“You are not worthy of love because you create, you’re worthy of love because you’re you.”
What qualities or traits define you as a person? What do you consider a “part of yourself” so much that it makes you who you are? When someone asks “Who are you?“, what is your first response?
The answers I give to these questions reveal what I have let shape my identity. I consider myself artistic, optimistic, joyful, and dedicated. Creating is as much a part of myself as breathing. When asked “Who are you?” I will tell you that I’m a dancer, a Jesus-lover, a reader, a foodie, and an avid coffee consumer. But is all this really who I am?
Lately I have realized that the things I hold closest to my heart are the things that make up my identity. Who I am is wrapped up in what I love, what I do, how I act, and everything in between. But there is also danger in allowing your identity to be defined by your actions, because your actions are temporary.
Who you really are is defined far less by the things you do than we tend to think. However, you and I are often so busy doing things that we don’t spend much time being. Creatives often have a difficult time of this because often we are idealistic. We have so many dreams and hardly enough time to pursue them all, and often we find ourselves miserably racing to keep up. As a creative, letting your identity lie in your art can be terrifying, and sometimes painful.
As artists, we often pour our hearts into our work, and so what we make is closely tied to who we are. This can be difficult for several reasons.
When criticism comes, from yourself or from others, it can be nearly impossible to emotionally separate yourself. Your art and your self seem inseparable. Constructive criticism can seem like an attack, and advice can seem personally wounding.
For me I rarely feel attacked from outside criticism, but internal criticism is often relentless. I am as guilty as anyone else in comparing myself and my art to other people. I often discount myself. The things I create hardly seem to measure up to “everyone else’s” art. I feel justified in judging my own art more harshly than other people’s because they all seem one step ahead.
Allowing your art to define you as an individual can become dangerous when criticism arrives because it can seem like a personal blow.
Another downfall of placing your identity in what you create is that it leaves no room for grace. Personally, I am very inconsistent with what I create. I’m in school and working, I have friends and family I am investing in, and my moods for creating fluctuate. I often don’t have the time, energy, or motivation to create things in the middle of everything else.
“If you are what you make, then who are you when you’re not making anything?” -Tessa Violet
Inconsistency is discouraging. Seeing other people create and not being able to do so myself makes me question if I’m even a “real” artist. Also, because creating is so important to me, it’s difficult to not make art for long periods of time. The longer I go, the more it hurts, and the more I feel like a fake artist.
Although I’ve learned several reasons why I shouldn’t allow my identity to lie in my art, the most crucial reason is that nothing you make is permanent. Words will fade, dances will be performed for the last time, paintings will lose brilliance, and nothing stays forever.
Placing my identity in something that could so easily disappear is terrifying. Although there is a beauty in unappreciated art, that will never be witnessed by more than a few, I don’t want who I am to lie in the hands of physical creations. As a finite person with an infinite soul I realize that this life is far too short. My identity should only rest in something who’s existence will surpass my own, or else my life has little purpose.
You and I exist for more reasons than just to eat, sleep, and work, so we must be more than those things. In the same way we are here to do more than make art, so we must be more than just the art we create.
We are called to place our identity outside of what we do, how we act, who we know, and what we create. Only when we unravel our identity from the art we make can we create without fear. Authenticity is born in identity.
So teach yourself to have grace on yourself. Become your biggest congratulator instead of your biggest critic; lean into your inconsistency, and create without guilt, or fear of being less than enough. More than anything else, find a way to separate who you are from what you create, and define yourself by something greater.