The Struggle of Identity as an Artist

Melissa | Mental Health Blog

By Melissa Lipnick

If I’m being honest, I went to graduate school to obtain a title. I had a need for validation, and only three little letters next to my name could provide what I was seeking: M.F.A.

Growing up, I drew and painted, sang and performed, and immersed myself in anything creative simply because it brought me joy. Like the work of play, I was practicing at forming myself without even knowing it.

But one day, I found myself knee-deep in adulthood, in a world that values a simple explanation for who and what you are in the world, to the world. And herein is how I began to struggle with my sense of self.

I never wanted to have to declare myself as an artist. Creating art is akin to breathing for me. It is in its purest form an act of communication, a practice, and an action. But lost in the blank slate of adulting, I had to find a way that bypassed my imposter syndrome. So, I did what any American twenty-something who’s looking to hide from reality does: I ran to graduate school.

The three magic letters next to my name were helpful. But after years away from the professional world while mothering, I yearned to be seen again as a creative. I pushed myself to feel comfortable again with a paintbrush in my hand. And I did the thing that we do now: I snapped a shot and promptly shared my work on social media.

It took awhile for me to process why I felt worse. It became hard to feel like anything was worthy of making, if it wasn’t worthy of posting. In short, my own worthiness felt tied up in likes and comments. I used to value the experience of creating, but with social media, I began to value the experience of seeking validation. I found myself right back where I started when fresh out of college, hoping to be seen as good enough to be called an artist.

Social media has fundamentally changed how I produce as an artist. The instantaneous feedback (or lack thereof) affects the type of art I choose to create. In this day and age, it’s hard to envision abandoning social media as a method to share my work altogether. Yet above all, I value my mental health and creating for the joy of it- just as I did as a child.

So, I take breaks now from Facebook and Instagram, deactivating when I feel like I can no longer hear my inner voice. I long to feel present and authentic in my daily life and in the art I make. Sometimes saying “no” to social media is how I honor that need. Ironically, in order to truly communicate via art to an audience, I have to remove myself from the conversation.

To breathe, I create. I am more than a title- we all are. I’ve learned to consider it a “CliffsNotes” rather than a definition of self. And at the end of the day, I never really needed those three little letters beside my name to validate me. Turns out, I was an artist all along.

Melissa Lipnick lives in Cleveland, Ohio, USA and is an incredibly talented artist with so many strings to her bow. You can find out more about Melissa and her work by:

Following her on Instagram: @melissagailcreative
Check out her Website: