Such she often felt herself—struggling against terrific odds to maintain her courage; to say: "But this is what I see; this is what I see," and so to clasp some miserable remnant of her vision to her breast, which a thousand forces did their best to pluck from her.

Lily Briscoe has these thoughts about her art in Chapter IV of The Window. Lily’s primary struggle throughout the novel is to be able to hold clearly onto her selfhood and subjectivity regardless of how other people may perceive her. Whenever others get too close to her while she paints, she panics, as if the nearness of outside opinions is a threat. Unlike with other insecure characters, Lily does not react with anger but instead with self-doubt and a kind of paralysis that keeps her from finishing her painting.

And it was then too, in that chill and windy way, as she began to paint, that there forced themselves upon her other things, her own inadequacy, her insignificance, keeping house for her father off the Brompton Road, and had much ado to control her impulse to fling herself (thank Heaven she had always resisted so far) at Mrs. Ramsay's knee.

As Lily begins to paint in Chapter IV of The Window, we begin to see the shape of her self-doubt. Instead of striving for marriage like Mrs. Ramsay, Lily has chosen an unmarried artist’s life, caring for her aging father instead of a husband. However, society views her goals as foolish, leading Lily to feel insignificant and small in a world that calls Mrs. Ramsay the symbol of beauty. Although Lily is not immune to the beauty of the Ramsay family, she also knows she doesn’t want it for herself, but currently lacks the confidence to assert that without fear.

For at any rate, she said to herself, catching sight of the salt cellar on the pattern, she need not marry, thank Heaven: she need not undergo that degradation. She was saved from that dilution. She would move the tree rather more to the middle.

Lily has these thoughts during the dinner party in Chapter XVII of The Window. She places the salt cellar at a specific place on the tablecloth pattern to remind her of an idea she had for her painting. This reminder carries her through the dinner as an emblem of her painting and her identity as an artist. As Lily observes in horror how exhausted Mrs. Ramsay seems, this emblem of her vision reminds her that she can choose art instead of marriage and does not need to follow in Mrs. Ramsay’s footsteps.

There issued from him such a groan that any other woman in the whole world would have done something, said something--all except myself, thought Lily, girding at herself bitterly, who am not a woman, but a peevish, ill-tempered, dried-up old maid, presumably.

This quotation appears in Chapter III of The Lighthouse, as Mr. Ramsay attempts to engage Lily Briscoe in conversation while she paints. As Lily struggles to resist offering Mr. Ramsay sympathy and repeating the same patterns of gender relations modeled by Mrs. Ramsay, she deeply feels the social consequences of that resistance. Although not giving in to Mr. Ramsay preserves her artistic vision, it means that Mr. Ramsay might label her “dried-up,” and “peevish” for not conforming. That Lily imagines these insults suggests that she has internalized some of this societal disapproval, making the battle to resist even more difficult.

And as if she had something she must share, yet could hardly leave her easel, so full her mind was of what she was thinking, of what she was seeing, Lily went past Mr. Carmichael holding her brush to the edge of the lawn. Where was that boat now? And Mr. Ramsay? She wanted him.

Lily has these thoughts in Chapter XII of The Lighthouse. Lily’s deep consideration of the complexity of Mrs. Ramsay has led her to a new way of relating to herself. Whereas previously she had to fight to hang on to her thoughts, now Lily is “full” of her own ideas, her own way of seeing. She passes by Mr. Carmichael with barely a thought and even wishes to communicate with Mr. Ramsay, if only metaphorically through her art. She has developed a sureness of self that will allow her to at last create her painting.