Two days ago, I had the opportunity to take a restorative yoga class with a beautiful, calm, nurturing teacher.
We got to chatting a bit after class, and we started talking about art. She makes incredible jewelry and sells it in art fairs in the area, and I make paintings that I keep in the corner of my living room.
I mentioned that I needed to supplement my income with something other than teaching yoga classes, as it can be fairly physically strenuous, and that much “giving” really depletes you after a while. She mentioned art fairs, and recommended that I check into them for art sales.
I am actually doing an art fair this weekend, which I selected specifically for its chill and laid-back vibe. My brain has always halted greatly when an application process is too strenuous or too serious or too little applicants are accepted. I was raised to be super independent and reject authority. This meant that, even though I was consistently in the top three in my class, I rejected in the invitation for the honors society, I scoffed at sororities, and I didn’t join any clubs or extra curriculars except art club, because it wasn’t “cool.”
I actually remember – this is pretty crazy – that when I was in fifth grade, the group of girls I was friends with – the “cool” crowd – and I were practicing handwriting on the chalkboard at recess. It was raining, so we were inside. The leader of our group decided to start writing her “g’s” in a specific way, and mentioned that we should all write our “g’s” to mimic hers. It would be our new thing.
As the other girls were fervently practicing their new handwriting, I left the group. I walked away at that moment from the girls I had been friends with my entire life, because I would not do something just because someone else told me to do it. I would not subject my own personal handwriting to change just because my friends did it, too.
I remember being so angry about it. And my entire life has been this push back of conforming to society.
And I have proven myself to be very successful. I graduated with honors through art school, I aced my way through grad school and landed two honorable positions post-graduation in my field. I excelled at my jobs.
But I remember knowing that working in worksite wellness wasn’t a career for me, because I would refuse to participate in the programs I offered if I was employed in a different department. Not because I don’t care about health, but because I do what I want, when I want – and I don’t need any silly incentive programs to push me to do it. Plus your games are stupid (says my angry internal anti-conformist).
Anyway, so back to the art fairs. This push-back against society that I’ve always had has never served to quench my success, and so I’ve continued on with it, adamantly denying anyone’s help with… well, anything. But I think I’ve found my sticking point.
Here is a group of people, doing things that I love. Here is an entire business full of people doing what I do, who have the resources to help me get rid of the art in the corner of my living room. All I have to do is conform to their application process and put on a fancy hat.
And not only will I sell my art, but I will make more for each piece just by being elected to participate in a specific show.
If failing to conform to these standards isn’t me sabotaging my own success, I don’t know what is.
Of course, it’s the traditional artists dilemma: sell out and be successful or refuse to participate and remain trailing behind? Why have I never realized this in myself?
And also – who am I to refuse to conform to standards? Who am I to reject societal pulls? How is my point of view hurting not only my business, but my view of humanity? How can I love instead of pull back?
It’s a tricky world to navigate, indeed – and I’m still not quite sure how it all arranges in my mind. Yet realizing it is the first part, and continuing to acknowledge my tendencies can only serve to improve whatever it is I decide to accomplish.
Peace to you my friends. Maybe with this you can discover ways you are self sabotaging, as well, and we can all move forward a little smarter, and with a little more love.