"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." - Vincent Van Gogh

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Crimes against Creativity, Part 1...Seeking Validation

A little girl sits at her desk and painstakingly colors a beautiful masterpiece of her family. Carefully she puts the final touches on the face of her little sister. "Done", she says proudly as she walks over to her parents sitting on the couch in front of the TV watching the season finale of "The Bachelorette." "Look what I did", she says confidently. The father glances over and pats her on the head "That's very nice Bridget" he says. The mom, absorbed in the final rose moment says "Yes dear" without lifting her eyes from the screen.

The process of seeking approval has started. Bridget will then proceed to enter 13 years of school where she will continue to seek endorsement from her teachers and her peers in the form of grades, awards, number of friends, invitations to parties, dates, boyfriends and college acceptances.

On through college, graduate school and into the workplace it goes. Round and round and where it stops nobody knows - BECAUSE IT NEVER STOPS!!! We seek validation our entire lives - whether it be from family members, church and community, bosses, online chatrooms, etc. We are looking for people to define us by our actions or our accomplishments.

SEEKING VALIDATION KILLS THE CREATIVE SPIRIT! It kills our ability to function to our proper level. It kills our joy and makes us nervous creatures who partake of validation's evil twin "people-pleasing" (I'll cover that another day).

It is counterproductive to let other people define your life. What sets anyone up as an expert on you? Do they understand your inner workings as well as you do? Do they feel your emotions to the same extent that you do? Do they view the world through your lens? Have they experienced your particular brand of challenges and accomplishments? Do they even think like you? Do they have your best interests in mind?

Why do we give people that much power?

When I was in high school I loved art. It was so much fun for me every time I created something original. When I made something at home just for myself, I proudly hung it on my bedroom wall, feeling complete and happy. In addition were the things that I created for my art class at school. Things that I worked harder on and was even prouder of. I would pass it into the teacher, seeking affirmation... B+! "What? What do you mean a B+?! - that's an A if ever I saw one! Why did you give Bonita over there an A? That's not half as good as mine! "

Did, I say that to the teacher - NO, I took my project back and quietly stored it at the bottom of my locker with a little piece of my soul. As the year continued, alone with the B+'s my spirit became more deflated and my joy in art started to decrease incrementally along with my belief in my artistic abilities.

Soon it came time to go to college and choose a major. I went to a liberal arts college but did not plan on majoring in art because.... no one encouraged me to do so! I was afraid people would mock me or think me out of touch with reality. I could just picture it : "You want to pursue art? oh...", as their eyes drop to the floor. I couldn't bear the thought of being told that I wasn't good at the very thing that made my spirit soar. Because of this fear, I avoided taking art classes or expressing my interest in the subject. After two years of floundering through dead end courses,  I quit college, directionless.

Flash forward a few years. I was happily working as a graphic artist by some strange twist of fate. As I progressed in the field I considered taking a job in NYC. During that time I helped out in the church and three people affirmed my ministry gifts.... so I left the art world and signed up for college to receive a ministry degree! Where was my brain?!

Throughout my life, art has been my sole source of income and continues to be my great joy. Had I had the confidence to follow my heart I would not have wasted so much time chasing the wrong goal.

Today's challenge is to recognize where you are seeking your kudos and stop! Make your art because it pleases you, not the judges or the masses on the world wide web. Write that story because it is in your heart and it wants to come out! Play that song just because you can! Take that picture because it's begging you to!

Don't worry if other people like it or not. It's for you. It's a piece of your spirit to share with the world - and that, in and of itself, makes it beautiful! You have a song to sing... sing it! Do the birds sit in the trees and worry about what other's think about their song?

There is no accounting for taste or preference. There are top recording artists that I don't listen to. Personal preference. There are rooms in the art museum that I don't enter. The art is good, It just doesn't speak to me. It does speak to others however.

Everything creative starts from someone's heart. It is their personal expression to the world. Respect that we all have a right to create and put our art out there. It's ok if no one gives you a thumbs up as long as you like it!

Maybe only one other person will be blessed by your work. When I started this blog I did it because I had something stirring inside of me. I didn't know if anyone would read it (except for a few people who were obligated because they loved me and wouldn't hear the end of it if they didn't). But I decided if it touched just ONE person then it is worth doing, and usually that person touched is ME!

Don't wait for the affirmations of others to continue in your passion. Do it boldly and proudly knowing that for today, you are doing your best, and your best does matter!

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