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Barakamon and the Artistic Ego

barakamonThe Barakamon anime is ending in a couple of days. This makes me really sad. Barakamon has been one of my favourite shows of the season. It’s one of the few slice of life anime that genuinely puts me at ease, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that there is catharsis in the narrative. I can see a lot of my own worries and anxieties reflected in Handa’s character. As he learns to de-stress, I can feel myself letting go as well.

(Perhaps that’s what those moe slice of life shows need more of: not an excuse to escape from reality but to embrace it, to tell the viewer that things will be okay.)

But I digress. I’ve been wanting to write about Barakamon for a while but kept putting it off, partly because I’ve been so busy lately. But it’s also because the reason Barakamon has resonated with me is so deeply entangled with my personality faults that I’d feel uncomfortable discussing it openly. Still, considering that I’d written a post not long ago urging fans to be willing to criticise themselves, it’d be hypocritical of me not to practice what I preach!

I should preface this discussion by saying that if you identify as an artist of any craft (or if you’re a perfectionist) you’d probably relate to Barakamon the same way I did. I highly recommend the series if you haven’t seen it already.

By the way, this is an autobiographical post for the most part, so it’s pretty much spoiler free.

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So yeah, where do I begin? I’ll start with the answers of some of the reader questions I got on Ask.fm, which partially inspired this post:

How important are grades to you? Have you ever gotten a “B” on your transcript? If yes, how did you feel? If no, how do you think you would feel? 

Yes, I’ve gotten Bs before. I always feel like total crap. In fact, I end up moping for days – I get really childish and immature over it. A couple of times, I’ve literally cried over getting a B. Yeah…

So yes, grades are very important to me, but mostly because my ego is very fragile. I’ve been trying very hard not to link my self-esteem with my grades for a long time now. But I find it really, really difficult not to make that emotional connection, even when I know intellectually that grades are such a flawed means of measuring intelligence. I’ve never been in danger of failing anything ever, so it’s really just turned into an ego stroking thing for me at this stage. I really hate that part of myself.

Do you ever get jealous?

Hoo boy, yes. I have this unhealthy tendency to compare myself to others and to get really possessive about the things I really care about, to the extent that I can’t properly distinguish between love and jealousy at times. When I really like someone, I always think of myself as totally inferior to that person and I start lashing out and making myself and others miserable. It’s one of the reasons why I really wouldn’t trust myself to be in a romantic relationship. I’ve been trying to get over it, though!

At least I haven't punched any of my teachers in the face...

At least I haven’t punched any of my teachers in the face…

So yes, as you can see, I have a lot in common with Handa, in the sense that I’m pretty much a kid in an adult’s body. My petulant side doesn’t come out all the time, but it does often enough for me to come across as somewhat socially awkward in real life.

One of the ways I’ve escaped the trappings of my personality – or at least attempted to do so – is through my writing. I pour so much of myself into my words that sometimes I feel I don’t have anything left for my real world interactions. Because I’m so much more skilled at articulating emotions through words rather than through actions, I feel as if people don’t really know how I think unless they’ve seen my work. I suspect that’s a common way of thinking for an artist.

Also, as I’ve stated before, I’m a high-achieving student. My parents never actually pressured me into doing well at school (in fact, they’re usually telling me to GET A LIFE), nor did I receive any private tutoring. I earned my high scores largely to satisfy my humongous ego.

Kind of like this girl

Kind of like this girl

My ego may spur me to achieve things and to win awards, but it’s also really self-destructive. I don’t actually believe I am intelligent or talented, and I secretly obsess over people I think are better than me. One day, I will think of myself as an artistic genius, the next day a total failure.

I won’t harp on about my self-esteem issues. Instead, I’ll focus on how I’ve been trying to break out of my unhealthy pattern of thinking. First of all, perspective is really, really useful. Stories like The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde show the artistic personality for what it is – neurotic and ultimately self-serving. Barakamon shows this too, but in a more light-hearted manner. By laughing at Handa’s neurotic tendencies, I could learn to laugh at myself too. Artists can be really stupid people.

