Who Would You Be?: Silencing Self-Doubt by Showing Up

art practice

Practice makes progress!

Who would you be if you'd never listened to the voices who told you who you could or couldn't be? 

I'm wondering that now as I doodle a quill on the corner of my notebook. I wondered that yesterday when I attempted to paint a flower that looked like a flower and not a ring of simple brush strokes. I wondered that this morning as I sat down to paint a floral wreath that I actually thought was not bad. Good even, for an amateur. 

Who first told me that I couldn't draw? And whose voice stuck? And what made me listen and believe them? I can't remember details; all I know is that, for as long as I can remember, I've said that I can't draw. "Me, draw?" I'd say with an embarrassed laugh. "I don't know how." "Stick figures, mostly," I'd answer when asked, even as I made the most of a marginal squiggle. The voice I once heard stopped being someone else's and became my own. Art was something that other people did, but not me.

But then why can't that someone be me? Perhaps what natural talent I lack can be compensated for by hard work and commitment. The growth mindset, as life coaches call it.

I see my daughter struggling sometimes as she looks at my work then back at her paper. Even though I am myself a beginner, she still sees me as someone a mile ahead of her, and the distance is daunting.

"I can't draw, Mama," she says. Nothing I say will convince her some days; my words as powerless against her self-doubt as they are against mine. But when she see me painting, the art calls to her somehow; and even if she "can't draw", she still picks up a pen, a brush, a marker, a paint palette. Sometimes, when words fail, actions speak louder.

So I show up and practice my non-art. I'll call my drawings doodles; my paintings, explorations; my lettering, scribbles. Pen scratches and ink stains and puddles of paint, and hope something emerges from the debris of determination and delusion. 

stargazer lily

I won't dare call myself an artist. But maybe, in the quiet of my room, when no one is looking, I may become one someday after all.

Okay, enough wallowing in would haves and getting stuck in want tos. The more important question to ask, I guess, is this:
Who could you be in five years if you started today?
Think about it. But not too long—you and I have got work to do.

Have 10 more minutes? Watch this TED talk on the growth mindset and the power of yet. It might change your life (or your child's).