The past few days have been pretty life changing. Nothing specific happened, but internally, some light bulbs have been going on. I feel like my entire emotional landscape has been flipped upside down and it’s brilliant.
I’ll explain more in a few days, but first, I wanted to share today’s epiphany with you. Because it’s actually relevant to my art.
The Self Doubt
I’ve been suffering from raging self doubt lately.
My inner critic is a male artist in his 60s who thinks my art is crap. He constantly tells me that I can’t paint, and that because I can’t paint, no one will ever buy my art. (My inner critic stole this line from an actual conversation with a 60 year old male artist.)
This inner critic also thinks I should charge rock bottom prices for my art because I mean nothing to the art world. Nobody wants my crappy art and if by some chance, I managed to con someone into buying one of my paintings, then they shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money for it. Basically, I should starve. Because I suck.
Today, I had a revelation.
I am not the world’s greatest artist. I am not a brilliant painter. I do not paint like Richard Schmid, I cannot draw like Picasso and unfortunately, due to a lack of both drivers license and vehicle, I paint my landscapes from photographs, because otherwise I wouldn’t paint at all. (Gasp! Blasphemy, I know.)
And even as I write this, I can feel myself tightening up inside, and the voices yelling, “Who do you think you are huh? How dare you make paintings if you aren’t Richard Schmid/Picasso/Velasquez?”
Who do you think you are?
I think I’m me. I also think I’m pretty excellent at being me. That’s something I can excel in. That’s something I can be the best in, and no one could hold a candle to it. (It would also be exceedingly strange if someone tried to be me. Creepy.)
It also means I’m the best at saying what I want to say. I may not be the greatest painter, but goddammit, I believe in my art. I believe in what I have to share with people, my Right People. I believe that I have something important to say. And I may come out clumsy and un-academic, but that makes it no less important.
My life has had its share of ups and downs – quite frankly, it’s had more downs than I’d care to remember. But it’s because of those downs that I make my art. Because there is a part of me inside that is constantly searching for the beauty in life, for those moments that make your spirit dance. I learned that those moments are what’s most important in life.
I learned that even if you are so sick that you can’t even get out of bed – even if your skin screams in pain every time it brushes against the sheets – if you have those moments, those still, glorious moments where you connected with life and opened yourself up to the beautiful mystery, then you can make it through the awful days. You can make it through the never ending crap.
Because you can remember something bigger than that. You’ve experienced something greater than that. And nothing can take that away from you.
So I paint. And every time I paint, I try to share that feeling. So that on the bad days, you can look at my art and remember that you have those moments. That the bad stuff will pass. That there are still miracles.
I will never be the best artist in the world. I will probably still get criticized all the time about not painting as well as I’m “supposed” to be painting*. But those aren’t the people I’m trying to help. Those aren’t the people whose lives I want to change.
*Caveat – This is not to say I don’t improve my skills, and that I’m not open to healthy, constructive criticism. What I’m saying is that self doubt and critics will try to convince you that you have to be the greatest thing since sliced bread before you can make a difference (or a living) and that’s just not true.
If you have something to say, say it. If you have something to share, share it. The message is what really matters.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – how you deal with your internal critics and self doubt, and how you remind yourself of your own personal mission.
I understand though that this is a really sticky subject. It might bring up a lot of stuff for you. But this is a safe place, so if you’re just going to come and say negative, hurtful things because this pushed your buttons, then I’d prefer it if you refrained from sharing those thoughts.