Monthly Archives: April 2011
Last night, I was checking out some artist’s websites, gathering ideas and just getting a feel for what’s out there right now. I saw lots of wild colors, hard lines, intense movements and fine detail. I heard a little voice in my head tell me “Wow McKella, your art sucks out loud.”
I already felt a little lousy because for some reason, my mind kept replaying some hurtful past events, and one of the ways I deal with that is to look at art, but yesterday it backfired. I felt like my creations weren’t good enough, that my imagination wasn’t good enough, and that my skills weren’t worth developing. The worst part is, creating is a big part of who I am, so believing that my creations aren’t good enough is like believing that I’m not good enough.
I’ve poured way too much work into fixing my self-worth, so I wasn’t going to let this feeling go unchecked. I shut off the computer for the night and went for a walk. I even took off my flip-flops and walked barefoot around my neighborhood (I kept an eye out for glass and stuff, don’t worry.) Something about being barefoot heightens not only your sense of touch, but all the senses. It instantly connects you with the world around you.
I got to the park and I couldn’t help but smile, because nothing feels better than walking barefoot in soft spring grass. I heard the little voice in my head again, this time saying “My art expresses what’s inside of me, and what’s inside of me is enough.”
It made sense to me then. All through elementary school and junior high I made art to express what’s inside of me, and that got a lot of negative attention from my peers.
In high school, I continued to bring out my inner world with art while a lot of my peers focused on studying the outer world. Fantastic lifelike portraits. Trompe L’oeil. Boldly colored animals. I think I only represented something outside of myself when my teachers assigned it. I rarely worked with references and chose to create things the way I felt them rather than how they looked.
I’m more about texture than color; simple compositions, repeated motifs and very loose brushstrokes. Yesterday, I felt like my work was terrible. Today, I feel like it has, and that I have great potential. Sure, I’m using pretty cheap materials at the moment because that’s what the budget allows and it’s better than not painting at all, but I’m not concerned with making gallery-quality stuff at the moment. I’m painting to express what’s inside of me, and that’s it. It’s good enough.
Have you ever compared your creations to those of other people?
Can you believe it’s almost May? Weee, where has the year gone. I hope that wherever you are, the weather is as beautiful as it is here in Orem, Utah. After I publish this post, I think I’ll take myself on a picnic.
Handprint Soul is about becoming our best selves, whether this means peeling away the layers of insecurity, expectations, and anxiety that cover up our true selves or adding on to what you already have, trying on different hats to discover parts of yourself you never knew existed. Today’s topic falls into the idea of peeling.
Who were you as a child? Were you the same person you are today, or someone completely different? How did you spend your time? How did you feel about yourself? What did you want to be when you grew up?
I believe that as children, we’re completely ourselves and as we grow we’re shaped by our environment. We learn the expectations of society; how we should look and act, what should interest us, how the world “works” and how we need to change to be accepted. By middle school, most of us are shadows of the children we once were. By adulthood, we usually forget what it felt like to be a child at all.
So, who were you as a child?
I think about my childhood a lot. My mother is an avid photographer and scrapbooker so I’m fortunate enough to have my entire life documented through photos, journaling and every school project from preschool to high school graduation. A lot of the stories and ideas I come up with these days were planted in my childhood and germinated throughout my teenage years. When I recall my childhood, I remember that I spent my time either indoors making art, writing stories, reading, listening to music or outdoors playing with animals, riding my bike, climbing trees, and walking around making up stories. I only felt insecure around other kids. I was unapologetically goofy and wildly creative. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but at the time I don’t think I needed a lot. I wanted to be a writer and an artist when I grew up. I wanted to travel the world.
Who am I today?
After years of trying to squish myself into someone else’s mold, learn what the world expected of me and trying “be a grown-up”, I find that I’m starting to come full circle. When I’m not doing “grown-up stuff” like a day job and cleaning, I spend my time either inside reading, writing, making art or outside running, walking, playing with animals and just appreciating the outdoors. I spend time with my husband. I need more social interaction than I did as a child, but that’s good. I’m unapologetically goofy and wildly creative. I don’t let anyone make me feel insecure. I want to be a professional writer and artist. I want to travel the world.
Essentially, I’m the same person, and I feel silly for wasting all that time trying to change myself, but I guess that’s how we learn that our essence doesn’t need to change. Learning, growing and evolving makes us better people, but we don’t want to change who we really are.
If you have photos or journals from your childhood, spend some time with them. If you have access to children, spend time with them too. By remembering who you were as a child, you’ll remember who you are. Do whatever you need to do to be that person. Set boundaries. Work on your self-esteem and insecurities. Take care of yourself.
Best wishes on your journey to being your best self.
