I’m walking in downtown Toronto and I spot an art supply store. My heart does a little pitter-pat as I remember that I’ve been there before – it was one of my “stand and gaze and dream about being an artist” moments. I left the store with nothing. This time, feeling emboldened by my recent achievement, I walk in proudly, determined to buy at least a couple of tubes of watercolour. I feel like an artist as I peruse the shelves, looking for the right shades for my next project. I’m glowing with excitement as I lay my items on the counter and reach for my wallet. I feel powerful.

Then the cell phone rings. I find out that I messed up an important date – the facilitators I’d hired for a workshop on Wednesday are actually coming on Tuesday. I’d sent them the wrong date. Now I have a hoarde of people coming from across the country for a two day meeting, and the itinerary I sent out is all screwed up. And the handful of people who are coming (from the local area) just for Wednesday might not be able to come if their schedules aren’t flexible. My mood drops. I’ve screwed up. My self-talk has taken a drastic turn and I’m not an artist anymore. I’m not a leader either. I am a failure.

Wallowing in self-doubt, I leave the store and wander down the street. I enter another store and meander through the sales racks. The store clerk spots my art supply store bag. “Are you an artist?” he asks. I pause for a moment, ready to say “no, I’m really not,” but then something inside me rises up and I straighten my shoulders a little. “Yes, I am.” “What do you do?” he asks. “Watercolour,” I say. “So far.” “I’m an artist too,” he says. “Mostly I do Chinese form of art.”

I leave the store, and though not entirely recovered from the phone call, I feel at least a little buoyed by my first opportunity to call myself an artist.

I am constantly amazed at how quickly self-talk can whirl in an about-face direction.

How do you define yourself today? Or break it down to this very moment? Artist or failure?

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