My Primary Concern by Victoria R Wolf 4-28-24 orignal

My Primary Concern

My quest to discover who I am and what I want, need, and desire has been going on for a very long time. I think at some point in the past, I thought the journey would have a destination, and its name would be you. Well, that is correct in a sense, but it is also incorrect. I love ambiguity!

On my path of self-exploration, I’ve discovered that the answers to the who, what, and why questions about myself will change as I age and absorb new experiences. If I cease to desire to keep rediscovering myself, then the path will end. But if I stay curious and desire to grow, my path of self-exploration will be endless. I chose the latter.

Personal growth and gaining a deeper understanding of myself are paths I have chosen for nearly my entire life. I have learned much about myself over the years, and once I started painting, the answers and questions came more quickly and seemed to have a much deeper impact. Painting has changed my life and my view of myself more than anything else I have experienced.

When I painted My Primary Concern, the painting wasn’t actually my primary concern. I was painting it alongside another painting, Shadows of the Self. Both paintings were born from a situation I experienced a day prior that forced me to come to a reckoning about who I really was and how I presented myself to the world.

Shadows of the Self by Victoria R Wolf 4-28-24 original

Shadows of the Self explores my lifelong practice of hiding the real me in an effort to be liked by everyone, avoiding, at all costs, the possibility that someone, somewhere, may not like me or, even worse, be upset with me. I was pleasing everyone but myself and, at the same time, wondering why I felt unhappy, unfulfilled, and unconnected. Now, I have learned that an unpleased self is not a happy self.

As I was painting Shadows, memories of the people-pleasing darted into my mind. I needed desperately to believe that people liked me. It was the primary source of my self-worth. In hindsight, that self-worth should have come from inside, not outside myself.

And the real truth: I was afraid the real me would not be liked by anyone. How could she be? I did not even like her and was very scared of her.

Shadows depicts those dark moments as well as the bright moments of safety that people-pleasing provided me. This is a stark contradiction that I now see as a very cruel way to experience life.

It makes so much sense to me why I painted these two pieces simultaneously. It was an echo of my people-pleasing life. One moment, I am pleasing others to keep myself safe and validate my existence, and the next moment, I am questioning and even asserting, if only slightly, my inner self and its desire to emerge.

My Primary Concern explores what is now at the forefront of my daily decisions: being myself no matter what. I can only find others who truly like “me” when I actually put “me” into the world. The bright primary colors are happy, and there is whimsy in the mark-making, evoking the feeling I get when I am indeed being who I really am.

I cannot say I am completely me all the time. Let’s say I am 80 percent real me and 20 percent people-pleaser me most of the time. In the past, those percentages were flipped. Progress, baby!

Now, the challenge is to reduce my constant analysis of “being me” situations to a minimum. Typically, I ruminate over my words and actions after I know I am being my true self, as I worry that I am “too much” or “too something.” I know, intellectually, that I cannot be liked by everyone in every situation. And if I am, then, well, I don’t think I am being the real me. And that is okay and actually desired. My struggle is to be okay with that, emotionally, and still feel safe and worthy.

Thank you again, painting journey!!


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