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Thinking critically about one’s education is also handy – that is, appreciating the difference between academic excellence and intelligence. Liking and trusting teachers because they compliment you and tell you you’re smart is all well and good for nurturing a long-term love of learning, but you need to learn to respect a teacher for their ideas, first and foremost. Otherwise, you’ll just placidly accept ideas from a higher authority, making you gullible and prone to an elitist mindset.

The realisation that I’m not as smart or as clever as I think I am is the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned. It’s a lesson I’ve had to relearn many times, because cram sessions aren’t enough to take it in.

But that realisation starts to settle in when I talk to people and realise how much they know that I don’t, when I go out of my way to expose myself to new knowledge, and when I open my eyes and appreciate the things in front of me. More than anything, these are the experiences that inspire me to write.


It’s not just Handa’s ego issues I identify with in the anime, although they certainly form a big part of why I love it so much. There’s something warm and endearing about the atmosphere of the entire show. Barakamon invites you into a part of this funny and interesting world we live in, and it tells you, gently and without any condescension whatsoever, that there’s more to art than the often lonely process of putting one’s brush to paper.

Barakamon is not a perfect show. Like all works of art, it is flawed and imperfect. The humour meanders and comes off as repetitive at times. Also, the transition from manga to anime has resulted in some noticeable pacing issues and truncated character arcs. But Barakamon is a show with heart, and it tries to look outward instead of inward. When I watch it, I realise that my own worries are so very inconsequential.

While every episode of Barakamon is entertaining, I think episodes 1 and 11 are the best of the lot. These are the episodes that bring the underlying themes of the series to surface. It’s the tried and true formula of the coming of age story, but it’s presented with such raw honesty that it truly does feel universal, regardless of whether you identify as an artist or not. I think anyone can relate to that feeling of hitting a wall and not knowing what to do with yourself. The wall seems even more intimidating because it’s largely something of your own invention.

And the solution? How to scale that wall of convention? The answer is as simple as it is complicated. We help each other climb it.

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Posted on September 26, 2014, in Anime Analysis and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. WE HELP EACH OTHER CLIMB IT!

  2. Great article!
    I think I have the opposite problem. When I’ve become at least reasonably skilled at something through lots of hard work and effort, people tend to say I have a “talent” for that thing, when I think anyone who has the motivation & puts in the effort could do it. It feels like they’re reducing years of work to “talent”.
    In the end I realised that when people use words like talent, a lot of times they’re giving themselves an excuse as to why they couldn’t do something similar, which is probably why no matter how many times I insisted that any skills I had were due to lots of practice, they always said it was because of talent.
    Japanese people were often different though. There’s a lot more of the “lots of hard work=getting good at something” mindset among them for some reason.

    Lately I’ve been getting better at just accepting “you have a talent for ___” as the complement I’m sure it was intended to be, although I still have a while to go.

    • Likewise, some of my skills I developed through hard work and effort myself, I found out there are always a dozen others better than me. Yet, when that skill is exposed to some other people, they will say I have “talent”, yet, it kept making me recall all those “more talented” people who were able to do the same thing I did with much more better ability. Instead of feeling of proud of being praised, it just makes me feel even more inferior.

    • Interesting, isn’t it? When you’re considered “talented” at something, I wouldn’t say it comes down entirely to hard work. It often means a combination of things: you’ve received a lot of support and encouragement from others, you’ve got high motivation, you have limited distractions, and so on. As much as I agree that putting in the hard work means more than any nebulous kind of talent, skilled people are often given the right circumstances that would allow their hard work to pay off.

      I think people often say “it was just hard work, not talent” as a way of being humble. It’s also a way of encouraging others by telling them that all skills can be learned. But to a person with low self-esteem, it can come across as insulting. What sort of message does it send to them if they’re not good enough? “You don’t work hard enough! You’re just lazy!” It’s no wonder some people use words like “talent” as a way of comforting themselves.

      But in any case, I think “you have talent” is intended as a compliment to you, as an acknowledgment of the skills you do have. Just take it as positive reinforcement and as an encouragement to keep doing what you’re doing :)

  3. Nozaki is another character from this season displaying the artist’s neuroticism, albeit in an even more exaggerated, comedic way.