Good morning! I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. Mine was quite awesome and sugar-filled.
I had an epiphany the other day, during Zumba class no less. Nothing like joyful movement to get those juice flowing. Here goes:
I was not blessed with the gift of dance, or athleticism of any kind really. Most of my cousins are either dancers, gymnasts, play sports, and are generally quite talented in the realm of athletics. Not me. I’ve said more than once that I dance like a retarded gibbon and my nickname in grade school was slow-poke. I dreaded the Presidential Fitness test the school put us through every other year and PE class was horrible. I was the epitome of every gym class cliche; being picked last for everything, getting smacked in the head with volleyballs, slipping in the mud while running laps…I’ll spare you the rest. Though sports don’t really interest me, I’ve always wished in my heart that I could dance.
Anyway, my Mom’s been trying to get me to come to Zumba for months now, and I always wanted to but it never seemed to work out. Last Saturday, the stars finally aligned and I got to go. I promptly took my place in the back of the room so I wouldn’t injure anyone.
I knew I’d have a blast, even if my legs got all tangled up and if I couldn’t keep up. I watched myself in the mirror and I realized that while I may not be super coordinated and I don’t pick things up very quickly, what I did pick up looked really good. What I didn’t get right away, I faked. It felt good. I looked really happy, with a bright smile and my skin glowed. We can debate whether Zumba actually counts as dance, but I was dancing! Don’t get me wrong, I took a couple dance classes in high school that weren’t totally disastrous (beats regular PE any day) and when I did theater I danced well enough to hold my own (after months of rehearsal).
Then I thought, maybe the only reason I think I can’t dance is…because I think I can’t! I’ve always labeled myself as a non-dancer, but I loved to watch dance because it moves me on a very deep level. When I listen to music, sometimes I choreograph in my head. Sometimes at home, I close all the blinds, put on some music and let loose, and it feels good. Coordination and quick learning may not be my strong points, but I understand rhythm. I can be graceful. Through years of yoga, I’ve learned to better control my body. I can learn, I just don’t pick it up as easily as my cousins do.
Maybe I can dance.
By extension, maybe I can be athletic. Maybe I can run and play sports.
So now it’s your turn.
What are you holding yourself back from?
Maybe you tell yourself that you aren’t creative (Wrong: everyone is creative. It’s part of being human) Maybe you believe that you can never be assertive, or never dress a certain way or never start a business.
Why do we tell ourselves these things?
Either because of a bad experience in the past like the junior high PE class from Hell, or because we’re afraid of failure and rejection. My particular insecurity with dancing and athletics come from a lifetime of self-esteem issues which led to disconnection from my body, and comparing myself to others. I never thought of dancing on my own level, I only considered it something for “other people” who were naturally gifted.
So, I challenge you to take a risk and try something you thought you could never do, whether you’ve tried it before or not. Take that painting class, join that community basketball team, dye your hair blue, or sign up for a dance class. You know what? You might suck it up the first couple of times, but you might enjoy it too. If you enjoy it, pursue it and you will probably improve. I once had a teacher who told me “If you are drawn to something, if you admire it, that talent is buried in you somewhere.”
There’s a dancer inside me somewhere, and there’s a/n (fill in the blank) in you too. Find it, bring it out.
Have a great day!
A few hours ago, I had a massive craving for chocolate chip cookies. Enormous craving. I could taste that cookie in my mouth. I knew I had all the stuff to make them, and at that moment, I wanted nothing else in this world as much as one of my own chocolate chip cookies (If you’ve ever had my cookies, you understand. My cookies work miracles)
However, instead of baking a batch, which I can do in about 15 minutes, I paused. This is a warning. For one thing, I know that dairy and sugar make me feel awful, so cookies might not be the best choice. I know cookies are my #1 comfort food and I definitely feel out-of-sorts today. So instead of firing up the KitchenAid, I sat on the couch and thought about why ooey-gooey cookies have taken over my brain. What am I really feeling? What is this craving covering up?
For the first time in years, I feel like I’m really progressing into my creative potential. I’ve been painting all week, I’m working on my novel again, I’m looking for a voice teacher and I’m toying with the idea of performing again. It feels amazing, but today I just feel uncomfortable; I just want to lay on the couch in my comfy sweater, eat cookies and watch Supernatural reruns. Today I felt stagnant, like I was reverting back into that creative paralysis I’ve been in for months.
But the same issues, or “creative knots” I’ve been rolling around in my head for weeks came up again: How am I going to create my career? How can I do what I love and fulfill my creative potential while making money? Am I truly being myself? Who do I want to become? I wasn’t stagnant, I was contemplative. I find that when I’m in a period of growth, every once in awhile I’ll need a few days or a week to just think about things and untangle some of those “creative knots”, working out the logistics of what I’m doing and gauging where I am on my path.
