The other day a friend sent me a silly psychological test that was being passed around the Internet. It started with the instruction to rank four animals in order of your favorite to least favorite. I picked a lion for my favorite, and then at the end of the test it said the lion stood for PRIDE and that ranking it first meant pride was the most important thing in my life.
I scoffed at the test at the time I took it, but later when I started thinking about it, “losing face” was way up there on my list of fears, and why would you worry about losing face unless you were proud? Also, I’ve been driven to accomplish things all my life, searching for a place in the limelight, and what motivates that except pride?
At a very young age, I considered myself a genius (not that I admitted this to anyone, lest they think I was too proud), and a great artist. I expected to paint masterpieces and to have them recognized by the art world. I thought perhaps I’d write the great American novel, too, since I had a flair for writing.
The trouble is, there are many talented writers, artists, actors, musicians—creative people who think that they, too, might make it on the big stage. When you’re young and starting out in a creative career, the chance to achieve fame and fortune is one of the motivators. But think about how few actually make it to the top. Not many. The rest of us have to be satisfied with lesser success.
At a bipolar support group meeting recently, one person lamented that he hadn’t attained his dream of becoming a singing star. His debilitating depressions had held him back, but the dream had helped get him out of bed in the mornings. Now that he’d given up the dream, he found no reason to get up.
I suggested he find satisfaction with his singing in a lesser way, by joining local groups or giving lessons. “I’ve given up my dream, too,” I told him. “I’m happy now painting for people who want to hang my art in their homes. That gives me enough satisfaction so that I don’t need to make it in the official art world.”
How well-adjusted I sounded. The only problem is, it isn’t true. Most of us who are in creative fields still have the dream, even if we’ve shoved it down deep in our psyches. We live with the disappointment while we keep creating our art because we must. But the pain never goes away.
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Published On: October 16, 2006
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