    Chihayafuru’s Taichi is another character who I think comes at a similar set of personal issues, just from a somewhat different perspective.

    • Nozaki’s neurotic personality is funny, but it doesn’t deal with the more layered parts of the artistic personality. That’s fine, because it’s not the focus of the comedy, but he was the least interesting character in the show for me. But oh man, Taichi. His self-esteem issues are just so easy to relate to. He might not be an artist, but the pressure he puts on himself is insane.

      Speaking of other series which deal with similar themes to Barakamon, Sakurasou features one protagonist who is the neurotic artist and another who is the jealous, insecure admirer. I related to both of these sides really well.

      • Oh, yeah, I agree that Nozaki isn’t very nuanced. I found him interesting, though! But maybe that was because I thought he was relatable.

        As for Taichi, beyond just the self-esteem thing, he exists at such an interesting point on the talent:hard work continuum, because he clearly does have talent AND hard work, so why doesn’t he win? If you have all the tools, and you’re doing everything right, what else is there? It’s out of your control.

        And Sakurasou is on my list! Gotta get all my Okada shows!

  4. I’m going to approach this more from an athletic perspective, because I think it demonstrates a different response that people can have when they reach long period of adversary (or the feared creative “block”). I think Barakamon has a very positive message for some, because Handa was talented a the first place and he recovers his talent after doing some soul searching. But here’s a question: what kind of message is it supposed to give to “admirers” like Kanda Sorata in Sakurasou who never had success in the first place?

    Also, I apologize in advance for using a personal anecdote……. ^__^;

    I was a varsity competitive swimmer for most of my life. I started swimming around age 7; it was the main sport I pursued until I was 18. I had 3-4 practices a week at my swimming club during my primary school years. In high school, I did six practices a week and attended specialized training camps. I was a starter as a freshmen, and later became captain during my junior and senior years.

    In short, I was very fast. I was actually the fastest member on my team during my first two years of high school swimming.

    But I hit a “plateau” as soon as a entered high school. http://www.active.com/articles/in-a-slump-how-to-break-that-plateau

    What is a “plateau”? In sports, it essentially means a period of no improvement no matter how hard you train or try. It’s very similar to the academic or creative failures that you refer to, but in sports like competitive swimming, it’s depressingly quantitative and stark. Over my four years swimming in high school, I barely dropped time in my best events. Essentially, I stayed at the same speed despite training more days and pouring more enthusiasm into swimming than I ever had before.

    And then I had my teammates, which to be honest were also my closest rivals. It doesn’t feel good when they surpass you, especially when you had always been faster than them in the past. They’re still technically my friends, but a sport is a sport. Hard work makes a difference, but there’s also those who are talented enough to be fast while training only once or twice a week. Jealousy is pretty much inherent even if you don’t want to mention it. You can’t avoid comparing yourself when “time” is such a quantitative and indubitable quality. Every single time you step onto the diving block, you’re being evaluated, except your report card isn’t private.

    Honestly speaking, once you reach a certain level, the pressure is unfathomable. You feel sick and queasy even before racing. It’s not a casual competition anymore. People swim until they throw up (Free! omits this part about swimming), and pretty much anyone who gives a dime has done it once or twice, myself included.

    What’s so fun about this? I’m not quite sure. That’s probably why the term: “burn out” exists. http://www.swimmingscience.net/2013/05/why-do-young-swimmers-burnout.html#

    I’m a third year in college now, and I haven’t swum in three years. Whenever I go home, my swim team tries to convince me to train with them, but I avoid the water like the plague and find myself extricating myself with excuses. There’s two reasons. First: I’m don’t want them to see my stomach. Second: I know I’m really slow now and I feel like I have an obligation to be fast for them, fulfilling the idealized image they have of me (I still hold a school record in one event, after all).

    Yes; I know it’s really only my ego here. I know my swim team would love to see me no matter how slow I am now. They’re fantastic, amazing people and some of my best friends during my high school years. They’re great people and they loved me for who I was, not my abilities or talents. None the less, I really can’t bring it upon myself to go back.

