I’m Not Good Enough

This is the message you will hear from the world around you when you do something, especially if it is something new. You’re not good enough; you don’t have the credentials; you don’t have enough years of experience; other people are better; give it up.

You can choose to listen to them and do nothing or you can listen to that voice inside of you that is whispering “I don’t care what you say, you’re wrong; I can do it.”

My friend Cole Thompson’s recent newsletter had this quote from Georgia O’Keeffe: “I decided to accept as true my own thinking. I have already settled it for myself, so flattery and criticism go down the same drain, and I am quite free.”

Brave, Georgia! I wish I could claim to really behave that way. But criticism still hurts. Rejection still hurts. Being looked down on by the “elite” still hurts.

Ed Morris’ newsletter recently had a link to a commencement speech Denzel Washington gave at the Univ. of Pennsylvania. He talked about pushing on through failure. It was inspiring. I especially liked the part about when he won a Tony award on the same stage he was rejected from 30 years before.

I’m finding that rejection is something you learn to expect and deal with. OK, I was rejected. I didn’t die. None of my loved ones died. The “authorities” did not come confiscate my camera and files. As a matter of fact, nothing bad happened, except for the rejection. I can live with that. Like exercising a muscle, you get better at it over time even though it is painful in the process.

The real challenge is for me to decide if I am a failure or not. No. I’m not willing to accept the label and slink away. I believe in my capabilities. I believe my artistic vision is unique and is worthwhile to show to other people. I want the world to see through my eyes, see my view of our surroundings. The old quote “those who can, do; those who can’t become critics” is becoming much more meaningful to me. If someone is critical of my work I try to examine to see if there is validity in what they say, but my first reaction is to think, yeah, show me your work that is so much better. OK, I’m flawed. But everyone has their own biases and preferences. Being critical of art usually means it does not fit that person’s preferences.

I am coming to accept that putting yourself forward in any way invites rejection and criticism. Brene Brown says ““Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’” That is what I am trying to do with my art. I don’t like disclosing a lot about myself, but that’s what my art does. There is nothing I can do to prevent people from rejecting it or being critical. This is what is in me and I have to speak out. I have no choice.

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