The Selfish Artist
Photo courtesy of Karen Cox.

The Selfish Artist

Written by Emilie

Topics: Life

Who are you to be talking about “minimalism,” when there are people out there who sadly can fit all their possessions into a day pack?

Who are you to be talking about “lifestyle design,” when there are people who have no choice but to hustle to make ends meet.

Who are you to be talking about “multipotentiality,” when many have no choice but to work multiple jobs.

Who are you to work on yourself and fulfill your potential?

Stop following your dreams, it’s offensive. Turn around, go home, and be silent.


The best way to change the world isn’t to be ashamed of the blessings you’ve been given. That only disempowers you. Instead, practice gratitude, fulfill your potential, innovate, inspire, and use your privilege to serve the world.


  1. Adriana says:

    Thanks for this wonderful reminder.

  2. Nancy says:

    Hi Emilie, wow when I first started reading this I thought OMG has the girl really lost her mind! I agree that it is no only my responsibility but my call to use ALL the talents and abilities I have been blessed with to serve the world. It is my driving force to serve others.

    Thanks for the morning wake-up call!
    Nancy Oh!

  3. simone says:

    Oy, such a short but powerful post.

    The “who are you to…” thoughts come from a place of scarcity and fear. The idea that there isn’t enough to go around. The idea that “good” in the world is a zero-sum game. That our success and shine diminishes others. The idea that we need to clutch tightly to what we know, lest we lose everything.

    I feel bad for the people who want us to pack up and go home. They live in this small, fearful world. Nobody probably ever gave THEM the permission to follow their hearts. They probably grew up with other people telling them “who are you to..?”

    Like this:

    Dear Edison, who are you to be inventing electricity when some people don’t even have candles and scientists don’t even think it’s physically possible?

    The answer is, he is a person with a dream and a vision. And following it is not a privilege or a frivolity or a hobby, but an essential act of submission to the only thing that gives human life meaning.

    A fantastic quote I ran into this week from the book A Thousand Clowns: “I want to be sure he sees all the wild possibilities. I want him to know it’s worth all the trouble just to give the world a little goosing when you get the chance. And I want him to know the subtle, sneaky, important reason why he was born a human being and not a chair.”

    Yeah. Because we’re not chairs.

    • Emilie says:

      Simone, you really do have a way with words.

      I love everything you wrote. This mindset does come from a place of scarcity. And you’re right, it says more about the person spouting the criticism than anything else.

      Thanks for the amazing quote and the EDISON EXAMPLE! Brilliant.

      • simone says:

        Thanks, Emilie!
        I love the idea of “giving the world a little goosing.” Isn’t that what we’re up to? :)

        • Cherilyn says:

          Adore the goosing quote, too! Emilie–This was a perfect post for this time in January, when the sparkly resolutions we made a couple of weeks ago seem a little scary now.

          We only have our one life. Who are we not to live it our way? So glad someone added the Mariann Williamson quote.

          A few tough experiences in recent years have taught me that it’s useless to try to reason with people who insist that you need to operate inside their comfort zone. I’ve decided that all I can do is send out a prayer that we can all be free of fear and self-righteousness, and walk on, head held high.

  4. heather says:

    It’s interesting to me that, in my experience, the “type” to make the attacks (and I do see them as attacks) above, also tend to be hyper-religious in a very traditional “Christian” way… yet they forget Matthew 5:15: Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under a bushel, but on a lamp stand; and it gives light unto all that are in the house.

    • Emilie says:

      You know what’s funny? The criticism that inspired this post actually came from someone who is very much the opposite of a religious fanatic… (more on the end of “radical anarchist” actually) But that certainly does say something about the nature of extremist thinking, doesn’t it!

      Thanks for the comment, Heather.

  5. Really enjoyed this, Emilie– reminds me of this post:


    You keep on rocking your revolution. xoxo

  6. Gaetane says:

    Below is a quote I thought of when I read your recent great post (thanks for the reminder to banish the “WTF am I?!” syndrome.) I realize that the “G” word below is can be sensitive, so if you like, please replace it with whatever word you feel comfortable with: Universe, Goddess, etc.