    My point is: right now, my response was to curl up into a ball and hide.

    I guess my question for you is: have you ever had the urge to become a hikikomori from a failure or challenge you’ve experienced? What kind of message would you have for the real and figurative hikikomori’s out in the world?

    • Wow, thanks for sharing your story. While I’m familiar with the plateau in athletic pursuits, it’s not something I’ve experienced personally, so reading your story was a very stark experience. I’m sorry to hear that all of that happened to you. I certainly hope you don’t think of your time swimming as wasted effort, even if you no longer swim now.

      I’ve never personally failed at anything to the degree that my opportunity to re-enter the field competitively was closed to me. That’s one area arts and academics have over sports. But in high school, I did play the violin. I was the lead violinist of my school from eighth grade to the very end of my high school career. The pressure did get to me after a while, and it was no longer fun to play the violin. After I left high school, I stopped practising altogether. These days when I occasionally pick up my instrument, I’m a shadow of my former self.

      Earlier this year, my old high school concert band wanted me to return to play with them. My brother egged me to join. But I didn’t go. I just stayed home and locked myself in my room, feeling very miserable about myself. I felt like all those endless hours I’d poured into the violin was wasted effort because it had led to nothing in the end. So I relate to your story about swimming, even if my plateau was not quite to the same degree as yours.

      That short spell of misery aside, I personally don’t regret taking up the violin. I still have the skill to read music and play tunes, after all. And the passion I poured into the craft, at least in the beginning, was something that felt very real to me, even if I now direct that passion into other pursuits. I learned how to focus and to dedicate myself to something, and that’s an important life skill. That’s why I say that, even if pursuing something results in failure and/or burnout, it’s not wasted effort. As hard as it is to transition into another passion, it’s part of the learning process.

      This leads into my answer to your question. My message to hikkikomoris and to those who see themselves as failures is that you’re not a failure. You’re an enormously admirable person for pouring yourself into something you love, even if those efforts are not appreciated widely.

      You also need to look outside of yourself and your own failures and appreciate that it’s a big world out there. There are so many opportunities ripe for the taking, so many inspiring people out there. When you look at your failures with that perspective, I hope they seem a little smaller. As crippling as failure feels, it’s not permanent. There is always, always hope, as long as you are alive. So please have faith.

      • I’m surprised to learn that you’re a fellow violinist froggykun! I started playing at around the age of 10, but I didn’t start doing any regular practice till around the age of 13. I am currently 16. Prior to this age, my musical ability was stagnant. I assumed that I didn’t have the aptitude to play the violin, so investing time in practice seemed to be a frivolous pursuit. I played in my school orchestra, but only as one of the minor violinists that didn’t have a major part to play. A few of my peers were vastly more skilled than I, and for a while, I was indifferent with regards to their skill level. But after playing alongside them for some time, I began to develop a feeling of crippling inferiority. I often struggle to recognise my own abilities, and I simultaneously vastly overestimate the skills of others. But after acknowledging my mediocrity, I made the decision to begin diligent practice.

        The notion that I may be able to reach the same level as the better violinists in my orchestra was inconceivable at the time. I simply thought that I could reduce the apparent gargantuan disparity in our skill. So, after a few months of intensive practice, I thought that I could play the violin a little better than before. But for a long time, I was completely oblivious to the fact that I had surpassed the level of many of those peers that I greatly admired. Even now, I consider myself an average player at best. Although I am supposedly a pretty decent violinist according to those around me, I have failed to remove the disparaging label that I had seared upon myself. I feel as though I should concede the fact that I have vastly improved, and even praise myself. But for some reason, I fail to recognise my own improvement. I continually practice, with ever increasing intensity, hoping that I will someday be able to relinquish this cognitive dissonance.

