Monday, January 14, 2013

The Gift of Self Esteem

I don't know how it got here, but I know the day it did. I tweeted its arrival. An early and unexpected Christmas gift from the universe on December 22, 2012. For the last half of 2012, I was fascinated by a call for entries from an Eastern Michigan University senior fine arts major named Felicity Baker. She is double minoring in psychology with women and gender studies. The exhibition, during March (Women's History Month) will be head and shoulders renderings of what contributors understand about the looking-glass self. Presented by Charles Cooley in 1902, this theory purports, as Baker quotes, "I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am." Twisty, huh? It took a handful of weeks to even understand the concept. I've had several ideas of art to submit, but I am thinking in three-dimensional art, rather than flat art asked for submission. And I am thinking about whether this theory is true. For me. In the long years of the past. Today. The art I imagined is a discarded frame hanging in my workroom. Around the edges I would paint "I have a framework. It is constant and divine."  True. All the wiggly bits and electricity and chemical compositions that make a human are there at the beginning. Centered in the frame on fishing line is a light. Small, bright. This is my essence. Powerful, as significant in every way as anything else in the cosmos. As mighty, as miniscule. True. In front of this incredible light would be transparent panels representing what has, and is, obscuring that light. 1st layer: painted with the parent brush. 2nd layer: painted with the peer brush. 3rd layer: drawn with the teacher pencils. And so on. Bosses, coworkers, lovers, enemies, circumstances. True. And understanding emerged. We have no way of knowing what others think of us. But we make it up. We absorb what our culture feels about us. We suffer for it. We do it to ourselves. For the last several months, I've been removing the painted layers from my mental work of art. When these obscuring layers are abandoned by me - because I am the person who keeps them installed and effective - when I remove the layers, what remains is my light. Small, powerful, steady, calm and bright. So bright. And on December 22, 2012, when I subconsciously reached for the veil, it wasn't there. None of them were. Self esteem. "I am what I know I am."

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