I am not qualified to give mental health advice but I can talk about my experience!
In highschool/my formative years I had extremely low self esteem. I am on the spectrum and had a very difficult time fitting in with others and making friends. I envied those who has close friendships and could talk to people. I was really miserable and did feel that sense of shame. I felt like I was a burden to the people around me, that I didn’t deserve the right to speak or ask for things or make my needs known, since I wasn’t worthy of anyone’s friendship. I remember in class when the teacher would give out treats like success or something, I’d always refuse not because I didn’t want one, but because I felt like I didn’t deserve one because I simply wasn’t on the same worthiness level as the other kids, I was less than human in my own mind.
I was very depressed a lot of the time, and often alone. I did try to find comfort in things I was good at, such as academics, crafting, and writing. When I focused on things I already had some skill in and enjoyed, I found that I enjoyed that feeling of confidence and wanted to expand it. I started to pick up other solo hobbies, got a job at 14 and saved up to buy a cheap guitar and some paint supplies, and worked on those. The internet was at the stage where it was really expanding and websites and forums were forming so that I could get/give feedback to others within the hobby without necessarily having to socialize in person. As my skills grew with practice, I realized I could apply the same practice to all areas of my life. I think starting work too (in retail) really helped as well, as it gave me a safe space to interact with people since there were certain social norms to follow (professionalism and customer service). I didn’t have to try hard to navigate through conversations as they were scripted for me.
I started researching and practicing social skills. I learned first through textbook, then through online practice, then through real world experiences the nuances of sarcasm, small talk, reading non verbal signals and cues, etc. I remember I would attempt to deviate from my script at work to make small talk with customers, try and joke with them etc. It was a low risk situation because if my attempts failed that customer would then leave and then I’d have a new one to practice on. I unfortunately at the time (likely due to my low self esteem) was in a relationship with an NPD, which did nothing for my self esteem but did give me room to continue to improve myself until I got to a point where my self worth started to build.
If there was something I found that I didn’t like about myself that was in my control to fix, I researched how to fix it and worked hard on it. Things that were out of my control I struggled with more, and still do struggle with some things today but I try to disconnect it from my worth as a person by reminding myself everyone has flaws.
Now I pretty much love myself though. I continue to set goals and of course I know I can always improve and do better, but I am happy and practice a lot of self care. I do think that if I tied my finances to my self worth I would struggle a bit like yourself. I make decent wages but if I’m having a rough day at work or make a mistake it doesn’t affect my salary or ability to pay bills. I do pride myself in my work and work very hard and put my heart into it but if my salary depended on perfection then that would be indeed far too stressful.
Is there a way perhaps that you could find employment that isn’t as closely tied to your performance and perception of your work, especially seeing that it’s such a vulnerable thing for you? Perhaps even just part time work so you can do both? That may help take some of the stress off if your art isnt 100% responsible for your livelihood. I know amazing talented people in the arts industry who still struggle financially. Do you do commissions? I know sometimes that helps vs making the art and trying to sell it after it’s complete as a lot of times people are more willing to pay for something in which they have some creative input. I’m not sure what type of art you do so these things may not apply.