        Anyways Froggy, I think you should totally start playing the violin again. Then maybe when I’m a bit better we could do a cover of some anime music on violin ;)

        • Thanks for sharing your story, Jeremy! I hope that you continue to improve at the violin and that you’ll gain more confidence in yourself. I’m sure that you sound amazing :)

          And… I see what you’re saying. It’s hard to have perspective when it comes to evaluating yourself honestly. It’s even harder to believe when people tell you you’re actually above average at something, because it’s hard to stop comparing yourself to an ideal. As much as that can kill one’s confidence, it can also be a great motivator. When it comes to the violin, after all, there’s no such thing as being “the best”. So everyone should practise hard in their own way to achieve their own vision.

          Oh, and since you asked, I do still play the violin sometimes, but not during my uni semesters. When I start playing, I end up doing it for hours and that kind of prevents me from doing my coursework properly ^___^”

      • Ahhhh, thanks for responding froggy-kun! >_____< I didn't mean for my post to come off as melodramatic as it did, since I only focused on (the more negative) half of the story to make my argument with respect to the raw emotions in Barakamon (ie: the "hiding" that Handa undergoes after he punches the director; feeling shame for disappointing everyone's expectations, etc).

        — Start Digression —

        I feel kind of bad for leaving you misinformed on that sour note, but I'm kind of touched and pretty happy that you addressed my question in such a serious and personal manner. I think I kind of like that quality about you, froggy. XD You're such a sincere and empathetic person.

        To clarify, I never hated swimming or regretted it. Even as I grew tired of it as a sport, I stayed with it because I loved the people I was with. I loved my coach, and my teammates were my best friends. I loved their attitude and their approach on life. I guess an analogy would be: Haikyuu! is an enjoyable anime not because of the volleyball–it's enjoyable because you like the characters and how they act on the court. I never dreamed of quitting swimming while I was in high school.

        The ego/jealousy story also has an epilogue. Personally, I've only ever found jealousy or envy to be a transient thing. It hurts at first when the n00b Kousuke Kanzaki surpasses Handa at calligraphy. For Rita Ainsworth in Sakurasou, her initial jealousy towards Mashiro causes her to make cruel plots. However, if they're really your friend, it goes away over time. Mashiro leaves Rita in the dust in terms of artistic ability, and at some point jealousy turns into happiness or pride for your friend. I think that would describe my story well.

        So yes–I agree with you completely. I don't consider burnout or failure as wasted effort, because I treasure all the memories and people I met in the journey along the way. Those experiences and memories shaped the person I am now. That's much more important to me than the sport itself.

        —- End digression —-

        Since I'm such an unfocused writer, I think I missed making my point over these past two posts. XD This was the idea I was trying to point out:

        What if Barakamon as a story went differently? After Handa goes to Gouto Island, suppose his calligraphy didn't improve? After successive competitions, he places lower and lower?

        Some athletes and competitive artists have a very narrow world. Of recent anime this past year, I think Handa and Kong Wenge (Ping Pong the Animation) start out with especially narrow worlds. "If you can't be the best, then it isn't worth continuing." In some senses, I think I'm a little guilty of that too.

        The thing about being successful is that the more successful you become, the more pressure you get. You collect a larger body of fans who always have their eyes on you, always expecting you produces masterpieces or miraculous feats. Even if you're successful most of the time, the 10-20% of time that you fail or fall short of everyone's expectations, it really really really really hurts.

        What kind of message does Barakamon give? If think Barakamon would be an excellent story if Handa doesn't win the competition in the last episode. Maybe I'm a little sadistic, but I want to see his ego completely destroyed, but recover in the last 5-10 minutes of the anime and realize that he doesn't actually care about how he performs at competitions anymore. Rather, I want to see him choose the calligraphy that he painted for (FUN!) on the island as something more precious to him than awards and the infinite escalator of Tokyo's formal institutions that's defined by stiff judges and probably elitism; the realization that the experience of creating is much more important than the finished product.

        But that's just me with my silly dreaming, of course. ;)

        (ugh… I wrote too long of a post again… q______q)

        • After having seen the ending of the anime, it’s surprising how much of the story went down the lines of what you wrote here. The message that quantitative success is not what matters the most really got through. I’m very satisfied with how it turned out!

