“Giving yourself permission to create?
That's sacred. That's divine. That's magic.”
Our society teaches us to not believe in our work. We are taught to wait for external validation, for someone else to tell us: "You're doing a good job." And when it happens, we kinda brush it off. "Ah, it's just something that I do. Not a big deal."
I wasn't taught to believe in my work. In my family, people valued modesty, perfection and sacrifice. And I learned the hard way that doubting yourself, never giving yourself enough credit, won't get you anywhere and certainly won't help you do your art to the fullest and be the best artist you can be.
I believe modesty is not only overrated, it is downright toxic. Many people will tell you that the opposite of modesty is arrogance, which is simply not true. The opposite of modesty is self-worth, and that's a very different beast, if you ask me.
To me, modesty is arrogant. Not giving yourself enough credit is arrogant. Not creating the space in your life to do your art is arrogant. Not using your talents, gifts, skills and opportunities to the fullest is arrogant. Dying with your music still inside you, trapped, never allowed to sing the way it longed to and deserved to, that's arrogant. Giving yourself permission to create? That's sacred. That's divine. That's magic.
Doubt is the voice of your inner critic. I am absolutely certain that you don't need anybody to tell you that your work is good, you simply know. On your life journey, you have gathered a certain amount of experience. You have acquired taste in art by observing and studying many art forms and various artists and styles. I know that when I look at my work, the very first moment, the very first thought, that very first split second, that's my truth. If it was someone else's work, I would like this. I would want to own this. I would want to buy this. I would want to look at this. I would want to read this. I would want more of this. I would be curious about this. And this very first moment of truth is inside you and it never lies.
What comes afterwards, that inner criticism, that voice of not enough, that's bullshit. That very first moment, that awe, gosh, I have actually made this, created this, that is your genius, that is your gift. And to let it dissolve in the sea of not-good-enoughness? That's arrogance.
That split second of awe, that's your guide. When I look at my photographs after a day of shooting, I know immediately whether that moment of awe is there or not. When it's not there, although the photograph may be technically good or even visually compelling, I simply don't use it, because it misses that moment of magic, my truth, my spirit, my way of being.
To be honest, typically I use ten, five, or even one percent of all my photographs. I'm very merciless about my selection process, not because I'm allowing my inner critic to take over, but because I'm listening to the moment of magic and allowing my inner artist, the photographer in me, to speak her truth.
As you can see, my work and process is very instinctive, but developing this instinct did not happen overnight. There was lots of doubt, lots of pain, lots of insecurity, lots of giving up and many regrets. I know that the inner critic will never go away but today I'm smart enough to thank the little nasty bitch for her feedback and tell her to bugger off, as my friend in London says when she doesn’t want to use the F word. At this point in my life, after really having fought for my life, for my art, for my passion, for my photography, for my path, I face and own my shit every single day, and I don't allow it to take me out. There's no other way.
I'm an artist, I'm a photographer, I love doing this work. And that's the only thing that truly matters.