Rising Above The Noise: Embracing Authenticity, Self-Doubt & Individuality In The Age Of Social Media
I wanted to take a moment to talk about authenticity in the age of social media and rise above the noise that surround us, including critics who hide behind the mask of anonymity. In today's post, I'm going to briefly share an experience in the early years of my freelancing career which happened around 4 years ago.
When I started going to art school, I have come to appreciate learning in a creative environment and look forward to critic days in class. Criticisms took on a new definition in the form of meaningful and comprehensive feedback and comments about your work and the work of your fellow peers. I saw it as a tool of growth in my craft while learning from others as well. As thinkers, innovators and creators, we always have that sense of wanting to know what others think of our work; the approval of society that masks itself in self-gratification, where we seek validation, approval, appreciation, and acknowledgement from others. I think that's pretty normal, but knowing the hard line between that and knowing that your self-worth isn't based from the approval of others is important too.
Building the skill and the backbone to take criticisms with an open-mind while having that absolute trust and confidence in yourself and your work is beneficial. It's one of the things that art school instills in their core curriculum, because artists need to develop their sense of engagement in the community by looking at the work of others and being able to deconstruct it and tell what works and what doesn't. This gives the artist valuable feedback for improvement while strengthening their will to absorb and accept whatever judgement people hand you with regards to your work, both the good and the bad.
Life Doesn't Come With A Manual of "How To Deal With Critics"
Prior to going to art school, I've received a handful of hate messages pertaining to my body of work and it threw me off. There was never a class that taught us "How To Deal With Haters", we simply do. Being unprepared from such a negative experience meant that it bothered me to a point where I started questioning my work. Despite it happening for only a short period of time, it still left a longer mark than I would like to admit. I was compared to another artist and that felt degrading in a sense. I viewed the entire experience negatively. For a long while, I, myself started comparing my work to others. I became cautious of the work I created and that limited my creative freedom. I felt my value was insignificant and caught myself creating to please others. The need to prove something became stronger than my need to simply create out of desire. It was only when I started to acknowledge these feelings that I was able to rise from them and accept them.
Self-doubt, by far, is a creative's worst enemy. But like anything else, we can turn these negative criticisms and self-doubt into a more powerful tool if we choose to acknowledge and work with it.
Criticisms Are Like Clouds Floating By
I once watched a video about emotions and feelings being perceived as clouds. We, as individuals, are just a witnessing party to the comings and goings of these clouds. We acknowledge it as it comes, as it goes, and at times, as it stays. Never following it, just being at peace with it; which is kind of like what meditation is all about. Just aligning your thoughts and feelings and being one with them.
Criticisms are very much like clouds floating by. They never stay, they move on. Our role as the witnessing party is to acknowledge it and will ourselves to be at peace with it. Taking the defensive stance will never work for anyone, most especially yourself.
Whenever a criticism hits me home, I have to remind myself of this simple fact: I am not my doubt nor my worries. I am infinitely much more. I am light, love and abundance.
We can turn these judgments to an advantage by acknowledging it as a form of self-awareness, like someone pointing out a room for improvement so we can shape up into a better version of ourselves.
Despite letting negative criticisms affect me from people who hide behind the mask of anonymity, I usually don't let its troubling feeling drag on for long anymore. I do tune in to how it makes me feel — doubt or maybe even shame — but I also exhale these feelings and let it past, all while finding the courage to respond with sincerity to the people who pointed out the flaws in my work.
Criticisms are fleeting and impermanent; and it most certainly does not define you and your body of work.
I now take comfort in the fact that I can slowly rise up from the noise around me, while acknowledging that they serve a purpose to become more aware with my work and how I could improve as a creative. I know I am not alone in feeling that my work isn't good enough nor authentic enough, that I'm merely a shadow behind someone else's success or greater work. But that's how the world is. Someone will always be better at something, we only have to be better at what we do and do the best we can. Knowing what's enough and being content with it can be difficult, but it can bring the joy we deserve when it comes to our work. Acknowledgment is only half of the work, we also have to appreciate ourselves — our limits, our flaws, our greatness, our strength.
