Integrity 101
October 21, 2013 1:12 AM   Subscribe

I want and need to have more integrity with myself.

I have a hard time sticking to my decisions and values, especially when it's about my work. I am loyal to my friends, but not to myself. I accuse a lot of external factors for being responsible of my inaction and failures. I am in a victimization mode. (ugh)
FWIW I'm in a creative field, and sticking to your choices is pretty important... otherwise it is not your work anymore... I can't do good work, be credible and reliable if I change everything as soon as someone tells me so. And I can't get better in what I am doing if I don't take responsibility, if I don't own my choices.
My values and commitments don't change when I relate to my peers, but seem to vanish when I have to do a project (whether said work is for me, for a client or for an assignment).

I am a bit at a loss to understand how to tackle the problem, so here's my question : if you've had issues with integrity with yourself, how did you improve? What did you learned, discovered that helped you change? If you have book recommendations I am interested as well.

I've read this post, and while it resonated a lot with what I'm looking for it doesn't answer the question on *how* to have more integrity.

Thank you in advance !
posted by mugitusqueboom to Human Relations (8 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There's a third wave therapy based on buddhist thought called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. ACT says that if we make decisions based on our feelings we will always stay the way we are, because we will never feel like doing what we have not already done, so at some point we have to begin to make decisions based on something outside of our feelings. The idea is to switch to a life of "Values based living", where decisions are based solely on what we value, sounds ideal for you. It may come under the guise of a therapy but it is solely common sense and a great way to live, its free of hocus pocus and is stupidly practical. Give the happiness trap a read. The amazon page doesn't seem to go into the values based living bit so much but the actual book is full of it.
posted by niruniru at 1:37 AM on October 21, 2013 [13 favorites]

Best answer: FWIW I'm in a creative field, and sticking to your choices is pretty important... otherwise it is not your work anymore...

Sounds like this is the crux of your problem. You don't specify what sort of creative work you do, but in general, working for clients involves some compromising on your creative choices - in some fields more than others. And in some cases trying to explain a decision they don't agree with will only make them dig their heels in further. (I feel like I've recently heard a lot about the phenomenon of the outsider who waltzes into a room of experts convinced he can teach them a thing or two... that certainly applies here.)

I think perhaps the word you're searching for isn't "integrity" but "confidence." You already have a strong sense of integrity if you're feeling conflicted over something that means a lot to you; you just need the confidence to act on it. Paradoxically, one of the best things you can do to build confidence when it comes to your work is to let it go when it leaves your hands. People will criticize; some of them will be full of shit, and some of them will have a point. Take what you can use and shrug off the rest.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:53 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Much good creative work is collaborative, the product of suggestions, editing, and input from others. Maybe you're worried about a problem that doesn't exist.
posted by mono blanco at 5:34 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just to chime in, ART you create for you, is about integrity and truth to yourself. Work product you create in a corportate environment is a collaboration between you, the client and your co-workers.

No one wants to work with a diva who believes that his or her work is ART and can't be touched because it is a soul's creation. We call those people Artists, we also call them unemployed.

Working in a creative field can be hard, especially if you do Art for yourself. The lines blur and sometimes you can have a crisis of confidence because you create something for a client, and it's open to criticism and change. If you can accept that, awesome! If you're having a hard time with it, perhaps working in a creative field isn't for you.

Here's the thing. What you create for a client isn't yours, it's theirs. That's what they're paying you for.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:48 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: just to clarify : of course you're right mono blanco & Ruthless Bunny , and I know by my clients and teachers' feedbacks I am not a diva.

But I'm talking about integrity *before* any meeting with a client or a teacher. No one wants to work with a creative person who has no, well, integrity. If you cannot bring something that's *yours*, if you just vaguely copy without strong conviction, if you don't believe in your work, well, no one wants to work with you either.

