As someone who has always been interested in perception, how it is formed, and generally what makes people tick, I sometimes have to turn the tables on myself and question why I have the knee-jerk reactions to certain things that I do. It all started when I saw a little girl wearing a t-shirt that said “I love me” across the front in gigantic, metallic gold block letters.Wow, that’s obnoxious. I would never let my non-existent imaginary future-children wear something like that, went the immediate dialogue in my head. I’d seen shirts with variations of it, “I’m awesome”, etc at the stores lately and had a similar internal reaction. But the more I thought about it, couldn’t I have used a reminder at that age that I was pretty awesome? Most definitely.
I was very shy as a kid, anxious around new people and sometimes even around familiar people depending on the day. At about a .05 on the confidence scale, I constantly worried that if I did or said the wrong thing, the whole earth would explode (or something equally horrible would happen). By upper elementary, I felt like I wasn’t even worthy to talk to others in my class who were more outgoing or had a lot of friends. I felt like most people flat out didn’t like me, and it caused a lot of unnecessary heartache because really, I can count the times a fellow classmate said something bad about me on one hand. The only time I ever felt comfortable was in art class. I finally got to feel like a star, and I wasn’t afraid to mess up, like I was certain that I would everywhere else.
Most artists rage a daily battle with confidence. In order to get others’ excited about your art, you have to project the fact that you believe in the art form you are presenting, and that you know you’ve created something amazing. You have to exude excitement to share your craft with others before you can ever expect them to care about what you’re doing. Yet at the same time, real art, good art, is an extension of the artist themselves and a reflection of how their brain works and who they are as a person. Getting excited about ourselves can be really awkward. I cringed when I first saw that in the write up for one of my new classes I had been described as “The instructor, award-winning artist Allise Noble…” Why did I feel so uncomfortable being described that way? It’s not a lie, I have won awards. Why was I so embarrassed to be publicized? I’ve mentioned the book by Amanda Palmer, “The Art of Asking”, before. It deals a lot not only with asking for help and the journey of an artist; but with the struggle to recognize, yes, have the confidence, to call yourself an artist. She writes, “When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.” – isn’t that the truth? You’re not an artist until you say you are, and often times our own minds are the hardest to convince. It doesn’t help that pride is even, what, one of the 7 deadly sins or something? Yikes. Thanks a lot past humans, you guys have done a really good job at making confidence seem like a flaw rather than an asset. Now, no one likes an obtuse, conceited braggart who thinks they are better than everyone else (I’m looking at you, Kanye West). That is in no way what I’m advocating here, balance is always key. However, I think that the idea of pride being something so heinous and despicable, something to avoid at all costs, pervades our culture in a myriad of negative ways. Just look at the comments on any body positivity blog or human interest article where people submit instagram photos of themselves feeling beautiful. The fact that a bunch of women have the audacity to take a photo of themselves and say “Hey, I look damn good today,” is apparently shocking enough to send multitudes of normal folks into a blind, troll-y rage.
[There is bad language in this comedy sketch so if that will cause you unhappiness, I’d suggest not clicking play. My aim is not too offend anyone, but this clip made me laugh out loud when I first watched it because it so accurately pokes fun at the philosophy I’d just been thinking about. For those who don’t watch, I’ll summarize. You know that moment when you compliment someone i.e. “You look really nice today!” and they respond with “Oh, you’re so nice, I look like I just walked out of a smelly, steaming dumpster!” Have you ever gone against this unwritten social code and when someone compliments you simply said, “Thank you. This is my favorite outfit,” and seen the complimenter now give you the dirtiest look ever? That’s the gist. For some reason, this seems to mostly happen amongst women. Ugh, women… I know I am one, but seriously!]
Human beings are really good at creating false dichotomies. After all, if I see one more film where a main character that has ambition and cares about or *gasp!* actually gains fulfillment from their job portrayed as a greedy, heartless ice-queen/king I’m going to lose it. Not that that never happens, but it shouldn’t be treated as the norm because it isn’t. You can love your family, and love your job! Similarly, we all actually have the capacity to love ourselves and still love other people! The definition of self-love isn’t self-centered, because our love is not a pie chart where we only have so much to give and if we give too great a percentage of love to ourselves, there will be less left for other people. Actually, someone who goes around saying “I wish I was somebody different, I’m a failure, I’m worthless …” is going to be the worst at reaching out to other people and forming healthy relationships. More wisdom from “The Art of Asking”; “When you’re afraid of someone’s judgment, you can’t connect with them. You’re too preoccupied with the task of impressing them.” Pride may be a dirty word, but it shouldn’t be. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I love who I am. I’m pretty darn awesome!” Whether it needs to be emblazoned across a shirt is a matter of opinion ;).