After a few hours of journaling, pondering, and listening to Laura Hollick teleclass audios, I feel like I’m on my way to being the creator I’ve always knew I’d become, like I’ve cleared some of those inner obstacles. I don’t know how things will work out, but I know they will. I’m 22. I have plenty of time to work things out and nothing’s stopping me from enjoying the ride, because it’s all part of the process.
So we can take a few lessons from this experience:
- Turn stagnation into contemplation and progress– I hate feeling stuck. I always want to be accomplishing something or moving forward in some way. Normally this restless feeling I experienced today would have driven me nuts and I might have stayed in that place even longer wishing it would just go away. Everyone feels like this sometimes. Instead of letting that feeling paralyze you, understand that it’s an indication that you have some thinking to do. Make some time to study or ponder whatever’s troubling you and reach a conclusion, or at least a place that satisfies you at that time. Make this a habit and you might even look forward to these “contemplative” days instead of seeing them as a problem.
- Dispel the notion that we must be content at all times- I used to think that happiness meant feeling joyful and content all the time, but now I realize that without some emotional discomfort, a) we’ll never appreciate the good time, because everything must have it’s opposite, and b) we’ll never be prompted to grow or make change. Use these emotions as a tool for creating the life you want and whenever those not-so-fun emotions show up, you’ll know something needs some tweaking.
- Pay attention to emotional “symptoms”– Sometimes our emotions don’t manifest on the surface, but instead cause you to experience “symptoms”. For me, it’s food cravings, usually for sweets. For you it might be the urge to go shopping, a shift in the music you listen to, or you might just notice that you’re more on edge than usual. Recognize that these are all symptoms of a larger emotion, which is an indication that something in your life needs attention. See these symptoms, whether it’s emotional eating or a tendency to snap at your spouse, as a blessing. It’s a meter that measures your emotions.
Life is a series of changes, but I’ve always had a hard time accepting that and it tends to get me into trouble. I don’t like taking risks and whenever I have something good, I’m terrified of losing it, but I think most people are like that. The seasons of life come and go, bringing new lessons and opportunities with them, but they pass just as quickly to make way for the new lessons. This is how we learn and grow.
I think an inability to gracefully deal with change is the root of the depression and anxiety I’ve experienced. It all started when my life did a 180 in a single year and left my head spinning for years after. In one year, I left a toxic relationship of two years, changed my major, changed jobs, got engaged to my friend of four years, went on birth control, moved out of my parent’s house, got married, changed jobs again, moved, and changed jobs again, and started my upper-division coursework. Whew! That’s a lot for anyone to experience it, but should I still be reeling from it years later? Shouldn’t I have gotten used to it by now?
Another change I’ve had a hard time letting go of is my experience with theater in high school. I had a tight-knit group of friends whom I worked with in a creative environment, and I thrived in that situation. I was so happy in high school even though I had my fair share of boy problems and homework related stress. I haven’t been in a show since and I barely see my old friends. I graduated five years ago, I should definitely be over that, right?
How about graduating college, changing homes and jobs twice in the last year, and experiencing health problems for the first time in my life? Ok, that one I’m still dealing with, the loss of my student-status and of being around like-minded people all day, having that cushion of school to protect me from having to be a grownup. This one takes everyone awhile, but no reason to be upset, right?
The thing is, all of these changes brought with them lessons that I needed to learn, so if I’m still struggling with them, I obviously haven’t learned the lessons, have I? Instead of staying stuck in the past, why not examine each situation for what it had to teach me and move on? Learn to be a grownup. Seek out that tight-knit, creative environment I had in high school because it was obviously good for me. Learn what I really want to do with life so I’m not stuck in the throws of graduate depression forever.
Change never stops; the lessons never stop. Live each season as it passes; grow from each one. That’s the beauty of life; it’s never stagnant, even when it feels like you’re not progressing. Something will change either on it’s own or because of a choice you make. Life, like people, is always dynamic and evolving. Learn, let go, and enjoy the ride.
This post was written as part of the Self-Discovery, Word by Word series. This month’s series is hosted by Mara Glatzel at Medicinal Marzipan, who has chosen the word CHANGE. Please go check out the details and take part!
Have you experienced any difficult change lately?
“Learning to do back flips is so scary! Like when you can’t see the ground yet and you’re just up in the air…”
Most of my cousins are athletes. Runners, dancers, gymnasts, quarterbacks, you get the idea. I’m not. PE is a distant memory I’m still trying to erase and my nickname in grade school was “Slowpoke.” Didn’t bother me too much, I knew it was true.
