I Love Myself and Others
I’ve talked here once or twice about an experiment I successfully performed when I was 18.
In a nutshell: after I graduated high school I was so ready to move beyond the things that I felt were deadening about that social world that I decided to cut some of them out of my life cold turkey. The first to go was gossip.
I stopped saying negative things about other people completely. Even if I still had the thoughts, and felt thoroughly justified in those thoughts, I just made a decision to keep them to myself. Eventually I stopped even thinking negatively about other people.
It’s almost unfathomable to me now, but I remember the experience very clearly. I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, remembered their suffering, their beginnings, forgave them their trespasses and unawareness as I’d like to be forgiven. It became my default, and as an unexpected byproduct, I stopped saying and thinking negatively about myself too.
This was my first lesson in the effectiveness of faking it until you make it. Though after 6 months or so this experiment got derailed when I stayed too long in cosmetology school, I still notice some effects to this day.
I’m an Artist
My next big lesson in faking it came when I first allowed myself to call myself an artist.
This felt fraudulent, like a half-truth, at best. I feared people calling me out, saying what a poser I was, cataloguing the art I’d made in the years prior and deciding that I lacked the prolifery and experience to have earned the title of artist. Or worse, I imagined being ignored completely.
Plus, didn’t I work at a coffee shop? Art was just a hobby.
But the more I said it, the more I realized that no one started out by doubting me, and I could simply talk about my ambitions, efforts, and failures without judgement. In fact, I related to more people more easily as I discovered they were more than just a server at that restaurant, but played guitar in a band, they were passionate about making tinctures from native flowers, or dreamed of living by the sea as a surfer. That they always wished they could draw for a living, but gave up before they started because they figured everyone else doing it was too far ahead.
More importantly, I also realized that it was true. I am an artist, and I was even then. Art was what I had decided to pursue for a living, and I was working at it close to daily, regardless of how recently I had started or how good I was or if I had made a dime from it.
Writing this now, I had to take a minute and thank myself for taking this step back then, and to recognize how at this point I don’t even flinch at calling myself an artist. Hey, that’s progress.
I’m a Naturalist
As a child I was obsessed with animals, especially the idea of endangered species. I felt I could commune with trees, and even laying in the grass in my yard felt imbued with meaning.
Today I read books about everything from walking in the woods to mountaineering. About water reclamation, botany, mushrooms, bird nests, and super novas. I take binoculars on my morning walks in case I see or hear an interesting bird. Much of my day, every day, is consumed with a deep, almost grief-stricken longing for open, natural spaces. My entire Instagram feed is people who lead lives centered around plants, animals, rock, mountain ranges, watersheds, seeds, soil, and stars.
Despite growing up in Utah, I only recently put together the idea that I’m a naturalist, and am just beginning to fumble through what that means and how it looks for me. Will this turn into being a skilled alpinist? Conducting field studies for a State Park? Camp counseling? Survival school? Guiding? Nature therapy? The spectrum is thus far very broad.
Will I be able to weave this important thread into the life I’ve been building as a visual artist?
I have no idea. But a big piece of my heart has been placed into the puzzle of my life story, and it’s really helped the whole picture look a little clearer.
I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m talking about it. I’m writing about it. And, I’m going. Like in AA, the first step is admitting, and then suddenly, your’e on the path home.
Fake It ‘Till You Shake It?
Something to note in all of these examples is the inaccuracy of the term “fake it ‘till you make it.” I might say instead, “act and speak consciously in order to reflect more precisely who you truly are and your deepest life values.” But it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Point being, I didn’t need to fake being an artist, I needed to give up my outward denial that I was. I don’t need to fake being a naturalist, I need to speak confidently about my interests and shake my fear of looking too amateur to have a voice in the conversation.