I have known many people who do feel they are not equal to anyone else. Maybe it is like a friend of mine, one of the smartest and funniest young humans I know, who posted that she is worried sometimes that she will not live up to the standard of all the talented people she sees all around her, that she won’t make the cut. This is what I wrote to her in response:
We all feel like fakes sometimes. I am like 3 times older than you and I still feel it. But, while I was feeling that on and off all these decades I also became a kick ass artist who has created some amazing stuff. So, doubt all you want, it’s normal, just KEEP WORKING ON WHAT YOU WANT TO BE. That is what matters in the end, the work you do, not the feeling you may have once in a while.
Where did that originate with her? Honestly, I don’t know her well enough to say for certain. But if it is like many others I have known, it could be a disconnect between her desire for high achievement (based on her intrinsic understanding of her intelligence and abilities, of which there is a lot), and the recognition of her limitations of health, opportunity and ambition. I don’t think it’s an uncommon disconnect among young people. They have grand dreams and those dreams often narrow as they age. There is a moment at which they only see the narrowing of the dream, not the blossoming of another dream that will be even greater and more fulfilling.
Or maybe it is like my ex-wife, who felt she didn’t have enough value to stand up for what she wanted and expected in a marriage while she was married to me. I wish she had been able to, but she wasn’t. Where did that lack of value come from? Perhaps the roots were in her parents’ decision that if you wanted to be a good Christian (which they were in many ways) then not only was acting bad not allowed, but expressing, or even having, bad feelings wasn’t allowed either. The consequence was that when she did express the completely common and expected feelings of growing up into maturity, those feelings weren’t allowed or validated. And that told her that what she felt, and thus she, was of little value.
How to Balance
How do you get a balance? It’s about practice. Just as an artist or athlete gets better by practice, so attitudes and perceptions do as well. You can think about changing an attitude but the truth is that attitude will very likely not change until you take action to change it, to practice a new attitude. This can happen if you let an old attitude or perception trigger a new way of looking at something. For example, when you catch yourself denigrating your abilities, allow that to be a trigger to say something positive and good about your abilities. You don’t do this to fake your way towards something, you do it because you are practicing being truthful about who you are in the world. You actually do have positive and valuable qualities. Stating that you have them is not egotistical or vain. it is reality. And since you are currently on the self-denigration side of the scale you aren’t really in reality. This practice is getting you back to a balance, that is all.
If you don’t think this is true in your family, I humbly suggest you probably don’t know much about your family. In that case, You probably want to look at ‘Family #1’ in the series. That’s about family skeletons.
In my family we have very sweet people and they are all a bit nuts as well. I am completely and utterly thankful for that. My mother was the epitome of the loud-mouth broad. First, she was loud. Second she was really funny. Third, she didn’t give a hoot owl’s ass if someone liked her that way or not. She made fun of pretense and absurd efforts at self-righteousness. She was unabashedly sentimental, crying a river each and every time one of her grown kids returned home. Have them all together at the same time? She was a blubbering mess. She could make friends with the least likely of strangers in the most unlikely of places. I mean, come on, she met her best friend in a grocery store line. And I am proud of that. It’s the thing I love most about my sister’s and myself, that we can, and do, make friends with strangers almost every day. My mother is the reason for that. Do I think some people think that is a bit nutty? Yep. Do I care? Nope.
My mother’s brother, Uncle Bunny (born on Easter), had this dry sense of humor combined with a absurdist’s ability to connect completely disparate things together. He was the founder, for example, of the Marin County Zeppelin Society. It was open to all survivors of lighter than air crashes. Since anyone alive has obviously not died in one of those crashes, it was open to anyone. It really was just an excuse for him and his pals to get together every Saturday for coffee and brunch, but he went so far as to convince the County to put an official emblem up on the board leading into town, alongside the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs. Why did he do that? Because it was funny. It cracked him up and he figured it would make others laugh too. And it did.
My Father meanwhile, didn’t have the same sense of humor as my mother’s side of the family. But he did have something I treasure, and that was his embracing of the new and different in the world. He wasn’t afraid to bring things back from foreign lands for us to wear, use, ride. He brought back from Peru a ‘Ruana’ for each of us. It is an outer wool garment, like a shawl, only thicker and more substantial. We wore those things for all our childhood. He imported 2 Solex Mopeds from Europe for us to ride. They are motorized bikes and once again, we rode them everywhere for years and years. We were the only ones to have either of those things and I thought that was very cool. Those are just two examples of how my father was. He loved to find great design and bring it home. He didn’t care if it was something everyone else had, as a matter of fact, it was much more interesting if no one else had it.
Those are just a few examples of the sweet nuts in my family. Our daughters and my other sister, Jackie, also have that same trait of loving their individuality, easily make friends, and have a great time exploring the new and unique offerings the world has to give.
A few examples from my own life. I once went through a fast food drive-through and was so taken by the beauty of the person’s voice talking to me through the speaker that I got her to come into the software design studio I was working at to do voice-over work. I didn’t have anywhere to display my daughters’ ceramics so I hot glued them to the ceiling in my kitchen (yes, they stayed up). I painted our white picket fence with black splotches so it would match our dalmatian, Oreo. I once did an art project on tan lines. I went to the beach, found people whose tan lines were showing, and asked them if I could photograph them. The vast majority said yes and the resulting art piece, which was those photographs collaged onto a striped beach towel, was in my Master of Fine Art Exhibition at San Jose State University.
Can this sound strange to some people? Yes. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. Embracing that heritage has made all the difference in me being a happy and creative person. I know I am always able to find humor and beauty in my life, am always going to be open-minded and curious about the world around me, and can make good friends and keep good friends, no matter where I meet them.
I highly recommend a lot of sweetness and a lot of nuts!
When our daughter’s were young we home schooled them for 3 years. For the youngest, Chelsea, it was Kindergarten through 2nd grade, Connie it was 1st – 3rd, and Rebekah it was 3rd – 5th. We didn’t do it for religious reasons, even though we were within a church that had a lot of home schooling families. We did it primarily because we could. My wife at the time, Kathy, was a teacher and, after seeing so many others in the church do it, decided she could do it too. This took a lot for her since she was up until then not a very confident person. But she believed it and we did it. It was a great time for our family and our kids. It was wonderful in many ways but the way that was most important in my children’s life was this: There was no idea of school is where you get educated and home is not. On the contrary, everywhere is where you got educated. Home, street, groups, books, church, museums, nature, grandparents, etc. It didn’t matter where you were, you were learning.
And that all-inclusive idea of education was driven by curiosity. If you are learning about science in your back yard while checking out bugs, then it’s very likely you will always be curious about the bugs in your backyard. If you are learning about the history from your Grandfather who fought in WWII then very likely you will always be curious about the lives older people have lived. If you are learning about art from your dad, seeing him working in his studio every day, then you are likely to be curious about creativity in others for the rest of your life. Curiosity is the engine.
Around The Bend
So, does that mean you or your kids have to have been home schooled to be life-long learners? Of course not. Home schooling was just a part of my daughter’s upbringing that contributed. Just as important was the example their mother and I set by being curious and willing to explore well after our formal education was over. And all that really was was an enthusiastic curiosity about what was around the bend. Instead of fear of the unknown I tried to instill in them a curiosity of it.
Of course, that isn’t the same as being reckless or stupid. One needs critical thinking skills, good judgment and wisdom, but those things don’t preclude being curious about life. They just allow your curiosity to proceed with a modicum of safety is all.
I encourage you to embrace your curiosity about life, don’t be afraid of it. It is much better to fear a life not lived then one that has been lived to the max, right?
As funny as this is, it brings up a pretty good point. The whole point of teamwork is to not place blame on individuals. The blame, and the glory, goes to the team instead. You see this all the time in sports during interviews after games that a team has lost. “WE let our fans down”, “WE didn’t execute properly”, “WE were slow to adjust” are all things you might hear from a coach or a player. No pointing at one person.
Even sports analysts not connected to the team do this. In American football, you often will hear an analyst talk about how a team is weak in a certain position. not that a particular teammate is not good enough.
Yesterday I watched at Katie Ledecky was interviewed at the Rio Olympics. Her relay team had just won the Gold Medal in the 4x200m relay. She came back from 1 1/2 lengths behind to crush the competition and was the main reason the team won. But you heard none of that from her. She only talked about the team’s performance, not her own. Others pointed to her as the reason, but she pushed off the praise, turning it back to the team.
Knowing vs Saying
Does that mean she doesn’t know she was the reason? No, she knew. Among the coaches and athletes talked about above, did they not know who actually was to blame? Who dropped the ball at the crucial time, who didn’t live up to expectations? Of course not. They all know. But they didn’t say it outloud in public. In private, in the coaches room while figuring out the future team? Of course they talk about individuals and their performance. But in public? No. Because doing it in public is judgment. Doing it in private is evaluation. And the best teams thrive on neutral evaluation, not harsh judgment and condemnation.
Creativity is often seen as a solo pursuit. But that isn’t always true. Yes, the spark can seem to happen within the individual sitting alone in the studio. But all you have to do is think of all the creative ideas from others that went into that individual’s history long before the moment of inspiration hit to realize he or she does not truly create alone.
The Spark Within
Here is the drawing I did yesterday. I am using it in my workshop at SXSW later this week. I drew this while I was streaming live on Periscope. I play a game called ‘Guess the Quote’ when I do my napkin drawings, with the viewers playing a variation on Hangman, guessing one word at a time while I draw the image and give hints.
I came up with the idea of these two very unique characters, one standing on her head, to illustrate the idea of upending expectations. I had already drawn the two characters and had written in the quotes when one of the ‘#NapkinKin’ (my tribe on Periscope) suggested something that led to an even more effective illustration of the idea.
The Spark Without
He suggested I turn the second part of the quote upside down. I had already written it in so I couldn’t change it on the actual napkin. But I was able to change it in Photoshop. However, even without changing it in the drawing the idea sparked my decisions about how to complete the background.
All of a sudden I was thinking about symmetry and reflection, making the top and bottom look the same but not exact, so if you rotated it 180º you would feel it still made sense (granted, this making sense is within the context of a drawing that really isn’t about making sense, but you know what I mean).
In my larger charcoal and pastel drawings I often use models. The best ones are the ones that know it is a collaboration. Yes, I am the artist. But the creativity is sparked not just from within myself but by them as well. That is why models are often called ‘Muse’. Because they inspire the creativity of the artist.
If you are an Artist, never forget that your creativity, no matter how individual and unique you might thing it is, owes much to the artists of the past and those around you who inspire and collaborate with you.
If you are not an Artist, never forget your creativity isn’t restricted to that fact. Your creativity is not just about what you create, but about what you inspire others to create as well.
Either way, creativity is one way you can be sure to change the world.
At first I thought this quote was perfect for my ‘Mind Image’ series. Then after I drew the drawing I started to think it was somewhat pedestrian. Then I got it. It isn’t pedestrian, it’s understated. I can just imagine a upper crust British actor saying this in a period movie as Galileo is being tried for heresy or Socrates is forced to drink hemlock.
History shows us the consequences of new ideas in religion can be extreme. One need look no farther than Jesus as an example. He was crucified because of the threat his new religious ideas had on the established religion and the established government of the day. And there have been millions more over the centuries who have suffered and died because the threat their ideas pose to someone else.
The process of proving something in science often starts with an individual having an idea that something may not be as it seems and starts to investigate. As he or she investigates their ideas are not yet fully proven and are often met with skepticism and distrust. Luckily, science has a built in mechanism, the scientific method, that eventually allows ideas to prove themselves. The recent proof of the existence of gravitational waves proving Einstein’s 100+ year old theory that they exist is a great example.
Name an art movement and it probably started by being disparaged and attacked by the people involved with the more established art movements at the time. Sometimes even the movements’ names often started as a cut. Fauvism (Wild Beasts) was the dismissive name given to Henri Matisse’s art movement of 1905. Impressionism got it’s name when a critic took it from a title of a Monet painting (Impression: Sunrise) and wrote a satirical negative review of their first exhibition. In fact most art movements tend to take shape in rebellion against a prior movement. Pop followed Abstract Expressionism. Pre-Raphaelites rebelled against Raphael and the Mannerists who followed him.
It’s not likely you, or anyone, has a completely open mind. I know I don’t. We end up believing certain ideas and it’s hard to let go of them, no matter how open minded we are. So, how do we keep as open a mind as possible? Well, the goal, for me at least, isn’t to have a completely open mind. It’s to have a mind that holds on lightly to ideas. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe them, but it means I am willing to accept the possibility that a new idea might come along that changes my mind. I don’t grab new ideas willy nilly just because they are new. But I do allow my mind to consider new ideas before I judge them.
Yesterday, while I was drawing this, we were having a discussion on Periscope when someone unknown to me, or the #NapkinKin (our tribe) who were watching the scope, came in. He proceeded to say he was depressed and suicidal. I had a feeling he was a troll but I took it seriously anyway, doing my best to give him reasons to live. Others in the scope immediately helped out, giving suicide hotline numbers, explaining that they too suffered from depression and anxiety, and in general trying to help. It was amazing to be a part of it. It really made me love my #NapkinKin tribe more than ever before. He was in only a short time before he said an ominous “Goodbye…”
Mind and Body
I have no idea who he was or what he was about. I hope if he was serious we helped and if he wasn’t he will mature and not do such stupid things. But it doesn’t really matter for the sake of this discussion. The reason I mention it is because we then realized we could substitute ‘mind’ or ‘brain’ in place of ‘body’ in the quote and it would be the same.
