When Is Enough Enough?

It seems we sometimes get into harmful and often hurtful relationships with others. Sometimes these relationships can change our perceptions of who we are, diffuse our focus, and often impair our potential for future accomplishments. I think as artists we need to really learn to protect ourselves from harmful outside influences that can potentially sabotage or ruin us. A friend came by for coffee this morning and was telling me about a friend of his who was a young talented graphic designer who created an amazing design for some kind of poster for an upcoming festival. She was doing a presentation of her design to a group of friends to test it before submitting it. There happened to be another graphics designer in the crowd, actually a student designer, not even yet established in the business, with a very large ego. I listened in horror when I heard how this would be designer completely shredded the truly talented girls work. My exclamation was “I hope someone gave this girls some words of encouragement.”

I worked in theater for many years and saw this type of behavior in that world all the time. It seems to happen a lot with people who were wanna-be’s working in an industry where they may not have the talent, but seem to know enough, to be able to cut others to the quick. Generally these types of people are, for some reason, very popular and seem to have a great influence, but have a vindictive side that just lashes out at others. Criticism is essential for growth; we all need some kind of feedback to move to newer levels and to sometime push us beyond the comfort of our boundaries. My sage advice to people fresh in any kind of creative endeavor is to protect yourself. Find people who are truly talented in what they do, develop a relationship with this mentor so you can trust what they are saying; it will have meaning and be helpful to your progress. Beware of what motivates that criticism. The best rule is to recognize where the person who is evaluating your work is actually coming from and ask yourself if are they qualified to evaluate your work. There are a lot of people out there with a lot of opinions, many of them who are tainted because they themselves have become failed artists. Some of these types of people sometimes are fueled by jealousy, rage and frustration because they envy those who are motivated, talented, and actually making it happen. To believe someone whom you think is popular and the self proclaimed expert in the field can and may totally destroy all that you work toward. I am not saying you have to be a delicate flower, because I think there is no real room for this type of naivety in the arts. But you have to be bold and comfortable within yourself to survive. My many years of working in this type of industry has given me a great sense of my own identity and I have trusted many people who where hell bent on unraveling the very fabric of my existence without much success.

This theory doesn’t just apply to artists and creative souls but for life in general. I was in a long-term relationship with a man whose only desire was to become a famous actor. Yes he was very talented and probably could have moved in that direction, but had such low self esteem that he was not motivated to work at whatever it took to make it happen. He thought the world should come to him. When it didn’t, he settled for something that made him very unhappy and unfulfilled. As my life and career began to take off, the rage, envy and jealousy rose to such high levels within him that I felt I was constantly being degraded for every creative thought I uttered. I was attacked and sabotaged for being a success; it was harmful and I suffered greatly. I put up with it for 8 years out of love, and yes I was very much in love with this person, admired, respected, and cherished him. But I finally got to a breaking point where I recognized that enough was enough and I had to let go. It took me many years to realize it was the greatest thing I have ever done for myself. Once I was away from it, I was able to take a deep breath and become myself. Yes it was one of the most painful experiences I have ever endured and at the time I didn’t think I would survive. But when something doesn’t feel right, it generally means it time to let go. Have the courage and trust in yourself. Recognize and trust in what you do and your process. Be true to yourself. One of my favorite sayings is “Leap and the Net will Appear”, well here I am, and I guess I am still leaping to this day.