ease, or maybe you sold a work of art for the first time. Tuning into the desired emotion can help you process difficult moments and tune in to a more positive frequency. I would always imagine when I sold my first big painting or had the biggest sales month to feel the joy and hope those memories bring me.
Ask For Help
Our culture encourages us to be strong, independent go-getters, and while I love the idea of being a self-made woman, it would be wrong not to mention that I had to ask for help at some point. Support can come from various ways, even borrowing money from a family member or taking out a bank loan, both of which I have done. Even though I would do my best to avoid borrowing, sometimes it’s a way to invest in a vision we have and trust our intuition. I borrowed money knowing I had a system that had kinks that needed to work out and knew that I would make it work eventually. It took about four years to fully pay myself back for all the investments I’ve made, but I don’t regret it. It feels so good not having the burden of those payments, but every day I think of my past self and those who took a chance on me for letting me borrow from them so I can keep going. I encourage you to think about weighing your options before taking on any debt, but help can come in other forms as well.
Gratitude and Generosity
The last thing we want to think about is giving when we are in the midst of our struggle, but I was desperate to use any manifestation techniques to get myself and my family to a better place. I read so many self-development books, watched “The Secret,” and hungrily absorbed any inspirational videos I could. Tithing has been a part of my upbringing, but I wasn’t a part of a church I felt aligned with. I started giving back a small percent of the money coming in back to the art community, family, and charity organizations that I wanted to support. At the time, it felt like a coincidence, but looking back, I know that the universe accepts our generosity as an act of faith and rewards us for it. While ethically, I think it’s important to give back from the heart and not to expect things in return, the good Karma is a side effect. On the days when I couldn’t bring myself to write a gratitude list, I would thank the universe, knowing that things could always be worse. I would try to focus on what was working, even if it was my health, creativity, or friendship.
Be Open to Receiving
Sometimes we say we want to sell out painting for thousands of dollars or begin coaching clients, but we don’t yet dare to put out a big offer to receive that kind of support. I remember one day, I had an epiphany that I didn’t have a painting over $1000 for sale. For my type of work, it meant that I had to make some more ambitious pieces and take a risk, not yet having that kind of clientele. Even though it took me a few years to sell the bigger work, it opened up new exhibition opportunities, attracted a gallery, and got me press, which helped grow my audience. Ask yourself if you have an offer that is aligned with your desired outcome. If you want to teach, do you have a workshop you are offering? If you wish to exhibit and sell, are you actively creating and putting your artwork out there?
Quantum Leap Forward
The last mindset shift I will share with you is a hack I learned when I was faced with a 50k bill. I didn’t have enough to pay it and panicked, feeling like I would end up bankrupt and in prison. My mind naturally jumps to worst-case scenarios. The statement came from lumpy cashflows and my inability to bridge the gap for some months. I didn’t want fear and panic to lock me up because it’s impossible to make wise decisions when faced with fear. I used a combination of anchoring, visualization, and embodying what it would feel like if this bill was no longer a concern to me. I started imagining that I made way over that amount each month and played around with the idea that instead of a bill, this was a paycheck. I placed myself mentally in a reality that felt effortless, abundant, luxurious. As I began to feel at peace, I got ideas for how to solve this challenge. Luckily, it all worked out; otherwise, I would not be here with you today typing with my morning coffee.
If you are going through a challenging season, please know that this is undoubtedly not your final destination. There is always hope; always another way, and miracles are continually waiting for us. Our biggest priority in these times is to make ourselves feel better to make decisions that stem from love and not from fear. Keep reaching for your highest vision.