Feeling like I need to find ‘my voice’. It’s somewhere in-between true creative fiction and some sort of editorial, also some soul-searching and personal development in there. As I write this I feel fears welling up. Fears of, ‘but does anybody care about that? Is there appetite for that sort of thing? Who would read it anyway?’ The truth is I need to create for me and nobody else. I read a report on BBC recently about young visual artist nominated for some prestigious award. I reviewed their work and project outlines and it all seemed so weird. How did these people go on these paths, months, years of dedication to exploring one single thought which in the end became some ‘work of art’ which is now winning prizes. None of this work was designed for consumer consumption. This is where I get torn, where my thoughts and ideas run 100 miles a minute and I don’t have time to articulate quickly enough the ream of crap that runs through my head. I know is all associated to fear, to some sort of limitations I place on myself that I just keep banging up against. I can choose to remove those limitations, but must I first identify them? Ok Here Goes!
I have some strange buried, masked fear that is expressed as judgement on others. This is a fear of the critical assessment of my work/writing by others. I’m scared of people’s input, their critiques, and their opinions. Although I know, no artist no figure in the public eye receives only positive reviews; developing a hard skin comes with the package of being in the public eye, making yourself available in the public domain. Even writing those words, I feel triggers of fear and judgement rolling through me.
I’ve become twitchy and awkward, running my hands through my hair, averting my eyes from the screen, slightly cocking my upper lip….all physical signs suggest contempt. What is this feeling!!? It seems like its been with me for a long time, but yet I can remember a time when I longed so badly to be in the public eye, but still feared it. I wanted to be a model, and actress but I hated having photo of myself taken. Now, I judge people who take photos of themselves all the time – posting them on Facebook, posing in front of cars, signs, restaurants, hours of the day spent on mini ‘photo opps’….I see it now as egotistical. ‘I would rather spend my time taking in the surroundings that taking photos of myself in them.’ Is this a developed defense mechanism, what is this paradox between wanting something and judging it negatively at the sane time? One idea is that I feared I would never be successful as a model/actress so I quit before I ever started and developed all these judgments around public visibility to mask my desire to do something I never did…
This ‘being a quitter’ thing is another strong theme I’ve carried with me through time. I’m not sure if its accurate or if its ‘story.’ I seem to have some recollections of me as a child quitting many things because they were too difficult or got boring, the fact was that when I reached a point of development at which the activity was challenging and I was no longer inherently good at it I lost interest. It’s in some ways a fear of failing, of not being good enough but also a need to be the best, a pressure I put on myself to be the best at everything instantly without any practice – which of course is ridiculous. What’s even more ridiculous is all the things I am pretty good at and could be great at with more practice, but I quit because I’m not and instant prodigy.
Great things are, by their very nature, unique and unconventional. Therefore, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality. And to do that is scary.
Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it. – Mark Manson.net
I’m looking back now at Flamenco class in University as an example of my frustration over not being as good as I expect/hope. I somehow expected myself to be amazing at in this class I guess, this form of dance I had never in my life practiced, or even really seen danced, but somehow I should have had a knack for it. So was my thinking I suppose based on the panic attacks I had after every class. I actually found it incredibly challenging, perhaps not more so than other beginners, but to me I was the worst in the class, an evident failure. I took lunch time tutorship and practiced with friends out of class, but still, I felt I struggled more than anybody else. The feeling was devastating. I felt everyone was judging me, everyone’s eyes saying ‘it’s so easy, why can’t she get this’. My perspective is so warped I’m not sure if this was the case or not….I’d like to think it wouldn’t be and that most people are to self-absorbed to spend time passing all their judgement on me, but perhaps it was true and I was terrible. I had this same feeling in another dance class I took the semester prior, where I truly, still to this day believe I heard the teacher chuckle under her breath at my attempt to do something. I also remember quitting ballet and Jazz as a child with some similar feelings although I somehow convinced my parents my teacher was a racist and therefore I could not continue to dance at her studio or succeed when she picked on me….I remember saying this, but now don’t recall if it was true at all or not.
The thing that debilitates me is really what I think other people are thinking about me. But why on earth do I care? Most of their opinions, just like mine about them, are based on their own baggage projected on to me. Who I am, my success or failure has nothing to do with what they think about me, but somehow I assume all their opinions are negative and I’m crippled in judgement.
The example of ‘failing’ in dance class is funny because casually I’m a pretty good dancer, this is something I know about myself and something that other people say. This is a big piece of my identity. So it seems the degree of my sensation of failure and challenge in dance class is related to the fact that I am a good dancer in general, I think…I felt that I should have been better at choreography and execution and was frustrated that my self-identity in that instance didn’t live up to itself. But dancing in a night club and dancing choreography are very different of course. The fact is that I have had no formal dance training and that my abilities as a true novice were actually pretty high but I judged myself against peers who had other formal dance training, perhaps not in Flamenco or African, but other forms, they knew how to learn choreography and knew their bodies far better than I mine. If I put myself in a room of all 100% beginners I would see where my ‘natural ability’ really lay…but why would that be so important, even now for me to say and think? Why can I not just accept that I am after all taking a class to LEARN to improve. The simple fact that I’m in BEGINNERS FLAMENCO suggests that I am no expert, why can’t I just own that and then be proud of what I do learn? In everything I do, I must always be the best and anything less is a failing.
One thing I know very well is that when people offer critique they are not judging YOU as a person, but trying to help you to improve, whatever work it is you have presented. Simply taking that note and assessing how you can incorporate that feedback to improve the results next time is not a judgement or a failing it is an opportunity to become even better and even the most seasoned prodigy in any field will have room for improvement, you can always be better. So why must I be the best at everything when in actuality that is a requirement destined for failure, there will always be someone better and even if not for a year, if you are for example the Olympic gold medalist, the following year there may be someone better. The point is we MUST always continue improving and developing. Everyone must. These are things that I know, but somehow don’t translate into my gut responses to things.