Several years ago, a friend was staying at my house. She decided to give her little boy a bath but I hadn’t set out enough towels, so she reached into the linen closet and grabbed one. Later, I noticed she had chosen an old ratty towel with holes in it that I keep off to the side.
“Oh no!” I said. “You didn’t need to pick that one. We use it for cleaning.”
“It’s okay. I didn’t want to use one of your nice ones,” she replied.
Why on earth not! For the record, the other towels in the closet were just your basic bath towels. And they were there for guests. They were there for her.
This story reminds me of how some of us artists and entrepreneurs often deny ourselves something we could really use, something we deserve, for all the wrong reasons.
— Have you ever gotten by with old tools because you believe you can’t buy what you really want until you “prove” you can make it as an artist?
— Have you ever tried to figure something out alone rather than paying for advice because you think trying and failing on your own is part of paying your dues?
— Have you ever turned down an offer for free equipment because you didn’t want to be beholden to anyone?
— Have you ever reached for the crappiest paintbrush on the table because you thought it was “kind” to leave the good stuff for everyone else?
— Have you ever refused to apply for a grant because you’ve convinced yourself someone else deserved it more?
— Are you choosing not to get a studio because you don’t want people thinking if you can afford rent, you’ve “made it,” when you haven’t?
— Have you ever lowered your price for someone you know because you’re too embarrassed to ask for what you’re worth?
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then do me a favor this holiday season . . . go out and buy something for yourself you know will raise your artistic spirits. Something that will help your work improve, or increase your knowledge, or enable you to spend more time on your art, or provide you inspiration to get where you want to go. You’ve been shopping for everyone else, and donating to charities, and making cookies and gifts for others. Now please do something for your artist self (whatever “art” means to you).
And this time, don’t reach for the ratty old towel to “be nice.” Believe that the better towels were put there for you, because they absolutely were. That’s why they were purchased. That’s why they’re stacked nicely just waiting to be used. Please believe that those of us who put those tools and people and experiences in your path did so because we want you to be your best and to do your best. And helping you brings out the best in us, too!
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