I am not my work

“I am not my work,” is one of those aphorisms that I need to have etched into my cornea. Have you seen watermarks on images? I need this phrase watermarked directly onto my vision.

Long ago–if memory serves–I was motivated by extrinsics. Doing something well resulted in external confirmation; so generating that external confirmation was easy for me. But–as everyone knows–it’s a vicious cycle of saccharine sweetness. Eventually, that lesson was learned. The obviously better option is to be intrinsically motivated. Check. Got it.

Unfortunately for me, there’s another onion-skin layer to peal away below, “be intrinsically motivated,” which is to not take criticism of work done as criticism of myself. The immediate hack is that I’ve inserted a mandatory, “thank you,” in response to criticism. This doesn’t fix the problem of identifying myself with my work. But it does buy me a few moments. By the time I’ve said thank you and acknowledged the critic, it’s become possible to see the criticism as being ‘of the work.’ Crucial moments indeed.