Welcome to 2021, my friends! It feels like I haven’t “seen” any of you since last year!
Yes. I’m sorry for making *that* joke…
Starting a new year should be about hope, positivity, and loving ourselves. When one year ends and another begins, it’s a renewal; a chance to start over and try to get things right. Out with old, bad behaviors and in with new, good behavoirs.
Because of this, I wanted to start 2021 by pointing out something that may not be obvious to a lot of creatives–a behavior(s) that is bad for us (and I am 100% guilty of).
No matter what we create–books, art, films–a lot of us tend to compare ourselves to others, especially those we look up to and respect. Even if what they create is completely different from what we create. I, for one, am very guilty of thinking about how much I love Salman Rushdie and how I will never write anything as gorgeous as his works. I’ll read books by other writers in the Writing Community and think, jeez, I wish I had written that line.
The thing is, I don’t write Salman Rushdie-esque books. And maybe I eventually *would* have written that line I loved, but someone beat me to it.
Holding these things in my brain, letting them fester and tunnel a dark hole into my confidence is pointless. Salman Rushdie doesn’t write LGBTQ+ YA, NA, paranormal romance, and Lit Fic. And I have a few lines I’m pretty proud of that no one else wrote.
So…why do I still get inside my own head at times?
Well, society has conditioned me to be that way.
Have you ever heard someone say: “Man, check out my novel. You’ll love reading it!” Or have you seen a tweet that says: “Check out my art! You’ll love it!”
Did you automatically think: “What an egotistical asshole!”?
We’ve been trained to believe that believing in ourselves is egotistical. Society teaches us that we have to be humble to the point of negativism or defeatism. If someone compliments us, we feel the need to downplay the compliment. “I was just lucky!” “Well, it’s not my best…” “Yeah, but so-and-so’s book is even better!”
What the fuck is the point of all of that?
We don’t want to open ourselves up to being called egotistical or putting ourselves in a spotlight where we are possibly going to be more ardently critiqued. We feel that if we accept a compliment, we’re insulting all of the things we think are better and also deserve praise.
We often think that people are just being nice because we know that society has trained us to be nice.
Or, sometimes, people–such as myself–are just awkward and they don’t know how to accept a compliment without sounding like a complete fool.
Additionally, we also fear that if someone compliments us, and we say too much about the work they are praising, they might get annoyed with us. That’s another thing society has taught us to do. Give a compliment, get a quick thanks, transaction over. If someone breaks this unwritten social rule, they are an annoyance.
“Well, I said I liked their book and they took two minutes of my time telling me how much they loved writing it. What. An. Asshole.”
These are thoughts and behaviors we all need to stop having and committing.
We need to give sincere compliments. Give sincere thanks (without belittling ourselves). Be prepared for a discussion these interactions invite. Stop judging people for being confident and/or complimenting themselves.
We have to give ourselves permission to love our work, love our fellow creatives, and love that these things create interactions.
Instead of choosing to participate in previous toxic behaviors, we have to open ourselves up to the idea that art–in all its forms, all levels of quality, all genres and mediums–is what makes life worth living.
The human experience is described, understood, and celebrated through creation.
Life is art. Art is life.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but going forward, every compliment will be met with an enthusiastic:
I might not be confident enough yet to say much else, but I will keep myself from downplaying the compliment or demanding that the critic is wrong or lying or just being nice.
I will give genuine compliments and expect “Thank you!” in return. If a creative wants to talk about their work more, I will welcome those interactions and not call them egotistical in my head for them appreciating their work and my love of it.
If I see anyone doing otherwise, I will walk away. Ignore it.
We have review sites to leave thoughts on all kinds of art. We don’t need to drag the negativity into casual interactions with each other–unless invited to do so by the creator.
So, use 2021 to give yourself permission to love yourself and your art. To have some confidence. To lift other creatives up. Practice enough and it will become a behavior of which you’re proud.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,