Loving Doesn’t Equal OK
Loving our bodies, or our minds, is not the same as saying everything about our bodies or minds are perfect and no change is needed, just as with a misbehaving child. You aren’t going to tell the child that because you love them even when they misbehave that that means their behavior is ok. It’s not ok and you will likely find a punishment for them as a result. That is not the same as not loving them. As a matter of fact, it actually is evidence that you do love them (as long as the punishment is not abusive and hateful).
The same is true with your bodies and minds. If you have an issue with weight that precludes you from living a healthy life, then you are loving your body when you take action to reduce the weight. If it isn’t about weight but about bad skin, or no muscle tone, or bad acne, or a disease or illness, or something else, you are loving your body when you take action to remedy the situation as best you can. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you don’t know some areas need to change.
Evaluation vs Judgment
And so it is with our minds or our behaviors. I can love my mind while still realizing my predilection towards procrastination and avoidance needs work. I can still love my mind while still realizing my hot temper or anxiety or depression or ADHD or any number of things needs to be addressed.
The key in all of it is honestly evaluating who you are WITHOUT judging and condemning who you are. Evaluation is neutral. It says ‘this is an issue and I will address it’. Judgment is morally condemning. It says, ‘I am stupid for letting myself get fat.’ or ‘I am worthless because I can’t focus on something long enough to accomplish it.’ or ‘I hate myself because I can’t stop drinking.’
How Different Would It Be?
How different would you see yourself if you loved yourself no matter what? How different would your progress in whatever area you need or want progress in be if you allowed yourself an honest evaluation of yourself instead of condemning judgment?
Have you ever seen two people whose faces are so different from each other that when their photographs are shown side by side they both look really strange, maybe even ugly? Their head shape, the placement and proportions of their facial features, their hair, their coloring, their skin are so different that it’s a jarring visual juxtaposition when it occurs.
If we happen to be one of those two people we can easily start to compare ourselves. Her forehead is smoother and rounder than mine. My eyes are so much closer together than hers. Her neck is smoother. My lips are thinner. And the list goes on.
What I think is surprising is it’s usually both people that feel that, not just one. The thin blonde looks with envy at the curvy brunette while the curvy brunette wishes she was thin like the blonde. The freckled one looks wishes she had the golden tan of the other while the golden girl wishes she had the fair skin of the freckled one.
Here are two videos that show off how different we all look from one another and how, when we compare beauty to beauty we end up seeing most everyone as ugly at some point. Why is that? First is one with famous celebrities
The second is of non-famous women
So, how do you get past this dilemma? By seeing yourself clearly. Not for who you are not, but for who you are, who you are made up of and how who you are fits together so well. And if there is something you want to change, resist judging yourself negatively. Instead evaluate and make a plan. Body too big? Make a plan. Hair too drab? Make a plan. Character too immature? Make a plan.
You are under your own control. You see your beauty when you see yourself clearly. And that is when you will see everyone else as more and more beautiful as well.
Note that it does not say “Lions do not take into consideration the opinions of sheep.” It says they won’t fret unnecessarily over them. They won’t take the out of context and will not blow them up to be more important than they are.
If you listen to the blithering buffoons on talk radio, you know their job is to get people riled up and wanting to come back for more. They want ratings so they do their best to push people into extreme positions en masse. They want followers, in other words. They want sheep.
A lion (metaphoric, not actual) doesn’t need to bend to every wind of opinion or every idea espoused by someone, especially someone who is obviously under the uneducated influence of one extremity or another. A lion sets his or her own course based on intellect, education, exposure, open-mindedness and experience, all the while listening and considering other’s opinions, just not overreacting to them.
There really is barely any other time of the year that can engender such high levels of stress among parents and families as Christmas. Why is that? It’s the same reason stress rears its ugly head at any other time, expectations of perfection. The tree needs to be perfect, the food, the presents, the living arrangements, the activities, the conversation, the travel plans, and more. The perceived need for perfection is the recipe for stress.
Then why do certain families not have the same level of stress as others at Christmas time? It certainly isn’t that they decorate less or plan less or do less. It’s because they have all those activities in their proper place, as secondary to love. Loving their family and friends is what drives them, not presenting perfection to them.
What is most important
That doesn’t mean you aren’t showing love by making a beautiful Christmas experience for them. Working hard to make it all be fantastic is great. What isn’t great is thinking that if everything isn’t perfect you have failed. Because failure comes from your family walking away from Christmas feeling stressed themselves. Success comes from them feeling loved.
Focus on that and you won’t let Christmas get your tinsel in a tangle.