"There are few who'd deny at what I do I am the best, for my talents are renowned far and wide" Jack Skellington (Nightmare Before Christmas)
I received a message on Facebook that left me (momentarily) speechless.
I had recently joined a "sharing circle" for artists and other creative souls. The single rule had been simple. "All members must contribute". I liked that. No lurkers in the cyberspace shadows! Everyone must share a part of their creativity. So... I jumped in. Since I am a visual artist (and since the term I jury under, "Green Multi-Media," sounds like I write books about the Jolly Green Giant) I posted a few photos over the course of a few weeks. Then, came the message from the administrator that went a little like this...
"OK. Now you're just tooting your own horn. You've made 3 posts. Stop showing off."
To say I was puzzled was an understatement. I felt like I had joined a book club and had been called out because I had finished reading a book. I had sincerely believed that I was showing my personal creativity by posting pictures of a altered mannequin in 2 different stages of development. To a creativity-sharing group no less!
So I went to my computer and typed in the term "show off" what came up was this:
show–offnoun, often attributive \ˈshō-ˌȯf\
Well, so far, so good. I expected that definition from "Miss Merriam-Webster". But why would it be considered 'showing off' when posting photos to a peer group? Why should I feel shamed for showing my abilities? After all, what evils could 'showing off' bring about? It just seemed odd to me that the pictures of my fiber-works ruffled nary of feather... But it was my painting skills that seemed to set the "Fine Arts Major" administrator into an emotional overload. My fingers punched in my next search into good ol' Google:
: the feeling of wanting to have what someone else has
Hmmm.... Now things made sense.
The term "show off" is very relative. To show off to someone is to be rude. It's inappropriate. Imagine a beautifully trained dancer performing an exquisite lyrical routine to a group of new paraplegics. The message is this; "Look at me. I can do what you can never hope to do". Or a skilled woodworker that joins a beginner's whittling class. That is showing off. But to show a group of peers, some who are way wildly talented, what abilities you possess is not.
I think I know where some of this mindset of 'showing off is not polite' came from. But we must substitute the word "polite" with "lady-like". In my generation, and those before me, to show confidence in abilities was simply crass. It was simply better form to bat your eye-lashes, put on that Scarlett O'Hara Southern drawl and say "That thing? Why, silly little ol' me couldn't do that to save my dear life!" You see... having confidence, while fine for the men-folk, was simply not appropriate for women. It was considered more feminine and more polite, to self-depreciate ourselves and our abilities. But one mustn't over-do it. To knock yourself down too far was equally as rude, as it seemed you were 'fishing for compliments'. To be a proper lady, one must walk a fine line. Never say you are good. Never say you are bad. Best to say nothing at all.
But is there a difference between confidence and cockiness? I am reminded of 'Jack's Lament' in one of my favorite movies "The Nightmare before Christmas". Somehow, I don't think his angst would be as palatable if he sung " Yeah, some people might think I am good, but I don't know. I think I'm fair to middlin' at best." For us to truly understand his pain, we must accept the fact that he is quite good at his job. It's his job satisfaction level that is in question. If he didn't tell us that he was good at what he did, but how empty it left him, we might just wonder why he didn't just hand over the reins to Oggie Boogie, marry Sally and go raise some kids in a nice suburban cemetery. (And we already know that Oogie was more than willing to take over. Envy runs deep in sock monsters.)
Yes, there is a direct line between showing off and drawing envy. It shows up in so many ways. I know a woman, who will side up to me whenever she hears some news about me. Was I published in a magazine? Well, she has been published in lots of magazines. Was I just on TV? Well, she has been on TV lots of times. It was only when she made the faux pas of saying "Oh, I am going to the Emmy Awards this year". When I happily informed her that we were going too, her charade, to her deep chagrin, was blown. I know the reason. It's envy, pure and simple. A case of "I want what you have".
Tooting Your Own Horn vs Self-Promotion
To be a member of a corporation is easy. You simply pass on your info to your press agent. Smaller companies with tangible items can pay for advertising. But the end, the goal is the same. You get the word out. With any luck... if you build, they will come.
But to be an artist, craftsman or any individual with a marketable skill can be a bit trickier. Truth be told... as a business, you simply must take out your horn and toot your tune. Because without that self-promotion, your business will not thrive. Here, lady-like modesty won't bring in a paycheck. You do have to stand from your roof-top and yell "Yes!!! As a matter of fact, I AM that good!"
However, once again we touch on what is appropriate. I NEVER dig in business advertisement in a personal setting. Kimberly Allison and Lume di Luna Designs are different entities. Kimberly is my artist persona. It's the person who cuts her fingers or throws an uncooperative project down in disgust. It's the person who says "Ok... I value your opinion. What do you think of this?" Lume di Luna Designs is the entity that says "See this wonderful thing? You want this, don't you?" It's the business woman that sets up a show, collects the cash, pays the taxes and brings home that bacon.
And once in a while, the artist and the business woman will join forces. When someone asks what I do, and I explain that I am an artist. Is it considered bragging when they want to see my work, so I show them a cell phone picture? Or is it shameless self-promotion when they ask if I do shows and if I have an extra business card?
Envy Isn't The Enemy
Envy. Jealousy. At first blush the two seem interchangeable. But this isn't true. Compare envy to a cold. Jealousy to cancer. Jealousy is a BAD emotion. It's painful resentment. Envy says "I so wish I had what you have." Jealousy on the other hand says "Screw you. I wish you DIDN'T have that, because I don't." In fact, I look upon envy as almost favorable. It can be as good a motivator as a good, swift kick in the pants. It allows me to look upon someone and think "Wow, I wish I had that. How can I motivate myself to have that too?" If a fellow artist had a kick-ass successful show, my first reaction may be envy. But then I tell myself that their very success means that I can have success too. Was a friend published in a magazine? They perhaps I should get off my fat, middle-aged ass and submit some work as well. In true form, I would never be jealous of my friends, as that would be akin to wishing they didn't have these triumphs.
So, the next time that someone calls you a 'show off' don't be offended. Thank them. For there might be something in you that they envy greatly.
New Art Piece:
"Envy" Altered vintage mannequin, Wedding gown, recycled lace and found object (resin horn)
This is the mannequin in question. As a mannequin, her face was decidedly "pixie" with small, pointed features. She just wouldn't make a nice zombie, as she lacked the stronger bone structure. This design came to me in a dream. Since my friends have been suggesting I tackle the 7 Deadly Sins for some time, suddenly "Envy" seemed right.
She is not Jealousy... for she is not a "Green Eyed Monster". Instead, her eyes are red, the color of passion and anger. her skin is no less than 7 layers of cream, mauve and green. Her medieval ruff gives her an aire of elegance. But the horn shocks. Fore all her delicate beauty, she is a monster.