There was a time when calling myself an artist made me feel like a fraud, an imposter. I had been making money in the creative arts industry for years but that doesn’t make you an actual artist, does it?
A real artist has a big studio with skylights. Paintings are scattered around, ideas half expressed piled on top of other ideas waiting to be completed. A real artist drinks copious amounts of wine and plays dramatic music, classical or opera, as they paint in large dramatic strokes that mimic the emotions of the concerto. A real artist is a recluse slipping in and out of the shadows either because they have agents auctioning their paintings for millions or because they’re starving and have devoted their life to their work. Either is actually quite acceptable.
I was none of that. I kind of fantasized about being that, but I definitely did not fit the description. I did at one point drink the copious amounts of wine and other liquors, but since have decided I paint better without it. Actually I do everything better without it. Thank god for sobriety.
So I hesitated, each time I said, “Hi, I’m Lori, I’m an artist.”
Eventually other people were calling me “artist”. An unprovoked, matter of fact description of how they saw me. And eventually, I did start believing it.
I had actually been living it since I was 14. I had actually earned the label. I did actually fit the bill, and once I truly accepted it as truth, I found myself changing my name. Or maybe I was just adding to it, but now I was calling myself a leader.
You can only imagine the stress. I’m like Cinderella, instead the chirping birds aren’t her friends singing happy songs, no they are chirping away in her brain in rapid succession, “What qualifies you to call yourself that?” That comes off as really self focused.” “You are taking up way too much space.”
Leaders stand out, and I’ve been taught my whole life to follow. Put your head down, work hard and do what the person in front of you asks you to do. It’s much more ladylike, right?
Nope, not me. I’m going around drawing attention, shouting to anyone who will listen,
“EVERY FEMALE HAS VALUE!” “EVERY SINGLE ONE!”
What will it take? Enough people calling me a leader for me to consider myself one?
What if I could put aside all of those minimizing, self depreciating thoughts? What if I grew into the role and owned it? If I were to look at myself as a leader how much more likely would it be that I might actually lead. What if the likes of Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were sitting in the back of a room somewhere still listening to the voices saying they should be quiet, they should accept what they have, they shouldn’t expect more? How much would you like to bet that at some point they all heard those voices?
What extraordinary name do you hesitate to call yourself? Do you believe you are extraordinary at all? I can tell you without a doubt, YOU ARE, and you are allowed to be. This is an extraordinary life we get to live, or it can be one where we play small and live up to only the expectations of those around us.
I dare you to be unapologetically you, whatever that may be. I’ll keep working on me. Together we just might change the world.