          Also, reading the epilogue to your own story about your swimming put a smile on my face too :)

  5. Hmm… Can’t say much about an anime, but the first part of your article (plus the foreword of a particular printing of Ivanhoe) made me came up with this idea:

    As you know, a lot of artists don’t appreciate the fact of limiting themselves to one or two field: For example, Victor Hugo was a poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, plus he drawn with style. However, most of us identify him with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables (How many truly read the first one, not the Disney movies is still a question to me.).

    Now, imagine one famous Light Novel author suddenly jumps the train onto writing Historical Novel – Do not imagine Nobuna no Yabou – What would be your thoughts? Even if you are a fan of him, suspicious is inevitable. And in the case it’s a failure, well, suck for him – He would curl up and doing nothing for a long time just like you. The band Exciter could be an example of that (of course, it’s hard to keep the pace for 3 decades).

    Now, it’s the question of: Could your Ego limit your ability to freely create works of arts? Would you willingly risk your fame/fanbase for the sake of yours? What is true Ego: The way you want you to be, or the Way you want people to see you?

    One thing I learned: Never give your audiences anything to hope for (e.g The name Ivanhoe itself is meaningless to the world of that time, beside a few historical (mostly hypothetical, even now) cues.)

    • Could your Ego limit your ability to freely create works of arts? Would you willingly risk your fame/fanbase for the sake of yours? What is true Ego: The way you want you to be, or the Way you want people to see you?

      This is a really interesting set of questions and I don’t think there’s a straightforward answer to any of them. I think in broad terms, one’s identity – including one’s ego – is shaped by a mixture of internal and external factors. That is, the way you see yourself is influenced by how you want others to see you, and the way you want others to see you is influenced by how you see yourself. So the true Ego is probably somewhere between the two extremes.

      As for whether the ego limits your creative potential, once again I think the answer is both yes and no. It certainly does narrow your focus when you create your works out of self-gratification and/or a desire to be acknowledged. At the same time, the ego is a strongly motivating factor, and having strong focus does tend to produce better works. I think most artists have a small sweet spot, much as many of them endeavour to produce works across different fields and genres. Even a man like Victor Hugo had a small range when you put his work into perspective. There are just so many types of works he could not possibly have conceived, because a single human’s existence can only encompass so many ideas and experiences.

      imagine one famous Light Novel author suddenly jumps the train onto writing Historical Novel – Do not imagine Nobuna no Yabou – What would be your thoughts?

      This may just be me, but I absolutely love it when writers experiment and try new things. I’d totally read the shit out of a historical novel written by SAO’s author, or OreImo’s author, etc. I wouldn’t even care if the work was an artistic failure. I have the most respect for writers who don’t hedge themselves into one style or genre. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s audiences who demand every work written by an author to be exactly the same.

      I think you can see how this attitude of mine affects how I write myself, hm?

  6. I totally understand where you’re coming from here, and yeah, it’s a very hard habit to break. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt exactly way you do, but I’ve been actively dissuading myself from that way of thinking since I was around 13. I still slip into it sometimes though, especially comparing myself to others. But when I do it now, I try to look at it from a learning perspective. Think about what they’re doing differently which makes them better or worse than me, and try to understand what motivates them.

    That could also be that I just love over-analysing people, though. Anywhoo, here’s a story about me that relates to both perfectionism and comparing myself to others.^_^

    Within my group of friends, I would be considered to be sort-of the artistic one. Not because I was particularly skilled or talented. More like I had an imaginative flair that let me offer an unconventional perspective to whatever I was doing. Or just suddenly come up with something odd or interesting to do. So most creative endeavours were generally deferred to me.

    One of my friends one day challenged me to sculpt a lions head out of a watermelon. This is true. It was also the night before an important exam. I agreed. I did not want to study. Now, things like this is where I turn into a complete perfectionist. I have these grand ideas about how it’s going to look and get really excited. But then I try to satisfy these ambitions using a crappy knife I find in the drawer. Note; crappy knives aren’t ideal sculpting tools. Things slowly start to stray from the plan. Whiskers too short, the lower jaw becomes a salvage operation and I just can’t the the bloody mane to look right!

