As someone who very nearly let a long held dream of building an artist website and selling their first piece of art go by without much thought or recognition, I need to make a public service announcement.
Giving yourself a quick pat on the back and then carrying on your merry way when you've achieved something may seem fine in the moment. It may even seem like the more gracious way to go (cos' heaven forbid you might come across as egotistical). But you are really dis-servicing yourself here.
I get it.
You don't want other people to feel bad. You don't want other people to think you're full of yourself. You don't want to really share your joy in case it all comes crashing down (and even worse - publicly). It might not feel like a big deal to you. You might feel like you didn't deserve it, that you're just lucky or an imposter. You might not have a supportive environment in which to celebrate.
These are all very real reasons to some extent. But I would hate to think of someone that I loved making little of something they really worked for and cared about because of ANY of those reasons. We know that they are more than worthy and deserving of all the praise we could throw their way.
And guess what Sherlock. You are worthy of it too.
Trust me, I know it's so easy to blow over this shit when you've got work to do, mouths to feed, chores to complete blah blah blah. Who has got TIME for celebrating, especially if we consider it 'no big thing'. But if we don't make the time to recognise our efforts and appreciate the inner resources it took to get us where we are, we rob ourselves of the chance to become more confident, optimistic and resilient. And you know, happy.
Birthdays and holidays - oh yeah we're pretty good on that. But give ourselves credit for something we actually worked on? Not so much. And I don't mean just the obvious stuff either like promotion, completing a degree or becoming a parent (although all certainly warrant it). I can think of a number of people I have seen do things truly worthy of celebration, even if they aren't the 'traditional' things we celebrate.
So I just want to say:
To the person who has just completed a course of therapy.
To the one who has penned their first piece of poetry since they were a teenager.
To the one started a new yoga practice - and kept it up.
To the one who finally laid down some boundaries with their family.
To the one who put paint to canvas for the first time ever.
To the one doing the deep work of healing old traumas.
To the one who continues to raise their children with patience and love.
To the one who finally had that tough conversation and made it out on the other side with their integrity intact.
To the one who stepped down from a role that was killing them, and chose bold (and healthy) new horizons.
And all the others doing their creating their life consciously, privately or publicly, to their own tune of ambition;
The world will brow beat you into thinking you and your efforts mean nothing. You don't need to add to that narrative. In the same stroke, there are people out there just begging to hype you, if you are brave enough to let them see you. Find your hype crew. Then be your own hype girl.
Validate your efforts.
Let other people see you. And see yourself while you're at it.
"Your work has a naivete to it."
I vividly remember being really hurt by this comment written by one of the course tutors on my latest project back when I was at university. There was a lot of praise there, but of course I honed in on what I presumed was a damning comment..
Immediately I jumped to the conclusion she was saying I was a bit stupid and my work was childish. Cue incoming shame storm here. That 'naivete' word shone out light a beacon highlighting my own lack of worth and talent. It didn't feel good.
A week later (yup, I let it fester in me that long) I gathered the courage to ask her exactly what she meant by that comment. Her response surprised me (and I've never forgotten it).
"Well, I could see that you had been on a honest journey. A number of your class seemed intent on bending the project towards something they considered trendy and deep. Yours was refreshingly true to you - it was led by your questions, and you followed them innocently wherever they took you."
I must've looked a little gobsmacked, because she then gave me a crinkled half smile, pointed at the comment with a long fingernail, and said "By naive, I meant, without contrivance." Then proceeded to chuckle to herself as she walked off.
I find myself thinking of this conversation as I near launching this website. I wonder how I got here, finding the courage to do something like this after years and years of wishing to. And I think I now realise.
It was because for once, instead of pushing for the outcome I thought I wanted and beating myself with negative self-talk, I followed my questions. I moved without contrivance.
I innocently followed my curiosity.
I gave myself permission to just give up on the presumed end product, and just MAKE. And got really curious about what I liked, what I didn't like, what I thought I should like and why I thought that. Each piece I made created a new question, a new direction. I didn't ever get stuck, because I could just look at the step I'd just taken, and say to myself - what would the next small step be?
It's incredible where that light-hearted curiosity has led. This isn't the kind of art work I expected to be making, but I know that it's truly, at this stage in my life, exactly what I want to be making. And with that conviction, the courage has followed suit.
I'm finally able to put my work out there, despite the usual lack of self-esteem and fear of ridicule, because I'm honestly loving what I'm doing and enjoying what I'm learning along the way. If someone out there likes it enough to want a piece of it, that is pure cream cheese icing with caramel sauce on the cake.
Curiosity focuses on the process. The journey becomes far more important than the destination, because despite not knowing exactly where you'll end up, you'll know you were always meant to be there all along. And that knowledge breathes courage into your actions.
Curiosity begs the question - what if? It's a small voice saying that there's something worth looking into, something quietly tugging at the strings, pulling you forward.
And for me, it's pulled me to share my creativity in bolder ways than I thought I had in me.
So I have questions for you.
Where would your curiosity take you?
What would happen if you focused on discovery instead of accomplishment?
Where would you end up if you stopped forcibly hacking yourself a path, and instead followed the breadcrumbs left for you by parts of yourself you had forgotten?
What questions would you follow?
Whatever your answers are, I hope that you follow them innocently wherever they take you.