This colorful comic explores how Vincent van Gogh tackled one of his biggest fears.

Today, Vincent van Gogh is considered a world-renowned painter and artistic genius. This was not always the case.

Van Gogh lived in poverty and anonymity for most of his life.

He was born on March 30, 1853, one year to the day after his parents' first child (also named Vincent) arrived stillborn. He grew up poor and left school to help support his family. He worked in galleries and with art dealers but had a habit of falling in love with women who didn't love him back. After his first heartbreak, he became a teacher and religious evangelist. But when his contract at the church wasn't renewed, van Gogh turned to painting.


Though clearly talented, van Gogh didn't achieve fame or wealth for his work while he as alive. He suffered from mental illness and eventually checked himself into a hospital where he completed some of his most seminal works, including "Starry Night" and "Irises."

"Starry Night" and "Irises."

But while his genius and talent were second to none, there was one way Van Gogh was just like the rest of us.

He wrote more than 900 letters to his younger brother Theo, a lifelong companion and confidant. Even as his work matured and his talent took shape, Vincent van Gogh's letters revealed he still felt overwhelmed, inadequate, and anxious, especially when beginning a new piece. That fear is something we're all familiar with.

But even in his darkest hours, van Gogh fought that fear in order to create.

"You don’t know how paralyzing it is, that stare from a blank canvas that says to the painter you can't do anything," Vincent wrote to his brother.

"Life itself likewise always turns towards one an infinitely meaningless, discouraging, dispiriting blank side on which there is nothing, any more than on a blank canvas. But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that."

Cartoonist Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils adapted van Gogh's letter to Theo into a comic story that feels as relevant today as it did in the 1880s.

Comic by Gavin Aung Than, used with permission.

Like van Gogh, most of us will struggle with feelings of inadequacy and fear at some point.

That's when we need to step up for ourselves the most.

Whether you're stressed about work, creative pursuits, or trying something new, it may help to find an accountability partner. That's someone you know and trust who you can share your goals and fears with, and vice versa. Exchanging hundreds of letters back and forth was van Gogh's style, but a quick coffee or text of support and encouragement may be just the boost you both need to get started.

Self-care and positive affirmations can also be useful when you need a little push. A study from Carnegie Mellon University confirms self-affirmations can improve problem-solving abilities and protect against stress. So in moments of doubt, extend yourself a little grace and remind yourself just how awesome you are. You don't have to be perfect. But if it's something you want, give it your best shot.

​Epilogue: So just how and when did van Gogh find success?

In his lifetime, van Gogh completed thousands of sketches, drawings, and watercolor and oil paintings. After his death at the age of 37 and Theo's death six months later, van Gogh's sister-in-law Johanna put his artwork on display in Paris. There, his popularity grew, and van Gogh was eventually celebrated as a pioneering painter and eminent Dutch artist.

Happy ending? Not quite. But an ending that wouldn't be possible if van Gogh hadn't "stepped in and done something." And we can hang on to that.

True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

The recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg not only marked the end of an illustrious life of service to law and country, but the beginning of an unprecedented judicial nomination process. While Ginsburg's spot on the Supreme Court sits open, politicians and regular Americans alike argue over whether or not it should be filled immediately, basing their arguments on past practices and partisan points.

When a Supreme Court vacancy came up in February of 2016, nine months before the election, Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell refused to even take up a hearing to consider President Obama's pick for the seat, arguing that it was an election year and the people should have a say in who that seat goes to.

Four years later, a mere six weeks before the election, that reasoning has gone out the window as Senate Republicans race to get a nominee pushed through the approval process prior to election day. Now, they claim, because the Senate majority and President are of the same party, it makes sense to proceed with the nomination.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


There are very few people who have had quite as memorable a life as Arnold Schwarzenegger. His adult life has played out in four acts, with each one arguably more consequential than the last.

And now Schwarzenegger wants to play a role in helping America, his adopted home, ensure that our 2020 election is safe, secure and available to everyone willing and able to vote.

Shortly after immigrating to America, Schwarzenegger rose up to become the most famous bodybuilder in history, turning what was largely a sideshow attraction into a legitimate sport. He then pivoted to an acting career, becoming Hollywood's highest paid star in a run that spanned three decades.


Keep Reading Show less

"Very nice!" It appears as though Kazakhstan's number one reporter, Borat Sagdiyev, is set to return to the big screen in the near future and the film's title is a sight to behold.

Reports show that the title submitted to the Writer's Guild of America, "Borat: Gift Of Pornographic Monkey To Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence To Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation Of Kazakhstan" is even longer than the first film's, "Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan."

As the title suggests, the film is expected to feature an encounter with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as well as President Trump's TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Keep Reading Show less