A lot of artists are a walking contradiction; they have two fundamental needs that move in opposite directions.
The first need is to find themselves. They can spend a lifetime searching for their ‘real self’. They have a burning need to become self-aware and to understand themselves so that they can, at last, figure out who they really are. This need may have manifested in grade school where they felt like an outsider who was missing something. They may have felt misunderstood and unrecognized, thus marking the entry point for a life-long search for the authentic self. (This can ultimately lead to a squandered life.)
At the same time, they have a second need to move beyond themselves and beyond their self-awareness, so that they can get rid of their own self-consciousness.
The need for self-awareness and the need for self-transcendence contradict each other. When an artist attempts to satisfy need 1) and searches for her real self — by analyzing and ruminating on her experiences, pandering in her emotions, failing to hold down a real job so she can buy time to sort through her feelings, taking personality tests, and daydreaming her days away — she makes it difficult to satisfy need 2) and transcend herself.
On the other hand, when she attempts to satisfy need 2), she ends up placing so much focus on the outside that she makes it impossible to engage in the introspection needed for self-awareness.
What she must do, then, is stay away from both extremes and try to find balance, and the way to balance and incorporate both needs 1) and 2) into her life is through creativity.
Creativity = The Useful Way to Find Yourself
The solution for the artist who desires to discover herself and transcend herself is to enter into consistent, creative action. Creativity is the middle ground of self-awareness and self-transcendence — it allows you to be yourself and to move beyond yourself at the same time.
The act of creating something — paintings, novels, photos, website designs, songs — allows artists to connect with and express their emotions whilst simultaneously getting outside of themselves. By making art, they not only shift their romantic navel gazing to the outside and make something that people can relate to, but they also learn about themselves in the process.
Without creativity in her life, an artist engages in a kind of ‘soul-searching’ merely for her own pleasure seeking. But when she has a creative outlet to turn to, she can share with the world the truths and insights she has discovered through this introspection. In other words, she satisfies needs 1) and 2) — you might call creativity the ‘constructive and useful’ way of finding yourself.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the best way to find yourself, is to not find yourself. So give this a try: Stay away from endless introspection. Instead, get outside of yourself and create everyday, cultivate your innate talents, refine your skills, and share your art with people, because that’s where you will most likely find yourself.
Image by hyekab25