Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Confident Humility.

Where is that line between being confident in your abilities, and yet remaining (or becoming) humble about them?

I think that there's a spectrum.

Self-Doubting ------------------ | ----------------- Self-Absorbed

As an artist, and as a human being, I think I'd like to be somewhere in the middle: sure of myself to be able to sell myself without self-doubt creeping in to cripple my efforts, yet humble to genuinely accept and appreciate feedback and to evaluate my art and actions and accept criticism about them.

I think that I fall somewhere around here:

Self-Doubting -----------*me*------- | ----------------- Self-Absorbed

For me, my self-doubt comes from my need to be better than I am wherever I am in my journey as an artist. Most of the time this is healthy ambition that drives me to improve.

However, self-questioning can easily turn to self-doubt, and with self-doubt comes looking outward for approval from other people, comparing myself to others (where it's not warranted), and generally letting my insecurities handicap my self-esteem. I don't think I'm as good a dancer as I could be. I could certainly practice more. I could probably engage more with my students. I struggle, as many of us do, with finding my identity as an artist, particularly after several comments from the uninformed implying that I dance very much like other more well-known tribal fusion artists.

If we think about our weaknesses more than we focus on our strengths, we can slide backwards into detrimental self-doubt and insecurity.

Whereas, self-absorption is looking inward and seeing only or mostly great things. From what I can imagine, an artist who is self-absorbed is slow to consider criticism and "try it on", they see themselves as more accomplished than their colleagues, and have a hard time talking about anyone but themselves. Compliments, to the self-absorbed, are mere confirmations of what they already know. "Yes," they say inside, "I am fabulous." Frankly, I have a hard time putting myself in the self-absorbed's shoes.

Where does that leave us?
Accept compliments when you receive them. Even if they're nothing more than ass-kissing, accept them and let them bring you a little bit of joy. Accepting a compliment with humility and honesty forces you to open up your heart a little to the person offering the compliment. Yes, this makes you temporarily vulnerable, but that which scares us makes us stronger. Thank the person and mean it.

Accept criticism when you receive it. Even if it's as dumb as "OMG, I HATE the way she wears those bracelets." Allowing yourself to consider criticism also makes you vulnerable because you are questioning that which you believe in, but welcoming in criticism also makes us stronger. Try it on; see if it fits. Maybe those bracelets weren't flattering afterall.

We must strive to find a balance. Without self-assuredness, we can't promote ourselves. We'll constantly think we aren't good enough to be "out there" and we'll sell ourselves short. But if we slide too much the other direction, we can cease learning, never believing we owe anything to anyone, completely consumed by our own perceived greatness.


Anonymous said...

Asharah, thank you for this. It's funny how differently we perceive ourselves than how other's perceive us.

I am very inspired by your new blog and I look forward to every post. I find your writing eloquent, honest and well put. I envy people who can write well.

I agree with so much of what you've written in all of your posts. I think this blog will help remind and inspire people to constantly strive to be their best.

Amy said...

I think sometimes they can loop right into each other, when the self-doubt becomes so deep that the person is totally self-absorbed about it. Instead of being self-perceived as so fabulous as to not need any work the person things s/he is unable to move forward because of crippling doubt. And then I also think sometimes the self-absorbed attitude can be a front for someone who is full of doubt but is working twice as hard not to show it. Moderation in all things!*

*including moderation ;)