A Resolution to Take Myself More Seriously
I think it’s safe to say that by year twenty, I have pretty much mastered the art of introducing myself. I know the required checklist of pleasantries and questions like the back of my hand and can list off my name, major, school, and hometown in a single breath. I’m prepared for all the polite small talk needed to fill the gaps. And I know whether or not to shake hands, hug, or awkwardly nod in recognition that neither of the first two are necessary.
But last month, someone caught me off guard, and their question didn’t quite line up with any of my pre-rehearsed answers.
I didn’t really know the answer. So of course, in usual Madelynne fashion, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
The conversation had quickly drifted past names and hometowns (as they were both fairly obvious in this situation) on to the simple question of, “What do you do?”
I instinctively gave my answer of, “I’m a graphic design student,” and expected that to be that. But, alas, he continued questioning.
“So, you’re an artist?” he asked in a polite attempt to keep conversation flowing. Little did he know that this seemingly innocent question would send me down an identity crisis spiral for the next two months.
“Well,” I hesitated, “I guess so?”
And bam! It was during that slight hesitation that a million thoughts passed through my head and have been multiplying like gremlins ever since.
Why did I hesitate in the first place? It was an easy “yes” or “no” answer. What does it mean to be an artist and why am I so intimidated by that label? Am I waiting around for someone to hand me an artistic license with my name printed on the front? Why do I find comfort in stating that I’m a graphic design student, but find the idea of ever calling myself a designer terrifying?
And after days and days of agonizing over this, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that all of this worry stems from one simple fact: I don’t take myself very seriously.
I’ve spent the past three years studying design and fine arts. I am literally majoring and earning a degree in design and fine arts. I’ve walked through countless museums, listened to hundreds of lectures, and written paper upon paper about design and fine arts! Yet, these two subjects are the ones that I’m most nervous to talk about.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely adore talking about them as well as listening to other people talking about them. I even spend my free time excitedly reading books about them!
But every time I discuss design, I am horrified that I might say something wrong. I’m afraid that the second I slip up, no one else will ever take me seriously again. I’m afraid that my opinion won’t match someone else’s or my design won’t turn out perfectly, and the important artists of the world will immediately be notified to instill a background check on my artistic abilities.
“Who does she think she is calling herself an ‘artist’?”, they’ll scoff as they search through my wallet and find it lacking of any form of artistic license.
But this is so so silly. The only person who could take away my figurative “artistic license” is myself and I do that every time I doubt my skills and my abilities. Every time I decline an offer because I feel like I’m not good enough and every time I’m afraid to take on a project because I feel like I might let someone else down, I’m only hurting myself.
By turning down opportunities or not charging for the work I create, I’m really doing myself a
I am still discovering the proper value of my work, which is a difficult thing to do. Maybe this is due to the fact that my job meshing perfectly with my passions feels a little too good to be true. Can I really be taken seriously by doing something I love and find fun as a career? While this is a whole different topic for a whole different day, I feel like many of these questions stem from the same area of self-doubt and lack of confidence.
It’s easy to feel like you may not be “good enough”. It’s easy to feel like you may not be “qualified enough”. But here’s the thing: no one is going to show up one day and hand you an artistic license. (That isn’t actually something that happens.) And a piece of paper at graduation only holds as much power as you give it.
Yes, labels are scary. It’s terrifying to say “I’m a designer,” or “I’m an artist,” or anything that doesn’t have a concrete definition. It’s always terrifying to declare who you are and what you do and what you love to the world. But you are the person who defines that label.
Please, please, please don’t stop making things just because you haven’t been initiated into the top secret society of “official artists”. And don’t be afraid to call yourself an artist if that’s what you are! It’s silly to be afraid of this word or the definition that this word holds, because the definition differs from person to person.
So I am establishing a February resolution to take myself more seriously. A resolution to see the value in my work and to stop downplaying the things that I create. Simply a resolution to give myself a bit more credit.
And, hopefully, next time I introduce myself, I’ll be able to answer every question with zero hints of hesitation. (I really don’t feel like going through another two-month long identity crisis.)