The Storms of Self-Doubt
I've been plagued by self-doubt and low spirits lately, exacerbated, I'm sure, by the fact that I've hit a bit of a snag with my health. When you're not feeling well, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the lies your illness tells you. What are the lies my Lyme tells me? That my work doesn't matter, that I'll never be good enough. It takes every ounce of strength within me to recognize this as pure fiction, and if I listen to that voice that screams I'll never have, never be, it can easily lead down a path of self-destruction.
I know that path. I've been down it before. And I've been through too much to follow it again.
Still, here I am, trying to separate the truth that's in my heart--this truth that tells me that who I am and what I'm capable of is not only enough, but it's more than I could ever dream--and the self-doubt that paints a false picture of deficiency and lack.
But here's the thing: I'm not alone. All through history, artists have struggled with their sense of worth, questioning their gifts, their sense of self, and their place in the world. This is the shared experience of the artist, linking us beyond the pens and paintbrushes, connecting us through the centuries.
When I read Emily Dickinson's poetry, I'm reminded of her yearning to be a part of the world, no matter how much she shied away from it. When I read Vincent Van Gogh's letters to his brother, Theo, I'm pained by how he was mocked for his art and those shared fears of inadequacy. When I read Sylvia Plath's unabridged journals in which she so famously bore her heart, her words create an echo: "The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." And then there's the 19th century painter, Paul Cezanne. The author of this blog post describes him succinctly:
"Today, Paul Cezanne is one of the most beloved artists in history, but for a long time, he was considered an outcast who couldn’t sell a single picture. The world did not understand Cezanne, and Cezanne did not understand the world. He had no reason to think he would achieve anything as a painter, but he didn’t feel he had a choice: he was made to paint. There was nothing else he could do with his life. This painting isn’t a self-portrait of the artist, but I always sense Paul in these brushstrokes: brooding, alone, dark, and yet determinedly sitting firmly in who he is, regardless of who believes in him. That’s my kind of artist."
The world did not understand Cezanne, and Cezanne did not understand the world... Nothing more accurately describes this constant push and pull I feel in life, loving and lamenting the world in which we live in the same breath. I love this world. I don't understand this world. I fear the world doesn't understand me. I don't know if I'll ever be able to reconcile the two, if I'll ever reach that balance, if I'll ever find the validation I'm searching for. And so, fighting against the storm of self-doubt, I do the only thing artists can do: I continue.
I keep writing because it's all I have, the only way I can make sense of this life. I write because it's the only way I know to make myself heard, and if I can be heard, maybe someday I can be understood.
I write because writing is as much a part of me as the air in my lungs. I have no choice. In these words I can finally breathe.