In this issue ~~
I'm going to share some personal thoughts here. Perhaps yours run along the same lines.
As far back as I can remember, I've grappled with the fear of being, or at least appearing, egotistical. As a child, I happened to be gifted academically and was also very shy. The combination seemed to lead some people to feel I was conceited, or so a sixth-grade friend told me. At that age, being liked and belonging are so important, and this bit of information devastated me. As a result, I hid my light for many years, for fear that people would dislike me and I would be left out.
Each of us has gifts that we're meant to enjoy and to contribute to the world. Unfortunately, these gifts can engender jealousy in other people who feel they don't possess those same gifts. We live in a society that champions the underdog until they become successful, and then tries to tear them down. We're left with a choice of being true to who we are and running the risk of being labeled as egotistical or arrogant, or worse, or hiding or denying our gifts and cheating ourselves of the pleasure and benefit they can bring us and others.
This dilemma has led me over the years to contemplate the difference between confidence and arrogance. The old fear of appearing conceited has tainted my self-confidence in a way that when I really feel good about myself and my work, I feel like I'm slipping into arrogance and that I will offend others. Perhaps at times I do cross the line into arrogance, but most of the time, it's the old fear tugging at me, and I have to make a conscious effort not to allow it to deter me from my path, but to hold steady.
One of the best antidotes I've found is to balance my feeling of triumph with a sense of humility. Not by humbling myself in a self-denigrating, Uriah Heep kind of way or denying my accomplishments, but in feeling grateful that such talents and abilities were given to me, taking pleasure in them, and understanding that it doesn't make me better than anyone else, as we all have our unique gifts and one is not better than another.
I also find it helpful to ensure that I'm living in line with my integrity and code of ethics. That in pursuing my gifts, I'm not hurting anyone else or hiding their light. When I'm feeling arrogant or I perceive that someone is jealous of me, I can stop, go inside, and take an honest look at my motives. Am I trying to appear superior to bolster my own self-esteem at others' expense? Or am I simply pursuing my passion for the joy of it? In asking myself questions such as these, I can discern where I am on the confidence-arrogance continuum and adjust accordingly.
As artists, we may have a vision that is completely different from anything that's come before; we may be ahead of our time. We need to have the inner strength and courage to stand up for our vision, to continue pursuing it despite others urging us to give it up or modify it. Think of all the great artists who never received recognition in their lifetime. If they had caved in to social pressure or criticism, our culture would have been deprived of so much beauty and insight. And even if we're not great artists, our work contributes on a smaller level that may be just as meaningful to those who are drawn to it as a Picasso or Beethoven or Hemingway is to the multitudes.
Even when we do our best to be true to our vision, to maintain
confidence in our work, with humility and integrity, there will
still be people who will be jealous and critical. There's nothing
we can do about that but to hold firm to our center and be true
to our authentic self. It takes strength and courage, but as
we learn to trust ourselves, we'll be more capable of suffering
the slings and arrows that come our way, both from our outer
world and our inner, and feel good about ourselves and our work
without worrying about what other people are thinking.
When you have a new inspiration, don't share it with anyone, at least at first. Wait until you feel secure enough in your vision that it can withstand opposition, and then begin by sharing it only with those you trust to encourage and nurture it.
"I think it can be dangerous for young writers to be modest when they're young. I've known a number of truly talented writers who did less than they could have done because they weren't vain and unpleasant enough about their talent. You have to take it seriously."
"Many people believe that humility is the opposite of pride, when, in fact, it is a point of equilibrium. The opposite of pride is actually a lack of self-esteem. A humble person is totally different from a person who cannot recognize and appreciate himself as part of this world's marvels."
"I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for?
(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)
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