I am not a shadow behind someone else's' work. I am my own being. My tastes, experiences, curiosity and knowledge is what marks my individuality which I have developed over the years of my existence in this Universe.
The Roots Of Interest
In this world of media and connectivity, imitation and emulation is a norm amongst our society.
I've discussed the art of imitation and emulation in Finding Your Worth: Creative Confidence, but here I'll mention it again: imitation means copying off the charts down to the very last detail, while emulation means that there's a hint of an artist's aesthetic in someone's work. The latter is a natural occurrence amongst creatives. A lot of creatives debate over this fact but we all know that in this world, there's no such thing as originality, only authenticity and being authentic means being true to yourself and coming from a place of love.
We, as individuals, are made up of our own journeys and experiences which shape our library of interests. This Library of Interests creates a unique combination and pattern that is true to you, and from this library we pull out different artists, creatives, innovators and thinkers that inspire us. This concept is something that I like to call The Roots Of Interest. If there's something that caught your interest from Artist A's work and something else sparked your curiosity in Artist B's work and combine these with your own process and intuitive creativity, you create a work that you call your own.
Authenticity stems from deriving and creating from your own clouds of interests.
All ideas stem from other ideas. If there's anything I came to observe from studying other artists, their works and their process and the history of art, is that any and all art is a derivative of other artist's work and process. It's just human nature. Things evolve, change and grow as human evolution moves forward. We take off from the greatest masters, emulating works of great art and spinning it off to something that only we, as individual creators, can add something to.
Oftentimes, we close our minds with works from successful people that when we come across other's work, we start to compare them from the so-called masters. Which is relatively wrong because we tend to judge based on what we've previously seen and we fail to look at the uniqueness of someone else's work. We judge and we compare. I was no stranger to this myself. But I slowly let go of the bias judgement and learned to look at things from a different perspective.
Bringing other people down and discouraging them from creating with passion doesn't help anyone. You hinder growth, not only to that person but to the creative community as well.
Be A Steward In A Creative Community That Thrives
As a creative community, we should uplift one another and this means showing support and respect that comes from a place of understanding.
We need to be encouragers and supporters in a creative community that contributes and thrives.
Just think how one person can create a change. We never know the true potential of an individual. As a community, we move forward knowing that each of us has something to contribute to and create for the society.
I believe in respect. In understanding. In abundance. In sharing — of talents, skills and knowledge. If someone else has a distinguishable derivative of work form your own or a well-known master, then all you can do is respect them. Respect that they're trying to learn, respect that they're gathering inspiration from a group of well-rounded artists, respect that they will someday grow into their craft. Their effort and determination to create, to hone their skills, to have the courage to follow their desires, and to share their work and put their heart on a sleeve says a lot more than a person merely judging them for who they are or what their work is made of. Not everyone has the guts to do what they can do.
Let's not bring down others who are trying to make their way up the ladder as well. We all have our own thing and let's respect each and every person's methods, process and work. Let's respect individuality.
As James Clear says, “You can either be judged because you created something or ignored because you left your greatness inside of you.”
After all, we are all navigating our own journey in this world.
This has been sitting in my draft for more than a year now, and I've never felt like there was a right time to share such a personal and sensitive issue, and truth be told I wasn't ready to confront this experience even if it happened ages ago. I had the courage to share my thoughts on this matter when I stumbled upon an article by James Clear on How To Deal With People Judging You & Your Work. Despite the fact that the relevancy of this encounter is no longer in the present work that I do, I felt the need to share my story in hopes that I can speak out to those who have had a similar experience or are going through the same thing right now. Sharing my learning experiences has always been something I'm passionate about and I take comfort in knowing that there's someone out there that I connect with by telling my side of the story. If you're one of them, I want you to know that you are not alone. These are my personal thoughts and experiences and of course, we are all entitled to our own opinions. I would love to know and hear what you think about all of this so feel free to leave your thoughts on the comments below.