Growing up, I wanted to conquer a plethora of occupations. There was that time I wanted to be a fashion designer but gave up halfway through sewing my first shirt; that time I wanted to be a model but got bored after two gigs; and that time I wanted to be a rockstar but never learned to play my shiny new guitar. Sorry, mom and dad.
The one thing I stuck with was drawing. It’s been the only constant.
That’s why this#100DaysofSelfLove project was both such a joy and a challenge.
The rules I set for myself were simple: One self-portrait a day for 100 days. “Portrait” being a loose definition -- there were some pretty abstract ones in the bunch -- but the word “self” was key.
Following my own advice, I wanted to achieve something tangible outside of my day job. Not only did I get a sketchbook to cherish forever out of this project, but I also got a little better with my work ethic, improved my skills and gained some valuable lessons.
Plus, I proved to myself that I could do it.
I learned to reeeally look at myself.
In our selfie-obsessed culture, we take pictures of our faces all the time without a second thought. I wanted to explore the notion of “self” and see what insights I could learn.
Growing up, my go-to was drawing people. Mostly girls because they’re prettier. And easier to draw. I would create my own characters and then come up with a story or comic.
Looking back now, most of the characters I drew were blonde and blue-eyed. Why? I’m pretty sure I didn’t look like that.
Maybe it was because I rarely saw -- and still rarely see — -- anybody who looked like me in mainstream media. If that was all I was exposed to on television and in magazines, it’s no surprise all the people I drew looked nothing like me.
I could go on and on about race and representation in the media, but I’ll save that discussion for another day.
Back to the art.
I quickly realized in the process that I never really sat and analyzed my face. Have you? I mean really analyzed. All the curves, the features, the imperfections?
By about day 20, I got a good sense of what I looked like -- I could draw myself pretty well without a reference. My face was familiar to me -- instead of just being the reflection in the mirror.
I also got tired of looking at myself.
I mean, come on! I could never get my nose right, and I wanted to draw something other than my face. The last 40 days were very hard.
Doing anything every day for 100 days is difficult. Really difficult.
I wish I could write detailed steps I took to accomplish this project, but really it just boils down to persistence.
Persistence, persistence, persistence.
During the process, I held myself accountable. No one else cared about seeing my face 100 times. I knew that the only person I’d be letting down is myself.
Too tired? Too bad. Do it.
Too busy? Bullshit. You can take an hour out of your day.
Eventually, I just naturally started fitting a self portrait into my schedule. It became something I knew I was required to do.
Most days, I would do them at night when I’m the most manic (night owl, you see) -- even if it’s two o’clock in the morning after a few too many drinks -- but if I knew I had plans at night, I would try to squeeze the drawing in during the day. Even if it was in the park or on the road.
Persistence and self-accountability paid off because I now proudly have a sketchbook filled with my face that I can cherish for years. Those qualities apply to everything in life.
Tell yourself to do something and then do it. Follow through. No excuses.
Which brings me to…
It’s also very easy to un-learn a habit.
It was incredible how quickly I forgot about the daily tasks. It felt weird for maybe a day or two after the 100th, but then I just moved on with my life.
Once you stop thinking about the habit, it just disappears.
This can be bad when applied to something like exercising -- the second you stop feeling guilty about not going to the gym, it’s all over. It’ll be just as hard, if not more, to retrain your mind and body.
I came, I saw, I conquered.
Even though I could’ve spent more time on some pieces, and even though I ultimately didn’t make it a daily habit for good, I’m still proud that I accomplished this project.
Sometimes life gets in the way, and we make so many excuses for ourselves, that it’s hard to reach any goal.
This project was a good reminder that if I set my mind on something -- and if I’m actually passionate about it -- I can do it.
It starts with the small, tangible goals.
And if I can do this, what else can I accomplish?
This story, written by Mina Liu, originally appeared on Medium.