The Fine Art of Self-Sabotage

“me, unedited version”©STMartin2021

Rejection. Have you experienced it? Most of us have, but has it scarred you for life? And can these life-long patterns, these ‘rejection tapes’ be erased? Overcome? Re-recorded?

This is my dilemma right now. Oh, I’ve spent years ‘working on’ this and thought I had ‘overcome’ this issue in many aspects of my life. But I’m as good at fooling myself as I am at plastering on a convincing smile to hide my inner turmoil from the world. Maybe better. Its been 2 years since I had a mental health advocate I really felt safe with…and her exiting my life has Hurt. Really bad. In writing this I am feeling this all over again, and it feels like rejection.

Detail, “The Inheritance of Daughters'”©STMartin2017

Yes, I understood that people move on, it had nothing to do with me, etc. Emotionally, though? At least she warned me it was coming. What does this have to do with my art? I’ll tell you: She believed in me, and hoped the best for me. She helped me see that I could work thru the pain of my past, and that poured out of me onto my canvases. With her at my back I shared my most intimate feelings and fears surrounding the abuse I had endured. And it was with her encouragement that I proudly stood at the opening reception of my first and only solo show, “Susan T. Martin: Through the Eyes of a Survivor” at the Morean Arts Center Gallery. Granted, it was a pop up show, but it was held during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

I stood next to my soul-baring canvases bravely. It was huge for a girl who only started publicly showing her work at the age of 50. Who had hidden her work in closets and boxes for 40 years. Who quit showing her art to her family as a teenager after years of , ” That’s nice, dear.” and, ” Why don’t you paint flowers?”. My experiences had allowed me to build this wall against the surety of THE BIG REJECTION. Why try? Why expose my battered pride? Why?

Detail from “Flashback 937” ©STMartin2017

So, after my big show I was fearless in sharing my work in the Art Heals show for survivors of sexual assault, My work, my voice and my story was used in advertisements for the Mental Health Facility where I received the counselling from aforementioned therapist. I was riding high, basking in the warmth of recognition.

Suddenly a worldwide pandemic came into our lives. All kinds of doubts and fears began to assault my mind. The isolation left me too deep in my own head and there were no meetings with any mental health counselors, except virtually. And those were few and far between. Finally a new therapist and I talked. We have never met in person, and in the past years we’ve spoken less than 10 times. I’m tired. I feel beaten.

And my prepped canvases leer at me, while I contemplate ripping up and burning all my old work. It’s more than my therapist leaving, it’s so much more. I have let a little woodworm of self-doubt ravage my confidence. I sit here and research the great masters, oil painting techniques, and all the formal art training I so long for; then I lay on the couch in a grey funk for days. I spent hundreds during this pandemic on entry fees for shows and now I lament not having sold anything. A great big pity party for the poor rejected artist. Sickening, isn’t it?

So, now that I have dumped all that ‘stuff’ out here on the page, maybe I can sit back and ponder it in black and white. And after I ponder, I’m going to get up and start a new day, free from it all.

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