Artists can be said to have many flaws. One of the greatest is sometimes said to be insecurity. It reminds me of a quote I’ve seen that pops up every now and again. It goes along the lines of stating that those who know the least speak the loudest, and those who are the most qualified keep quiet because they question themselves and the world. I think it may be safe to say that the more we learn about life, or our various pursuits, the more the wisest among us realize how little we actually know. This in turn leads to insecurity in life.
If we look at some of the greatest artists that have ever lived, many in their interviews mention their insecurities over their own work. Old interviews or memoirs of past film stars such as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe show a deep insecurity of their abilities. Some of the most talented writers, actors, and artists I’ve met always seem to think their work is terrible. Those artists I’ve met who talk about their brilliance or incredible talent leave me to wonder if they’re seeing something I’m not when I’ve watched what they’ve done. In most cases, not all but most, I’m left shaking my head wondering what type of inflated ego must possess them to think they are as talented as they seem to believe.
The sad fact I’ve read about most industries, both in the arts and other areas of life, is that confidence will help one achieve more than actual skill and talent. There was an actor turned casting director who wrote a book I had read several years back who had mentioned the same. Those who came in and gave terrible reads but held their heads high and pumped their fists at the end fared far better than those who gave moving auditions but chastised themselves at the end.
The most he could make of the situation was that the casting directors knew little of acting and based their casting decisions on the reaction of the actors when the audition was over. If the actor was excited it must have meant they did an amazing job. If the actor was tough on themselves it must mean they did something wrong. That was the thought process of the many casting directors he worked with.
While it’s sad that our reactions to our own work may weigh more heavily than the actual skill level of the work we do, I do believe that those who are insecure about their work possess the most potential and have a powerful tool in their hands. In life, it is those of us who are most insecure that will continue to strive to learn and improve. No matter what level we achieve we will always feel as if something is missing. As long as that feeling burns inside of us, as long as we continue to search for that missing piece to make us feel complete, improvement will come. That’s when great artists and great art are born.
It is those artists that feel as if they’ve mastered their craft with supreme talent, those that feel they may be a “gift from god” that will stagnate. These artists have achieved their best work, and there’s nothing more to come from them. What reason is there to strive for something more if one already feels like they’ve arrived?
It is that feeling of insecurity that is the most powerful tool one can possess, regardless of the struggles that may come with it. So take heed my insecure friends because it is you who will create art and achieve great things. It is each one of you who will do ten times what the over-confident cannot, that will bring substance to a world filled only with meaningless flare. That substance is what gets remembered for all time, where the rest merely get their 15 minutes.