Creativity Requires Hubris

My never-ending struggle with pride and self-confidence continues. I was raised to display humility. Just do your work and do it well, and not draw undue attention to yourself. To brag about your accomplishments is to invite disaster. Modern society reflects this. We love to tear down people who have gotten too full of themselves. If we perceive that they’re gaining too much attention or too much success, we turn on them. Yet the fact remains that creativity requires hubris.

The Greek gods struck people down for the sin of hubris, but the definition was different then. It wasn’t simply arrogance. It included an element of putting other people down to build yourself up, sometimes to the point of battery or sexual assault. That sort of hubris is more akin to the stalker-trolls plaguing certain corners of the internet these days. It’s not the same as having the balls to create something, then put it out into the world with the notion that it’s worthy not only of peoples’ attention, but their money.

Creativity Requires Hubris

To be a professional creative does require a display of the modern form of hubris. You do have to stand up and say “Yeah, I’m awesome, my stuff is awesome, you need to throw money at me so I can go back and create more awesome stuff!”. You cannot be shy. In a world with fewer/different/no gatekeepers (depending on who’s defining what a “gatekeeper” is) you don’t have someone to bestow the title of “worthy” upon you. You’ve got to claim it for yourself.

It’s a hard concept to grasp for a lot of creatives. If you’ve been beaten down by life, especially if it’s because you’re different and weird and, well, creative, it is not easy to just let your freak flag fly with pride. If you suffer from even the mildest form of mental illness, as so many creatives unfortunately do, you really don’t feel comfortable putting yourself out there at all let alone standing up to be your ow advocate, cheerleader, and #1 fan.

We all want validation. Even if we fake it until we make it, we still suffer from imposter syndrome and a lack of self-confidence. Often, we have a love-hate relationship with our own work. But we’re not allowed to let that show because no one’s going to want to invest in you and your work if you’re displaying fear and doubt. We cannot wait for other people to tell us it’s okay, or wait for other people to give us permission. We have to reach out and take the power for ourselves, and be bold and confident and yes, a wee bit arrogant.

Balance Hubris With Gratitude

This is why you need to embrace hubris. Not acknowledging what I’ve done means not acknowledging the people who have helped me to achieve those things. You’re not just letting yourself down. You’re failing to express gratitude to the other people that have supported, encouraged, and enabled you. If you want to temper your hubris, do it with gratitude. Yes, I am awesome and my work is fantastic. I’d still like to thank the people who taught me to do what I do. Those who mentored me and gave me the opportunities to put my work before you. I also want to thank you, the audience, for giving my work a chance, for the privilege of getting to entertain you. When you do this, your confidence is not longer actually hubris at all.

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