Art doesn’t need your self-loathing

I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but hating yourself isn’t necessary to create great things. Many of my friends believe that without their inner critic they’d fall back to laying on a couch and watching TV all day. They feel like they need to control and punish themselves to keep going.

But if a certain dose of self-hatred is needed to get your lazy ass to the office, you’ll need even more in the world of art. The stereotype of a tortured artist is alive and well, and I took it for granted that great art requires depression, drugs, or a combination of both.

I met a guy recently who said his paintings are a piece of shit. His work is recognized more than he ever expected, but he hates it (and likely himself) with all his heart. It’s almost as if he can’t let himself feel the least bit content, fearing the Muse would instantly leave him, unable to create anything again.

I have much less experience in painting than this person has, and I know my art isn’t as good as his. When you’re just starting out, nothing you make can be compared with the work of someone who’s spent decades refining their craft. Thinking you’re already great would be delusional, knowing how much better you can get with time.

But you don’t need to hate your work until it is great, or choose between being happy where you are and wanting to get better. It’s fine, liberating, and incredibly rewarding to do both.

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