A friend asked me, “Why do you hide your light?” This was in a long phone conversation about other stuff, mostly about work frustrations. He didn’t even remember asking the question, but I remembered it and reworked it over and over in my mind a thousand times in a thousand different ways.
Hiding my light is my nature and training, and even hidden it’s amazing how cruel some people can be. They say just get over it, or the classic, “You’re just too sensitive!” Others can say and do whatever they want and it’s my problem if my feelings get hurt.
When I graduated from college, I was booted from the happiest time of my life into a period of doubt. Would anyone hire me? Could I go on an interview and put pieces of my soul in front of an unknown person to critique? My nerves landed me in the hospital with internal bleeding.
I decided that there was only one way to know for sure if I could make it, and that was to start sending out resumes and picking up the phone. I went on interviews even if I was told there weren’t any jobs. Practice makes perfect, and I got better at it.
I messed up an interview by missing my appointment. I got the directions wrong and had to call and say I couldn’t get there in time. The creative director rescheduled, but he wasn’t nice about it. When I managed to get to the right place at the right time, he ripped my portfolio apart page by page and told me I was an amateur. I sat white faced with hands clenched in my lap for an hour for his amusement. I felt the internal bleeding when he finally said “You should count yourself lucky. I see some promise. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have bothered to give you this much time.” I managed to say thank you and get to my car without passing out. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
Even though the guy was a bastard, he taught me a lot in that hour. Nobody wants to see figure drawings in a portfolio. It makes sense since you hardly ever see drawings of naked people in ads and everybody should know how to do a figure drawing by the end of college. He wanted to see something printed, even if it was crappy so he’d be able to see that I could get a paying customer, meet deadlines, and handle printing requirements.
Sometimes I think about the famous artists who are famous because they put themselves out there – Warhol, Picasso, whoever. If their personalities weren’t so interesting, would we care as much about their art? It’s not to say they didn’t have good ideas and some good paintings, but in my opinion more talented and modest artists have been passed over.
Artists are often introverts, and getting work is an extraverted activity. We can’t get work if we keep ourselves hidden. Once we get the jobs, we can’t get promoted or raises without tooting our own horns once in a while. I hate doing it.
In my current job, I have an officeful of people who need me to speak up for them. However much I’d like the powers that be to just recognize we’re all wonderful, sometimes they have to be told the obvious. I can't say that I'm a natural at that kind of thing, but as I said, practice makes perfect and at least my stomach doesn't bleed over it anymore. Let’s all quit hiding our light and speak up for ourselves!