    I eventually completed it, but by the end I was so angry and dissatisfied with how it all went that I just shoved it into the fridge and left it there. The worst part came when my friends had a look at it. They had the nerve to tell me that it was “amazing”. It was ridiculous, were we even looking at the same thing?! All the mistakes were so obvious, I couldn’t understand how they thought it was anything above ‘decent’. Then they’d say things like “Well, I never could have done it..” And I’d think horrible things like “well that’s because you suck!” Damn plebeians, so easy to please!

    A thought like that is where I’d stop and try to see what they saw. Otherwise I’d hate myself for thinking myself to be above them in some way. I realised that while all I see are the mistakes, they see everything but. The ambition, the creativity, and the sculpture as a whole. It made me wonder why I was getting so worked up over the small things instead of focusing on the bigger picture here. And it really helped me to become less angry about the whole thing. I eventually came to terms with it, and in the end felt proud of what I had managed to do. But they are still wrong, the lion was pretty good, not amazing.

    TL;DR This story got very long, so I’ll stick a moral here: It’s unhealthy. All of it. It’s all unhealthy.

    • Thanks for sharing your story! I kinda wish I could’ve seen your watermelon sculpture – I bet I probably would’ve been one of the people calling the sculpture amazing, hahaha.

      But in any case, your story made me think of something. It’s true that when you create something, you tend to lack perspective because you’re so close to it. I also think that being hyper-critical of your own work functions as a kind of cushion to defend yourself from outside criticism. If someone tells you your work is bad, it’s okay – you already identified the same flaws yourself. In the end, coming to a more honest assessment of yourself is the healthier way of doing things.

      So yeah, maybe your lion was pretty good and I’m glad you came to terms with that!

  7. I have a somewhat different issue. I have a crappy superiority complex and I love shoving all of my achievements into others mouth and than be modest about it and say “it’s not that amazing” or “it’s only normal” in an attempt to make them feel like shit. That’s mostly just how I entertain myself though. I really should stop it though…It’s not a nice thing to do. Especially with people with self esteem issues.

    I don’t quite relate with Barakamon even though I do some creative arts (and take some very seriously). Whenever I lose something I take it as a learning experience and move on and try harder to make it better. I hate it when I get bad grades so I work hard to get better grades because it makes me happy. Nothing to do with self-esteem. I do understand how it feels to hit a wall and not be able to proceed (its incredibly infuriating). I suppose this is relatively normal and it does show Handa getting over it and learning to better himself.

    Why must you be so competitive though? Why do you feel so bad if you lose against somebody else. Why do you even care about others so much? All these things just lead to negative emotions and just bring you down and put pressure on you. Can’t you just work hard on making yourself better and better and reaching your own personal dream? By putting yourself into this overly competitive and comparative situation you are merely chasing a dream that is not your own. Why be competitive with a student who wants to be a doctor if you yourself (lets say) want to be a teacher? It’s silly and only takes the fun away from creative arts and academics. Why don’t you just be yourself (and improve yourself) and not try to be a better somebody else, because that is what you are essentially doing by being so overly competitive. When it comes to music I just do what I like. And I definitely hate being showered in complements when I know for a fact that I am not that good (only grade 5 piano) and that I am not as good as I want to be. Constructive criticism is the best praise for me. Being shown what it means to be good (inspiration) and how to become better is the best thing for me. I don’t understand why people try to avoid it actually. I thought the entire point of presenting your creative art to public is to be criticized for (and for the public’s entertainment of course). I was really baffled when Handa punched the man in the face in the first episode when he was simply giving some constructive criticism. I still don’t understand it very well.

