Here’s what I believe: the best works of art are acts of public nudity.
The artist, subtly or overtly, is exposed, even in works of fiction, even if the exposure lies only in the creator’s desire to communicate something true and real. To some degree, that kind of nakedness is inherent to the act of putting one’s work out into the world where it can be accepted or rejected, praised or ridiculed. Putting your art out there for everyone to see is an act of badassery for sure, and also faith, and love, and selfhood, and rebellion.
And I think the same is true for each of us and the act of putting ourselves – our most honest, truest, open-hearted selves – out into the world. It’s risky behavior. You could get hurt, or you could get truly seen, truly understood, truly loved.
In all likelihood, you’ll get both: totally wrecked and genuinely adored… and the former will somehow (often inexplicably) always be worth the latter.
My friend, Julia Fehrenbacher, is offering an online class called “Getting Naked,” about learning to trust yourself and your innate worthiness, “seeing, finally, that your perceived weaknesses are your greatest strengths in disguise and embracing every bit of your wild, tender self.”
I love that.
As part of her preparation for the class, Julia asked me a question that I want to ask you because a) I’m truly interested to hear what you have to say, and b) I think answering the question is valuable, whether or not you share your answer with me. Her question was this: What has stood in the way of you being your most empowered, loving self, and what are you currently doing to be more of who you really are?
I was so intrigued by the question (by its requirement that I not only look hard at my own roadblocks but beyond them to what, if anything, I was doing to solve them) that when I replied to Julia, I asked her the question too.
Both our answers are below.
Recently I read an interview with Cheryl Strayed and she was asked what her greatest obstacle was as a writer and a human. She said, “Being okay with people not loving me.” I almost cried when I read that. I think that is the single biggest thing that has stood in my way, the need I feel to be loved by everybody. Of course, we all want to be loved, but I think we can never be our most empowered, authentic, loving selves until we get okay with not being loved by EVERYONE. Once we do that, we can say what we really mean. We can make art bravely. We can stand up for ourselves and others, and we can let go of the people and things that don’t support our northbound trajectory. (And the ones that do… they’ll find us.)
I work on this every day. One of the less obvious things I do is log off the internet. That may seem like an odd choice, but honestly, while I love the community I’ve built and tapped into online, I know there’s a darker side to all this virtual connectivity. We can start to measure our self-worth according to our stats: number of friends, number of followers, number of subscribers, comments, replies, retweets. And the minute we do that, we’re sunk; we’re chasing a moving target, all the while getting further and further away from who we are, what we really care about.
So I log off, and instead of checking my stats, I make stuff. I write and doodle and try new art forms. I get on my yoga mat, hike a trail, play with my dog, spend time in the physical presence of people I love.
The more clear and mindful I get in my life, the more I see that the root of my hold back has always been thinking I’m not enough or that I’m too much. Not a good enough poet/writer, not a good enough artist, not smart enough, too dreamy, too sensitive, etc…
I’ve held back so much over the years out of fear that who I am, what I do, how I do it, is not good enough. And, amazingly, I thought it was up to others to decide my worth. There were times when I would look at what everyone else was doing and think – They’re so good, I could never write/paint/build a business, etc…that well – I could never be as good as them.
What I know now, what gives me freedom and courage to show up and put myself out there again and again, is that I now see clearly that it’s not about being “as good as them,” it’s about being ME. It’s about showing up and doing it my unique way. My focus is no longer on being “good enough,” it’s on being loving, being kind, being free, being real, being true to who I am. This shift in focus has truly made all the difference for me. “Good” is subjective, “good” depends on what they think (and they all think something different). To borrow words from J, trying to be “good” is like “chasing a moving target.” Where as showing up real and true and loving is something I experience on the inside – my joy and peace no longer need to depend on whether they approve, whether or not they find me worthy. I no longer need to wait for others to give me permission to shine and this feels like freedom of the most delicious kind (yep, and I made a rhyme!). The ironic thing is that the more me I am, the more “good” I am too. It’s wild that way.
So, what I’m doing to be more of who I am is showing up, one step at a time, trembling fear and all, for what energizes and inspires me, for what brings me joy. Rather than comparing mine with theirs and coming up short, I see that it’s not about being “more,” it’s about being more me. And I see that as I show up more me, I am able to best serve others.
I’m excited to hear your answer to Julia’s question, and so is Julia – so much so, that she’s offering a free seat in her class to a commenter chosen at random! Click here to read more about the class, then leave a comment below with your thoughts. Julia and I had a couple of long email exchanges around this question. We’d love to expand the conversation.
Also, if you register for Julia’s class before the end of the day, Friday, April 26th, you can use this link to save $10 off the price of “Getting Naked.”
***Congratulations, Karin, who won a spot in Julia’s class!***
Remember, you still have all day today (Friday) to take advantage of the
A bit about Julia…
Julia released her first book of poetry and art, On the Other Side of Fear, in May of 2012. It, along with her art, is available at www.juliafeh.etsy.com