Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Square glasses and side ponytails

My name is Sharon Higley, and I am not a hipster.

There, I said it. It's out there. Everyone knows. I've come clean. I should feel better. But...

So, I've been dealing with chronic self-doubt, anxiety, and general malaise. This happens to all creative types from time to time. For me, it is usually triggered by things totally unrelated to creativity. Tax time seems to be my trigger. The sheer amount of effort involved in my being financially organized is enough to totally defeat me. It starts there and begins a downward spiral into self-pity ending in the realization that I'm not a hipster. Let me explain.

I went to a gathering recently of hipsters, in a similar business as me. I look around and immediately start comparing myself to them. I do not wear square glasses or dress in super-cool vintage clothing. I do not, or will not, wear a side ponytail with artfully blunted bangs. I do not carry a self-created/embellished handbag, nor do I use hipster language, of which I would provide an example but I am so unfamiliar with the slang, I can not. 

Comparing oneself to others is always a bad idea. One cannot know the life of another with enough familiarity to be able to judge them against oneself with any sort of accuracy. I know this. Yet, it is entirely human to do so. These feelings are all too familiar as I have done this my entire life, resulting in making myself acutely aware of...well, myself. 

In high school, I was not particularly athletic, popular, or good at much. I thought drastically differently than pretty much everyone I knew, and it was unsettling. I faded into the background by choice, 'knowing' that I was not really worthy of attention. In college, my artistic ability wasn't particularly outstanding, and my finances would not allow me to dress as I wanted, or dye my hair interesting colors, or go to shows of bands with names no one had ever heard of. As art students, we were required to show EVERYTHING to EVERYBODY and provide ourselves to be ripped up by peer critique. You were constantly compared to your peers as a way of inciting improvement. Right out of school in my chosen profession, it was standard procedure to be compared to and compete with others for the "right" to be able to produce your ideas. That required that you possess a certain flair, naturally or faked, for talking yourself and your ideas up. You HAD to stand out in order to be considered worthy. Always 'knowing' in the back of your mind that you did quite measure up -- someone was ALWAYS better. I believe that is why most graphic designers are in their 20s-30s. You get tired after a while and move into management. Ha.

I made the decision in my later 30s that I was done with that whole thing. I was me, and that was fine. I stopped trying so hard to be different and relaxed in who I was. It was a freeing choice. I stopped this constant comparing of where I was in my career, how my artwork measured up, and whether I was presenting a hipster-enough outward appearance. I became happy with me. I stopped trying to put a label on who I was or what I did. I focused on being a good person, bringing happiness if it was in my power to do so, and making decisions that were responsible, fun, and right for me.

But, every now and then, that old habit comes back. Kind of like when you stopped smoking years ago and decided that one wouldn't hurt, just this once. That first inhale is familiar, a bit comforting, and then disgusting. You make a choice after that first puff -- take up the nasty habit again, or stop and be healthy.

So, I've taken these last few weeks to restart. To stop and be healthy. To remember that I am me and that is ok. My creativity is slowly coming back, not nearly fast enough, but still, I feel the progress. 

Still not a hipster but ok with that,