For the anxious and ambitious artist- zeinab fofana

For the anxious, yet ambitious artist


-Zeinab Fofana

It’s been such a while since my last blog, but that’s okay. I want to talk about my journey as an artist and entrepreneur, specifically when it comes to dealing with anxiety.

I comment a lot on how I have anxiety, sort of as a disclaimer. for why I can’t, or don’t, pursue the things I really want to pursue or the things that come easy for everyone else. but i never really go deep into what that looks like for me, and I think it’s important to share it with my supporters. Since I started my business, I would always prefer to be more reserved with who I am as a person, and rather just share my art. Keeping the art, and the artist separate. but a couple years down the line after learning how business and social media works, I knew that wasn’t going to cut it, which is when it got annoying.

I became doubtful not in my abilities, but how I should share myself in my art online. Y’all, it became crippling. I was proud of how far I’ve come, but it was still hard to get those connections with people online without having to share so much of myself to people I have never met. I’m neurodivergent, an overthinker, and have severe ADHD. running my page was a TASK. I would feel out of place on my own page and would think about posts for hours. To this day, there’s usually an aching need to delete a voiceover, a post where I overshare, or a piece that I love but fear it isn’t part of my ‘aesthetic’. it’s so hard. Thinking about how i’m being watched by so many people is overwhelming too. Especially coming from a family, where we are close knit and bubbly with ourselves, but are slow to warm up with people not in our immediate family or close friends.  Like, not y'all getting this access for free.

Alhumdiliah (thank God) it’s getting easier, but of course it’s still a challenge.

What helped is knowing that so many people like my art. They’re touched or inspired my art, or want to support me. They see themselves in the images I create, and want to support or purchase these images to have for themselves. And as an entrepreneur, we know that people are more likely to buy from a person or a story, instead of just a product with nothing to show for it.

So in 2020 is really when I broke down and did so much research on running a business, getting consistent sales, and how to market better. The majority of what I got from that is that you need to consistently tell your story and your value. So, I was adamant about overcoming my anxiety. Because it essentially was getting in the way of my money and success.

I was already going to therapy, so I started taking medication to help manage anxiety. I probably tried three types of anti-anxiety medication, which all did not work for me. So being the delusional person that I am, I took that as a sign for me to work on it myself, unmedicated. I thought it had to be deeper, which it was of course. Fun things like trauma, stress and environment.

I started doing more journaling, shadow work, taking vitamins, eating better and really just observing my thoughts as they came and what they meant. As I would be creating an illustration or sketch for a new piece and I’d think, ‘what if a lot of people don’t like this?’, I would just stop myself and say, it’s not about them, and you already accumulated an audience that likes the majority of your work. so create it for you and post it anyway.

I don’t really agree with the idea of visual artists having to show themselves and their art online, but that’s just the way it is now. when we become a business, where we need to sell our personal art, we need to tell more of our story, which we ourselves are connected to. But, I’ve grown to like it. In 2020 I started making videos at 21 on TikTok and realized that’s where I had the most fun, even to this day. Just being myself, and showing up unapologetically as a colorful, creative, Black Muslim woman. And soon my videos started gaining views and going viral, the ones with me doing goofy voiceovers, and the ones with me actually painting. In that era I really just learned that when you surrender and have faith in yourself and faith in God, your audience will find you and things will work out.

Butt, instagram still gave me bad anxiety. It’s just a platform where too many people can find you unfortunately, so I struggled with genuinely showing up and connecting with people there. Up until the beginning of 2023, I worked on making my feed more personable by using more of my popular content, painting reels, and sprinkling in my personality videos and photos of me. So far that’s worked, but I plan to engage my audience even more by going on lives, and networking more in person. Of course anxiety will make a reappearance every now and then, but it really boils down to how bad I want my business to succeed.

And the more I read, listen to podcasts and just talk to people more about the subject, I see that my anxiety is also a distraction. And I believe it is for many other people as well. (I know, I know, nobody’s trying to hear that). Of course the symptoms are real, but I’ve trained my subconscious and my body to behave as such to protect me. Protect me from the unknown and the uncomfortable. But I’m not that person that’s as fearful of the new and uncomfortable, so it takes much more effort to retrain my body and mind to catch up. At an event where I want to speak to someone interesting or practice networking, I have to ignore my negative inner monologue. I have to stop myself from mentally making a list of the worst things that can happen, because it isn’t helpful, and it’s less likely that it’s going to happen. And if it does, I have to remember that that won’t be the worst thing in the world.

Like y'all, my inner monologue is ridiculous. She’s a comedian but so dramatic. I’ll be somewhere and will want to introduce myself, in the appropriate circumstances, and she’ll say something like ‘girl get out my face can’t you see I’m tryna leave, no one cares about all that.’ And the reality is, as crazy as it sounds, that this is my brain creating the worst possible scenario to prevent me from being uncomfortable, and i would take it as a legitimate response that person would say.

Using extroversion or anxiety as excuses to not show up for my business started to sound pathetic to me, and I truly was sick of sticking to a rhetoric that wasn’t working for me. I still feel that I’m a humble and reserved person, but to the extent that I was before, just wasn’t serving me or my goals.


- My tips for overcoming anxiety as a creative business owner

* Have a network of other artists and entrepreneurs

* Limit time online

* Change your limiting beliefs

* Have a written process for when you create - of course we won’t always follow it, but it’ll help when you feel overwhelmed.

* Try to find ways to gain community outside of social media - ie. vending, blogs, artsy events like open mics or gallery showings


I don’t see many artists such as myself, but I know they undoubtedly exist. So I just had to share, for the sake or sharing and in hopes that it will help another artist.

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