I’m an artist who has always had some commercial success, but nothing like what I’ve experienced this year. The reason is simple: I’m working harder and more focused than ever before. I’m pumped about all of the good things happening professionally. The problem is that most of the people around me are not supportive of my success. When I tell them about something good that happened, they don’t celebrate with me. A lot of them don’t say anything positive at all. It’s hurtful, and I don’t understand why. Are they jealous or just haters?
They’re naked, actually. Your achievements force your friends to strip away the veneer of the life they have settled for. When they see your accomplishments, they come face to face with their unlived lives. Every life is shaped by the choices made. Often those choices are safe, easy and in accordance with familial, social or religious expectations. Yet the call to a creative life demands that we invest our devotion in art and craft. In the process we discover that our art should not become God, but it is our communion with God.
When a person is in union with the divine, that individual embodies a light that makes their very presence threatening to others. To be aligned with and living a calling is to step fully into spiritual evolution. Often family and friends refuse to reflect on themselves and engage the necessary risks to evolve into a truer reality. Instead, they will criticize, shame or ostracize the artist (or musician, entrepreneur, poet, etc.), until the artist buckles and is brought back into whatever lifestyle the family and friends prefer. But here is the lovely secret about that experience: It’s not personal. Don’t permit yourself to fall under the spell of their fears. Let your family and friends keep every one of their worries, accusations and judgments. Doing so is a sign of your evolution. It’s also a gift.
As any artist advances, criticism from the public increases in volume. The insecurity of your family and friends allows you to practice listening to criticism and shaking it out to discover whether it includes anything valid for you to consider. If a parent worries that art is not a stable career, for example, that concern allows you to consider whether you harbor similar fears. You can challenge yourself to continue clinging to that belief or ditch it. After all, is any career stable? Of course not, every career has up and downs. Knowing the truth encourages you to breathe freely and trust your creativity.
At the conclusion of this form of reflection on other people’s (well-meant) concerns about you, something amazing happens. You grow stronger in compassion for the pain of people who fail to live their own lives fully. You also begin to understand that family and friends who are attached to criticizing are actually deeply codependent. Rather than seeing your achievements as inspiration to change their lives, they focus on your life and lavish you with their fears.
Spiritual evolution frequently calls us to release our past circle of confidantes. Sometimes artists, writers, innovators, entrepreneurs and social-change agents fear letting go of family and friends. These creative people may dread the potential for loneliness. Or they may worry about being seen as disloyal. Don’t sit in these dramas for too long. Loneliness prepares us to value solitude, an essential ingredient for a creative life. And, while some relationships end completely and are eventually replaced by connections in alignment with who we have become, other relationships circle back around eventually, sometimes decades later. The lesson for the artist is that all relationships are important, but none as vital as the one with the divine.
P.S. Congratulations on your success!