Last night, a friend mentioned a book available on Amazon by someone I’ve met. As I read the preview, I felt all sorts of ugliness surface. It wasn’t just that I had my grammar-nerd editor glasses on and couldn’t remove them—I couldn’t see beyond the grammar errors and the way it was written at all to the probably-reasonable content. I told her (my friend, not the author) that I felt weirdly offended, personally and deeply. As I dug into it, I realized it was because she has a book. I don’t even necessarily have plans to write my own book, but she gets to claim “author” as a title—could hand out business cards if she wanted—and the writing wasn’t even proofed. So, whatever the content of the book and whatever technical shortcomings I see, she’s legit and I am just me. I can perhaps call myself a writer with a modicum of honesty, but I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an author.
I just got a phone call to let me know that the two pieces I submitted in an art show were not accepted.
Now, my hopes were not high. I knew when the entry form required a price and insurance value… I was out of my depth. I ended up googling “what to charge for fine art photos” because I am pretty sure “$50, plus or minus one order of magnitude” is not an answer and also a dead giveaway.
I mentioned it to a friend I had been texting when I got the call, and told her, “I don’t know why I’m sad about it—I guess I just wanted the legitimacy it would bring to have a piece in an art show… It was open entry, but not everyone who entered was in the show and I didn’t make the cut.”
*I* didn’t make the cut.
This first-try thing that a friend suggested last-minute not a month after I got a “real” camera, and somehow I am the one entering. Not my pieces, but myself. Not even my skills as a photographer, but my legitimacy as a human.
Stepping back and looking at both of these unflattering, childish internal fights over legitimacy in the last day, it occurs to me to point out to myself (and you—lucky you!) that perhaps my legitimacy and worth and identity are too much to ask of an art show or an Amazon page. Maybe those things should not be on the table at all, but they really shouldn’t be available for modification by people who don’t know me.
Hello, Captain Obvious.
I’ve known (and have probably written before) about identity and how my worth is more about the Person who made me than anything I accomplish, but clearly it has not made it from my head to my heart, and pushing things those fourteen inches is not something I’m really great at. I don’t know how to force myself to believe the things I know.
While I sit here with this blatant conflict between what I believe I believe and what I actually believe, I’ll talk through my game plan.
Notice. Outsized emotional reactions warrant a little bit of work. For me this requires a bit of external processing. In these cases, it was texts to Alycia. (I know you’re jealous.) She’s handy because I don’t have to explain anything to her. We’ve logged enough hours (years) that she pretty much just gets it.
Name it. It’s useful (?) that these two happened back to back, so when I mentioned legitimacy in the text about the art show, it echoed last night’s text with the same word and the light dinged on. Legitimacy is apparently a big deal to me right now.
Turn my eyes on truth. What is true, regardless of how I feel? This is the moment that pulls me out. I might still feel “not legit,” but I can move forward. So I remind myself: my value is in the one who created me. Since this has to do with creativity, let’s talk abstract art for a second. There’s a fair bit of art that doesn’t look like much to me. I wouldn’t buy it, and, unless someone clues me in, I may not even look very closely, but they’re worth literal millions. I don’t know the value of creation because I don’t know the creator, and my complete lack of culture and appreciation doesn’t diminish the worth one cent.
Turn my eyes on Truth. Back to creation/creator… in the case of me? I know the Creator, and I know very well what price He paid to buy me back. When I think about Him, two things happen: my legitimacy is affirmed based on the price paid, and also it ceases to matter.
It doesn’t fix my weirdness around “being legit,” but it makes that weirdness less significant in my day, and it’ll do until my heart understands what my brain already knows: that none of this impacts my value.
This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.