    The only thing you should use others for is to help you set the standard. What determines what is good or bad is the average ability of the majority and being above or below that average. Sometimes to reach a certain goal (like becoming a teacher) you must know what the standard is. So often you do need to look around you and see what others are achieving otherwise you get to the point which Hiro got to in the anime. You think you are doing well while in reality you are not. But why should you get yourself involved with these people? Now you know what you need to do to become a teacher so why do you strive to go above it and torment yourself because you want to be better than that certain individual who you deem yourself as inferior to? Why do you care if the person you like is better than you? Unless they have achieved the goal you want to achieve, I don’t see a reason to be jealous.
    It’s like you are forcing out all the fun of creative arts and turning it into a business.
    Although I do think it is a good thing to look at others and be inspired. Otherwise you would have to figure out what your goal looks like from the scratch and that is pretty difficult (although I guess that is how people come up with revolutionary ideas such as TV’s). Learning from others I suppose.
    Now I’m wondering if there is much of a difference to learning from others and being competitive with others.

    But it’s also fine to have these creative arts as a hobby. Like Kumori-rain I have been swimming for a rather long time. Unlike him, I swim entirely by myself with the support of a coach (to tell me how to do stuff properly because it’s silly for me to go through the long process of figuring out the best way to do a certain stroke when somebody has already done it all). The only other people I have watched swim are those better than me. I know for a fact that I am pretty crap at swimming and relatively slow and that I have a mountain of problems. Similarly to him I am also not getting much faster either… and to me everybody either doesn’t know how to swim or is far better than me (and I suspect he is probably faster than me as well).I do acknowledge the people who have just learnt how to swim though. I almost never care about them though as they have nothing to do with my progress. However I do want to be better and improve. Why would I give up just because almost everybody who can swim is better than me? I’m not swimming to constantly win competitions or to get money. I’m swimming for fun. I want to be better of course because goals are what makes things fun so I look at others and evaluate how I can be better and I go try harder so I can reach my next goal of becoming a better swimmer. It can be slightly frustrating when progress is very slow but it always feels nice to swim. Swimming is a very enjoyable sport.

    Although I must say I do enjoy being better than others in things. Although that is mostly because its a useful defense mechanism (against people) and it is fun to bully my friends (if you know what I mean) :D

    TL;DR being overly-competitive with others is bad (IMO) but learning from others and striving to improve yourself is always a good thing.
    I feel as though I did a really bad job of trying to convey that message though and that I contradicted myself.
    I think this message is also shown in Barakamon with Handa learning that competition isn’t good and that he should just try to have fun and make himself better. Mostly focusing on the former half which I have never had to suffer through.

    • I have to say, I envy you for not envying others ;)

      I do get your point, and I think it’s a good one from a logical perspective. Comparing yourself to others so frequently becomes unhealthy it’s not worth it. At the same time, it’s very hard to accept that idea emotionally, so I think it’s very important to empathise with people who have self-esteem issues. People need to be told that they have worth and value, so being told “Stop comparing yourself to others” feels like very trite and insensitive advice. Not everyone has the ability to pick themselves up easily after a failure. You need to be at ease with yourself before you can look outward.

      So if you ever see someone who has the same self-destructive tendencies mentioned in your comment and in this post, I hope that you don’t tease them or tell them they lack perspective. I hope that you can encourage them by telling them positive things and cheering them up when they’re down. Then hopefully, they can learn from you and your positive attitude towards yourself :)

      And yes, I really like the message in Barakamon. It resonated with me a lot. Instead of comparing myself to others, I’ve been trying to have more fun!

  8. Great post, frog-kun!
    From time to time, I have these moments (or days) when I find myself stuck in front of a wall. I have great goals and plans, then all of a sudden I don’t know what to do with myself after seeing others around me excel at the things they like doing.

    I like getting good grades and my classmates and friends always praise me for my intelligence. But, somehow, that high regard they give me created a wall between me and them. I’ve heard them say that because I am not like them, who claim to only have average minds, they are hesitant to approach me whenever they need assistance in some of the lessons (for example, math or calculus). Before I knew it, there was a bridge between us and I wasn’t even the one who intentionally distanced myself from them. They’ve already created an image of me, who is really smart and untouchable. So whenever I hear them praising me these days, I don’t really take them as compliments, but as sugar-coated words of their insecurity. And by doing so, I tend to think of myself as even more of an inferior being, given that I already have inferiority complex due to my lack of social skills despite my academic intelligence.

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