Text by Jenny Griffin
Photo by Ebrima Manjang
Self deprecation is the liquid that fills my own IV. It is also in every artist I have talked to within the span of thirty two minutes. It wasn’t a long winded interview with lofty questions and a fake psychoanalysis administered by yours truly. It was fifteen people asked the question “do you doubt yourself as an artist?” The answers ranged from “yes, yeah, and are you fucking kidding me -- obviously.” My lips contorted into a painful shape as I jotted down the one word answers that affirmed my “obvious” thought bubbles. I knew there was something aggressively contagious about artists and it is not what I wanted it to be.
The people I have met here at Emerson are bursting with creative impulse. I am overwhelmed with the thought of all of these brains and ideas concentrated into this miniscule space on Earth. These minds are messy and magical and spark conversations that have shaped the way I think as not only an artist but as a human being. I watch these creatures of mystery with passions that are too big for anything but the sky continue, day by day, to silence their inner voices.
The world changers grow mute and the healers forget to use their hands while the rest of us search for answers we will never know. Through research, observation, and nineteen years of having a brain, I have concluded that this epidemic can be traced back to what I call “The Comparison Curse.”
I remember my first comparison. I was seven and had to come up with a name for a crayon. Really simple really silly. I named mine “Pretty in Pink.” I was so proud and pleased with my brilliance until I looked over at the girl next to me and she had named hers “Cotton Candy Blizzard.” That’s the first time I felt uncreative.
My heart lost a couple pieces that day and my pride got lost in translation. The fierce loyalty I had to my art tumbled down effortlessly as if it never really had a foundation to begin with. I was crushed under the weight of the world before me and I knew in that moment that I was no longer living in blissful ignorance of happy drawings, snack time giggles, and “pretty in pink.” I had officially penetrated the real world and the hot blush of my cheeks was no longer from a childhood flush but the realization that humiliation was now a word in my vocabulary. I was seven.
My belly, organs, and brain twisted into the same painful shape my mouth did when I received the answers from the fifteen strangers about whether or not they doubted themselves. Since then I have never been able to shake that feeling, and it seems as though neither have you.
I have not done thorough research of self doubt, studied the inner workings of the brain, or even asked more than one simple question to my subjects. I have however come to the conclusion that self doubt is a light switch we can’t seem to turn off. I think it’s because we are already in the dark.