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
    ? Marianne Williamson

  7. Janet says:

    right on, Em.
    I LOVED what Simone said above. This doubt from naysayers DOES come a place of scarcity and fear. But honestly, and sadly, we do come from a world of scarcity! Not because there isn’t enough. We have MORE than enough.. which is the ironic part. but our current economic system is one of scarcity and survival rather than sustainability and thriving.

    The way I see it, you HAVE to shine your light brighter. You can’t deny it, especially when you’ve seen it for what it is, and for the amazing things that you can do. There is NO turning back. The point is to help others along the way. It is contagious. And I firmly believe that these leaders (you, me, us) need to also give back in a big way. That’s all part of it. So no. You can’t sit down and shut up. You have to stand stall and walk the walk. With love. This is the only way to true thrivability.

    • Emilie says:

      A very good point, Janet. I feel especially strongly that multipotentialites have a responsibility to innovate. There’s so much potential inside of us, and we’re all so unique. I hate that we’re encouraged to deny who we are and conform to some ridiculous ideal of the “single purpose person”. I’d love to see all multipotentialtes use their gift to thrive and change the world. You know what that might look like? The Renaissance. :)

  8. Ethan says:

    Agreed! I often feel guilty when I think about quitting my day job to be a full time multipotentialite– there are so many people who are desperately trying to get jobs at the company I work for. But I am me, and they are them. It’s important to remember that we are not all in the same boat, and to feel grateful for the situation I’m in.

  9. alice says:

    well said emilie!

  10. “And i can’t help the poor if i’m one of them
    So i got rich and gave back
    To me that’s the win, win” – Jay-Z, Moment Of Clarity

  11. Han says:

    Wow, thank you so much for this post! I struggle with these thoughts all the time. Seeing them laid out so clearly makes a lightbulb go off in my mind– It’s foolish to play down your talents because of guilt, isn’t it?!

  12. Harrison says:

    Amazing post. Simple, short … but very powerful. I had to read it twice :)

    I actually felt the same “silencing” feeling when I was at my corporate job … so much for trying to introduce multipotentiality to the corporate world, haha.

    We will never be silenced!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    This resonated with me. Honestly the fallout of the economy (especially in my hometown of Motown) has marked me for life just the way my Grandparents were marked for life by the Great Depression. You see, not only am I discovering I’ve been a multipotentialite, I’m also seeing that it’s wise and practical in an unstable or rapidly shifting economy. Who are you indeed? Someone practical enough to see that when so many people *have* to side hustle and don’t want to it’s not empowering, they feel it’s almost a mark of failure. But when you choose it consciously and creatively amazing things can happen. There’s a lot to be said for conscious choice; it transforms everything.

  14. Emilie,

    totally get your point here. Something that always stands out for me most is that ever since we’re born, we’re asked:
    – what do you want to be when you’re older
    – who do you most admire and want to be
    – what are your skills and talents

    But then, when we’re older, we’re told to stop dreaming and get serious, you’re an adult now and that comes with “real responsibilities”. You’d better stop all that day dreaming as it doesn’t pay the bills et al.

    What The?

    I totally agree with you. Why have all these gifts then spend so much time, money and effort investing in them to build them and refine them, only to put them on the shelf. They’re there – use them. Make the Most of Them.

  15. Lakshmi says:

    Amazing site. I totally agree – we should be putting all our abilities to us to the maximum. Maybe the definition of ‘career’ itself will shift in the new millennium.

    Keep up the good work.


  16. I second Gaetane, I was about to post the Marianne Williamson quote. I have it on my wall and have always found it inspiring.

    “Lift as you climb.” is another favorite, but the one I am clinging to currently is from my favorite author…

    “We are not merely touched by an angel, we become the channel and the chimney through which the fire rages.” – Nick Bantock

  17. shara says:

    A good reminder to not stifle myself. Thanks. Just realized I actually kept putting myself back in order to not ‘offend’ anyone…

  18. Rachael says:

    Awesome this is wonderful and definitely motivational!

  19. Trracy says:

    I have thought things quite similar and have felt guilt over my gifts, blessings, and opportunities. I am inspired by the affirmation at the end of your post. Thank you!

32 Comments Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Who do you think you are? | Winter Reverie

Leave a Comment