I overhead two of my gymnast cousins talking about learning backflips, and these are the kind of kids whose bodies just seem to move effortlessly to their command.
“Not me.” I said. “If I’m going to do crazy things with my body, it’ll be on a yoga mat. Not flying through the air.” Then I realized, most of my life I never thought of doing anything with my body. I was just a brain riding around in my body, the idea of actually doing something with it, connecting to it in a way that comes so naturally to my cousins, was radical.
I thought about it for awhile. I used to be a couch potato but now I run (run/walk actually), do yoga, hike, and actually know how to feel my body; to live in it instead of just using it as a container for my brain. I’d learned to see it in a realistic way, but connecting to it was something else entirely. My body is actually a part of me. It’s not all me, it’s not my essence, but it’s part of me.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many of us only really feel our bodies when they’re uncomfortable, like if we have a stomach aches or if we pulled a muscle. How often do we think to feel it when it’s just being? Or when it feels good? Learn what it feels like to be sated, slightly tired, or a little hungry. Know what your body feels when it needs exercise, or a certain food, or sunshine.
Try “body meditation”, just by sitting quietly and consciously occupying part of your body. Pay attention to your stomach, your legs, or your shoulders and really feel what’s going on there. Tune in a few times a day to get an idea of what’s going on in your body.
I’ve found that learning to occupy our bodies is a huge step towards a healthier body image as well as intuitive eating. How will we learn the subtleties of gentle hunger and fullness or nutritional needs if we can’t listen to our bodies? How will we love them if we practically forget they’re there?
How do you connect to your body?
“I hate my thunder thighs.”
“I can’t do anything right.”
“I’m so stupid.”
How many of us have heard (or said) something like this in the past week? It’s ok, I raised my hand too. Self-hate and criticism is an epidemic, and as part of the initiative to stop self-hate, Voice in Recovery has issued a The April Self Love Letter Challenge, encouraging readers to write love letters to themselves.
I loved this idea, because I believe that the only way to combat negative self-talk is to replace it with positive self-talk, and sometimes we need to write those positive thoughts down to help them stick in our minds.
I encourage all of you to participate in this wonderful challenge, visit Voice in Recovery for details.
So without further ado, here’s my letter to myself:
I wrote to your 13-year-self awhile back, but now I write to the woman you are today. You’re all grown up now, but still essentially the same person as that terrified, overwhelmed eighth grader with no fashion sense who just wanted to fit in. Now you know you’d rather create your own mold than try to fit someone else’s. You’ve realized that your worth is infinite and doesn’t exist in the opinions of others. It isn’t measured by the number on the scale or on the tag of your jeans and doesn’t depend on your compliancy with social norms or expectations.
I know we haven’t always been friends. I haven’t always liked you. Sometimes I’ve been really mean to you, like those months I forced you to exist on 700 calories a day, or when I scrubbed your face with rubbing alcohol and a loofah to tame the teenage breakouts, or when I thought you were weak for feeling afraid of growing up. I’m sorry for letting people take advantage of you because I thought you deserved it. It took twenty-two years for me to realize how strong and brave you are and how much love you have in your heart. I mistook your empathy and sensitivity for weakness.
At only 20, you made the decision to never diet again and to learn to love your body no matter what, which led you on an incredible odyssey of learning the novel concept of self-love. Instead of burying your problems in food and trying to control your body, you were determined to face those issues head-on while still being gentle with yourself if it was too much. That took guts. You learned to love your awkward goofiness instead of trying to act sophisticated. You embraced your introverted, contemplative nature instead of trying to be the social butterfly you felt like you should be. You never let anyone tell you who you are, because you already knew. Most of all, you realized that it’s ok to love yourself, that self-hatred and criticism isn’t right; you didn’t have to participate in the national epidemic of self-loathing.
Now, you’re a terrified 22-year-old who still has no fashion sense but is confident enough to wear tee shirts and jeans anyway and not give a damn. You’re not the life of the party and you’re ok with that. You’re ok with being the quiet girl who would rather be at home watching The Muppet Show, baking cookies or cutting up magazines to collage.
I’m sorry for thinking you were worthless; that no one would ever love you or that you deserved horrible treatment because you could never get any better, that boyfriends cheated because you weren’t good enough for them, or that you couldn’t do anything right just because you couldn’t fulfill someone else’s expectations. I’m sorry I tried to force you to be something you weren’t so everyone else would accept you, and for taking so long to realize that the only person who truly needed to accept you was me. I love you the way you are, the oddball sense of humor, the dirt under your fingernails, and the flipper feet. You’re special, no matter who loves you or who hurts you. I promise I’ll always be there for you. I might let you down sometimes, but I’ll do my best not to. Remember how special you are, just for being yourself.