During graduate school, I took one of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken. It was a social media marketing class. It revolved around starting a blog or vlog, publishing several pieces of content a week, and promoting that content on social media daily with organic posts. It was my first experience with daily posting, but proved to be much more eye-opening than realizing how powerful organic content is.
We split off into teams during the first class, teams that we would be working close with for the next three months. When my team was discussing a subject to write our blog about, I mentioned my magic business and how I recently began a small blog on my website. My teammates loved it, and the professor gave us the okay to use my magic business as our team project.
We all agreed to focus on vlogs instead of blogs, and since the business was very much about me, I was to record all the videos while my two teammates focused on turning them into content for social media. For our midterm and final presentations, we showed the class my website, all of the videos I made, and the statistics for how much traffic my site got.
Here’s where it got weird. I felt very uncomfortable talking about my business. I felt self-centered making these videos and sharing them and showing off to my class. Considering how my whole business is centered around my art and me, I shouldn’t have felt discomfort from showing the fruits of my team’s labor to the class. But I did.
This, by far, wasn’t the first time I felt uncomfortable presenting my art in the spotlight; it happens almost every time I perform. You might be thinking that it’s stage fright, and I guess that’s what it sounds like from how I’ve described it so far. But it’s not the fear of being in front of people that is uncomfortable (I don’t think I’ve ever experienced stage fright), it is the idea that I’m not good enough to deserve their attention.
During this class, just like my magic shows, I felt that I was being selfish showing my work in the spotlight. I was afraid of appearing too wrapped-up in creating videos and performing tricks, and I calmed my fears by letting myself become distant from my work while I was presenting it.
I was afraid to be proud of what I had accomplished.
Taking Pride in your Work
You may have felt this before. You’ve done something really good, but you remember your humility and keep yourself from taking pride in it. Pride, as it has been taught, is reserved for arrogant people, and you or I would never consider ourselves arrogant. So isn’t pride bad?
This is what I struggled with. I would spend weeks or months creating something great, but then be afraid to share it with other for fear of showing the pride I take in my work. As an artist, I felt obligated to share my work with the world; but as a human, I felt that I should stay away from being too proud.
The issue is that taking pride in your work isn’t the same as taking pride in yourself. In fact, it’s the opposite. To take pride in your work is to recognize that the work is great and makes you a better person. It’s being proud of something external, not being proud of yourself.
To take pride in your work is to give it 100%. It’s to recognize that your work will make you a better person, and that you should give it your all. After all, your creativity is a great gift that you should take pride in, because it makes you a better person and it will ultimately help your organization.
Pride isn’t when you share your work with others; it’s when you talk only about your work and never ask about others’. This type of pride is deadly to art because it isolates us from other sources of creative inspiration. We already know what we know, so if we shun the rest of the world, we will never learn anything new and we will stop growing.
Like in most cases, the workplace imitates art. Imagine an office employee who sees an issue with how things are being done with the company overall. It’s an issue that management clearly hasn’t noticed, or at least doesn’t care enough about to fix anytime soon. But this employee has a potential solution. The problem is, he’s afraid to approach his manager with it because she’ll probably tell him to stay in his lane. So he quietly sits on his idea and inevitably doesn’t tell anyone.
This hypothetical employee exists everyday in offices around the world; you might have identified with him yourself. The problem is that he doesn’t want people to think he’s arrogant; he doesn’t want to be “that guy” that is sticking his nose “where it doesn’t belong.” He doesn’t want his coworkers and manager to think he’s getting a big head.
As we’ve seen, he should feel no shame in taking pride in his idea. The idea is an extension of all of the hard work he put in in the office and in school; it’s the combination of all the lessons he learned from others. Additionally, this is an idea that he believes could actually help the company. Taking pride in his idea is one of the most selfless things he can do.
Being afraid to take pride in your work will ultimately hold you back from sharing it with others. This is the biggest mistake any of us can make, and one that I’ve made countless times. Creative ideas — whether in business or in art — should be shared with others because the sharing of such ideas makes the community a better place.