Something that comes up often when I'm teaching my Expressive Self Portraiture class is the fear of being judged by your audience, family, and friends for creating new work.
This is the part where I want to insert EFF that!
I'm passionate about encouraging women to share their art, themselves, their voices. To think that we would even hesitate on sharing pieces of ourselves in this way is absurd to me.
Are we not allowed to learn to love ourselves?
Are we selfish to think that we matter?
Are we not worthy of support in our self-exploration?
These women have such a strong desire and fire lit inside of them to make this type of healing and profound work, yet hold back in fear.
Fear of the opinions, sometimes ridicules, of their parents, brothers, sisters, children, best friends, husbands, wives, colleagues, employers, local acquaintances, and so on.
I've been there.
Instead, we hold back. We create private accounts. We share with an online audience that we will most likely never meet in real life. We seek support and acceptance from strangers. Online communities are formed for human connection. We create work that never gets shared.
This fear of judgment has been a great struggle of mine, especially in my earlier years of self-portraiture. I've had jokes made to my face about my work with masks. I've had comments publically made asking me if I'm okay.
"Are you okay? Do you need to talk to someone?"
I deleted that one out of sheer embarrassment.
Should I worry about sharing this image because I'm a mother and the other mothers out there may see it? What will they think of me? Is too much of my skin showing even though that's not my intention? Should I feel ashamed for being me and expressing myself in a way that feels best for me?
What I have come to learn is this.
Art is subjective.
You are going to have people who can read your art like an open book, and you will have others who will see it as a foreign language.
And that's okay.
I've treated it as a learning lesson over the years, and I've made it my mission to support other women who are on similar journies. Because I know they are more than just a daughter, or a wife, or a mother, or a lawyer, or a doctor, or a college drop-out. They have stories, feelings, and desires to explore and express. They want to feel something. They want to find themselves. Be themselves. They are light and love. They are powerful. They are artists.
Not everyone is going to understand your art. But regardless, it belongs to you, and it's your story to share.
You own it.
Art is meant to stir up emotions, and sometimes, those are feelings of uncomfortableness in the viewer. It may bring up the viewers own insecurities, jealousy, or embarrassment and shame.
We all see things differently. That's the beauty of it all. Don't let that be the thing that prevents you from what you're being called to explore and create. What once seemed like a foreign concept to me, is now the very tool I use for self-expression. Self-expression has been the one thing that helps set me free from the inner critic.
Don't censor yourself.
You are worth it. Your voice is worth being heard. Your story is remarkable, and just because not everyone will connect with it, doesn't mean you should bury it.
To all of you brave Artists out there, I see you. I support you. I honor your work and the journey that got you here.
I admire your courage.
Keep creating and sharing with the world.
We need your story.
* Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit The Define School by clicking this link.