Word on the street has it that to be successful in the art world, you need a thick skin. I must have missed that job requirement. My skin is paper thin. Practically transparent. A few weeks ago I sent my first ever wholesale order half way across the globe, and found out earlier this week that a few pieces arrived damaged. In the grand scheme of things, this is really not a big deal. I can replace the pieces, and things like this happen all the time. The store I shipped them to was not upset in the least. But I was devastated. All of my insecurities and deep rooted need to please others came rushing in a ball of anxiety and shame. For a solid half an hour I mulled over how I could have possible been so stupid as to not pack the order well enough, and how I could have ever thought I was good enough to sell my work. Seems like a complete overreaction in hindsight, but in the moment, the panic and self-degradation were all consuming.
The thing is, I take everything personally. As an adult in my early 30's, I've learned to re-frame the situation when I hit complete panic mode over something that I can intellectually identify is just not that big of a deal. I can now get over it in a day instead of a month. But it's still there. That ball of insecurity is a figure on my shoulder, hovering in the background. Sometimes the voice is whisper soft. Other days it screams. Most days it's an ever-present hiss - a really, really crappy soundtrack to life. That voice is a total jerk.
The work I put out into the world is so incredibly personal. Every single piece I make passes through my hands dozens of times as I tweak and perfect it. I am not someone who can ever utter the phrase, "eh, it's good enough". It's perfection or nothing at all.
But failure and criticism are part of the package. When you put intensely personal work out into the world, you open yourself up for criticism and pain. Some day I hope to disassociate my self-worth from strangers' reactions to my work. Today is not that day. But tomorrow could be...
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