For example, I start a project and change the concept X times because of "what they might think", and end up with an unsatisfying proposal (to me) when I meet my client / teacher.
I think Metroid Baby pointed something when he/she writes that "I think perhaps the word you're searching for isn't "integrity" but "confidence.""
And the problem applies even if I do a project for me and only me.

Maybe I shouldn't have mentionned the creative part, please just read the question, re if you've had issues with integrity with yourself, how did you improve? What did you learned, discovered that helped you change?
posted by mugitusqueboom at 6:05 AM on October 21, 2013

Best answer: The problem as you describe it is a little vague, but I agree with Metroid Baby that what you should consider focusing on is not the strength of your desire to stick to your guns, but to find ways to feel comfortable and confident doing so when the pressure is on.

I think there are two things you can do to try and improve:

1.) Focus on de-coupling the success of your creative endeavor and your success personally. You are concerned with keeping your creative work as "your own" and believe that you are watering down your own personal stamp when you compromise creatively. Well - of course you are caving before even showing your work and are instead trying to please everybody, because if the client or teacher does not like your work, the way you've set it up - it's as though they don't like you. You will not thrive in a creative field if you link these two things so closely. I can't tell you exactly how to personally distance yourself from your creative work in this way, but still keep the creative fire. It's something that all professional creatives struggle with in their careers. I would recommend reading the book "Feeling Good" as it helps you to train your brain to stop linking your personal worth to achievement. I'd also recommend spending some time working with people whom you feel are successful in this way. Ask them how they do it. Ask them about their creative failures and how they handle them. Really listen.

2.) While your endeavors are creative, your choices can be explained objectively.

Try this exercise: Take the time to see your initial vision through. As you find yourself compromising your end goal for an imaginary audience, stop yourself. Have the conversation with this imaginary client or teacher and tell them why you do NOT want to make this change. See yourself all the way to the end and you will probably recognize a few things:

a.) That you have found a way to feel comfortable backing a creative decision that you are worried would be difficult to defend, because you did the thinking in advance
b.) Some of the things that felt like "compromise" to you were probably actually good choices.
c.) Some of the things that you felt muddied the concept or made your proposal unsatisfying is because you tried to get your initial ideas through alongside the requirements
d.) When an idea or technique got difficult for you, you may have blamed the imaginary audience for not liking it, rather than pushing through when it got hard

One day, you may earn the respect to be able to make a creative decision and defend it only with a curt "because I am the creative genius and it is my decision." But even on that day, you should be able to objectively explain why your choice is important. Until then, you are just imposing your will on whatever project you work on, and fighting an ego battle outside of your mind. Nobody likes to work with that type of creative!

Good luck!
posted by pazazygeek at 6:30 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You gain artistic integrity through experience. As you continue to make work, your hand will grow more and more identifiable. My undergraduate students sometimes make pieces that don't look like their own and still require identification; I can identify my colleagues' work and vice versa by sight alone without ID.

So make more work - especially more work that's just for you. After you make a new 5-10 good, fleshed-out pieces, think critically about what conceptual and aesthetic threads they have in common. Research contemporary artists as well as art history and find inspirations who also deal with the same conceptual and/or aesthetic concerns you have. Make another new 5-10 pieces of work. Write an artist statement. Rewrite it. Struggle with getting what you see as the connecting threads of your work into clear, concise language. Have other artists look at your work and describe it to you, and see if their insights are mirrored and deepened in your artist statement or if they're describing something wholly different. Get it all to come into synch.

Then when you take on a commission/collaboration, make sure that what you're contributing at minimum does not contradict what your artist statement says and what your conceptual and aesthetic concerns are (and depending on the task, it may not just not contradict but also build upon).
posted by vegartanipla at 9:37 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

All the Way is a lovely song by New Order on the larger topic of integrity (and self-reliance) that I've found insight through. The chorus goes:

It takes years to find the nerve
To be apart from what you've done
To find the truth inside yourself
And not depend on anyone
posted by bertran at 12:45 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

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