My sister has outrageous expectations of success, and when things don’t happen, she gets depressed and won’t leave her apartment. She’s an artist. Honestly, I think her work is basic and overpriced. My mother pays my sister’s rent and bought her a car even though my sister is nearly 40 years old. She has a master’s degree but refuses to work, except at her art. Recently, she asked me what I thought of her art. I told her the truth, and now she won’t talk to me. Advice?
Your sister may have fallen under the influence of an influencer who makes selling art (or whatever) appear easy. Or you could be the sibling of a woman whose personality edges toward narcissism. While any one of us might dream big and imagine leaping toward a higher income or status, we don’t expect magic. Common sense says it takes determination, commitment, talent, marketing mojo and personal connections for a career to soar.
It’s one thing to head to bed because we realize we’ve been overdoing and need rest. But your sister’s habit of pouting reveals a deeper problem. She might not be mature enough to understand that low sales are not a rejection of her. It’s the outcome of marketing or not marketing herself and her work. She just hasn’t found her vibe or tribe.
A lot of creative people struggle to hit the right vibe with their work. The problem occurs, in part, because many are ahead of the curve. They step into a mode of expression, long before the mainstream culture does. Creative people are often speaking truth to power when everyone else is in denial.
It’s challenging to find a tribe when the world hasn’t yet caught up to one’s art. Creative people suffer from greater feelings of alienation than others—and that makes sense. They are outsiders. If they fit in, it would be less likely that they could see, speak or understand what others cannot. That said, there is a chasm between the artist who is a disciple of their discipline and a dilettante. A dilettante craves attention. An artist does the work as a channel through which the divine moves, seeking expression. I’m not saying that all art is beautiful or perfect, but rather that a true artist does the work humbly, recognizing the honor of awakening the world, and submits to the ego-deflating experience of learning from a master (or dozens of masters) to improve their craft. Does that sound like your sister?
Before reaching out to her, ask yourself whether you intended to hurt her when you shared your opinion. Your words may have felt honest, but you’re also angry that your mom coddles her. It would be better to say: “I’m pissed that mom pays your rent and bought you a car. That might affect my opinion about your art, which is this: I think you need more training in art and in marketing art.” By being transparent with your sister you will at least know that you have been honest about what holds each of you back.