The Virtue Trap
Updated: Apr 21
I love how beautifully my takeaway from "The Artist's Way" aligns with my Oracle card of the week. Synchronicity is one of the continuous threads weaving throughout the twelve weeks of "The Artist's Way" program so I appreciate how nicely it all seems to fall into place.
We're on Week Five of the Program: "Recovering a Sense of Possibility". There is a lot of meat in this chapter, like every chapter. I couldn't even begin to cover the whole so I am taking one little strand and unraveling it in the hopes it may inspire your own journey or inspire you to pick up your own copy of the book by Julia Cameron.
What is the danger in trying to be a virtuous person? What is foolish about loving others and wanting to help the people we care about?
I think most people want to think of themselves as good people. We help out friends and family when we can. We put the needs of our children and our partners before our own. We try to give back to community. We make a point of doing good things and being good people.
On one level, that's commendable but how often do you deny yourself some simple pleasure or indulgence because it's the virtuous choice? How often do you deny yourself something because deep down you don't think you deserve it?
You do good things for others but you habitually deny yourself. You buy gifts for other people. You do favors for other people, but how often do you buy yourself something or treat yourself just because?
You're undervaluing yourself and you're reinforcing that notion of low self worth by always putting yourself last. You're creating a self fulfilling affirmation that you are not worth the time or the effort.
When I read this chapter, it resonated so deeply with me. I don't buy myself things that I want unless I can justify it to myself - like is it something I can use for work or it has to be a special occasion like my birthday or Christmas, but even then, I won't get it for myself unless it's on sale.
I stumbled across an embroidered pair of Doc Martens a couple of years ago. I fell for them hard and started stalking them on the Doc Marten website as well as on reseller sites like Ebay and Amazon. I really wanted them but I couldn't justify the expense to myself. Never mind that Doc Martens would last me for a couple of decades. I would more than get my money out of them even if I bought them at full price.
But in my head I wasn't worth a brand new pair of full price boots. Foolishly, instead, I watched them obsessively for months waiting for the price to drop enough for me to feel justified in buying them. Of course, the Doc Marten website ran out of my size before the price dropped enough for my liking.
I eventually found a pair on a reseller site at a price that I could justify but I'd spent six months stalking these boots so I could spend like $40 less. The time and the circular thinking were so not worth that. I effectively reinforced the devaluing of my own self worth for $40.
I am trying to do better. This is my birthday week and the local New Orleans Vampire Cafe is having a special Storyville Seance event on the day of my birthday. As soon as I saw the announcement on their Facebook page, I knew I wanted to go, but it was days of me trying to talk myself into it. Even after I bought the tickets, I felt guilty because on some level, I don't believe that I'm worth the expense.
Even though I am trying to treat myself better, on a certain level, I still don't believe I worth it. Years of self work and dealing with the old traumas and I still have to talk myself up just to buy a ticket to a local event. I even found myself playing the old stalking game on a saddlebag purse that I really wanted.
Why can't I ever just buy myself something when it's full price? I know it's years and years of childhood programming compounded by more years of reinforced behavior patterns. So much to unlearn and push through.
Small steps, I think. I did finally buy myself a little Mondrian robot from the Met Online. Admittedly, it was only $24 but I paid full price. It has no practical value whatsoever. I cannot use it for any of side hustles or gigs. I can't use it in an art project or a YouTube video. I bought it purely because I wanted it and I am worth paying full price.
I have value. I don't have value because I can make things I can sell or because I can produce videos that other people might watch. I have value simply because I am me.
I am working to free myself from the Virtue Trap and to remember to put myself first sometimes. I am worth it, and so, are you.