Self-love

Newsflash: You are not a genius (Thank God!)

14 months ago I did a google search that changed my creative life.

Rumi

I typed "Art retreat Ireland", hit return and winced. Two things were going through my mind: 1) I shouldn't be doing this.

2) I need to do this.

Search presented it's results and the next thing I know I'm looking at a web page offering 'A Space for Dreaming", in 8 weeks time, in Bantry, Co Cork. A couple of days later, I'm in the post office sending off a postal order to secure my place. I made arrangements to kennel the dog, cattery (yes I made that a verb) the cat, I hurled next month's rent under the bus, followed by Ms Inner Critic, booked a hotel room.... and then I panicked. What was I doing going to an art retreat?

But, of course I knew.

I was going to find and entrench myself in a creative community. I was latching on. That there would be amazing art workshops was a bonus, but I was looking for something more, connection.

I went with that intention, I showed up, I got in there and I made myself known.

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The creative identity doesn't exist in a vacuum.

You can't just don your apron and go about your day if there is nobody around you to play with, talk to, learn from, cheer. Who will you share your creative joy with? Your discoveries, your challenges? Who will encourage you, who will inspire you? Who will understand?

In his book 'Show Your Work', Austin Kleon address the 'lone genius' myth about being a creative. This is the misleading (and damaging) idea that the 'true' artist is inspirationally independent, not in need of social stimulus, a lone genius at work. Kind of like an immaculate conception, his muse just arrives, directly on the horse of God. I must say, I can relate. I always used to place artists on pedestals, attributing to them the classification of genius.

Credit: Kris McGarvey

Kleon refers to Brian Eno's reflection on being an art student in which he says,

'like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.' 

However, unsatisfied with this, Mr Eno discovered that there was no such thing as an immaculate conception, that

'there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving ... all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work. So I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. Let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while...'

Thank GOD! I don't have to be a genius to make art! Phew... where's me crayons?

How liberating is that?

And I've found it to be true. I was always 'creative', I always had creative friends, but at one point in my life, I went off course and fell into a more rigid set up. I found myself sneaking my creative life, because I was alienated from my sources. And while my creative self still managed to survive, the longing inside me for something more grew stronger than the need for safety. I knew what I needed to do was to surround myself again, find a scene in which to implant myself, create the conditions under which I could not just survive, but thrive.

Yearning to belong

That art retreat in Bantry was the 'coming out' of a creative identity I had been afraid to embody. I refer to it and my decision to show up, as the gift that keeps on giving. It has led to my connecting with artists and makers all over the world. I have been inspired and encouraged to grow and flourish and I'm always nurturing and growing those connections.

What makes you stand out?

 

Every connection I've made since stems from this. It's like being listed in the creative Golden Pages! I am now a proud member of a group here in Ireland, a network of creative entrepreneurs brought together by Tara Prendergast, a creative business strategist at the helm of Biscuit. I have joined many networking groups in my time and I have to say, I've always felt like a bit of a spare at the meetings and events, maybe it's a bit cliche, but I just 'never fit in'. Maybe it's just me, but I think creatives need to do that kind of thing waaay less formally (although no less effectively) and Tara knows this, so our get togethers feel very different.

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Moral of the story? 

So, what I'm saying to you is this... GET OUT THERE and find a community. Stop waiting until you're 'good enough'. It probably won't be a geographically convenient community, so, to quote a friend of mine at the dinner table,"stretch or starve". The kind of people you're missing in your life are not all contained in your local area, it's not 'handy'. You wont bump into them or happen across them by chance. You have to reach out but let me tell you, it's worth it.

Join a FB group, take a class, pm an artist you admire, comment on their threads, their blogs, we don't bite, in fact we love that! Why not go the whole hog, give yourself a panic attack and sign up for that retreat that you have always found excuses not to attend.

You're always welcome to come and play with me in Sligo!! That's what I'm readying for you there, a big ol gathering place for all our creative selves to get together, be nurtured and inspired.

One more thing

A friend I recently made, only made possible through this kind of reaching out, gave me a little book the other day called "When I loved myself enough", by Kim Mc Millan. It's a beautiful little book celebrating the gifts we are capable of giving ourselves, once we make one very important decision.... that we are worthy. I have it open right now on my desk... here's what it says...

"When I loved myself enough, I quit settling for too little"

And on that thought....

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Always, Amanda xoxo

Plot twist! How to craft a self-love story from a shitty script.

Every Little Thing is Gonna be Alright Have you ever listened to the lyrics of the Peter Gabriel song ‘Don’t give up’?

Such a heart wrenching depiction of a man at his wit’s end, bereft of his pride, his identity, lamenting the loss of his usefulness, his place in the world, belief in himself…‘I never thought I could fail’. It’s about a man adrift, amputated from his spiritual home.

I find this song so real to life and deeply moving.

It seems he’s struggling with expectations, an implied hand-me-down measure of success, ‘taught to fight, taught to win’ and he believes he has reached a point of ‘no fight left, or so it seems’. It’s a failure story.

First, you have to hear it

Do you have a failure story you tell yourself? I know I do. There was a time I was unaware of it, didn’t realise it was a story. I mistook it as a fact, a personal truth, a dirty secret. Everything I did was an attempt to conceal this truth from the world. I didn’t know it was a product of another burden, the fear of judgement, and that only with perfect behaviour, achieving perfect outcomes, could I have any sense of immunity.

News Flash… there is no immunity from Judgement!

I spent a huge portion of my life trying to avoid judgement. Ironically, in my quest, the unconscious strategies I employed invited lots of it… I attracted the very thing I was pre-occupied with. Isn't that funny (Eh, No!), but that’s what happens. Wherever your energy is invested, life also issues cheques from there.

If you’re invested in avoiding anger, be guaranteed your pay checks will be full of it. Same for disappointment, disapproval, conflict…whatever. These are the arenas of judgement, ruled by a panel of critics.

Retire the Peanut Gallery

The world is full of critics. Oh yes, chalk that down. The thing is, the critics aren’t just out there, in the world… the social phenomena of internalisation brings them much closer to home. That's how we get inner critics.

If enough people are mean to, or hard on you, even if it’s just one (but influential) person and it threatens your lovability, you learn to be mean to or hard on yourself. Same goes for disapproval, expectation, regard, neglect. In it’s simplest form, it’s a case of ‘Monkey see, Monkey do’.

So you pick up the cues, internalise the habit and critisize yourself relentlessly in the hope that this strategy will produce the ‘right’ behaviour to ensure the outcome of complete protection from judgement.

That’s how it worked when you were small right? Your behaviour was shaped to suit those in power. Your job was to avoid upsetting the adults. The unspoken instructions of ‘Be a good girl so I can be happy with you’, really meant ‘Don’t blow my cover child, I’m trying to appear in control here’.

Want a Plot Twist?

Break the pattern! You can’t expect or wait for the hander down of this pattern to change their position before you change yours. You can’t control that, so you have to do the work on what you can control.

Stop waiting

As Jesus said ‘forgive them, for they know not what they do’. It’s the only way to release yourself from a story where you’ll always be wrong. You may design scenarios in your head where you argue your position, get to have the upper hand, correct the offending party and bring them to the realisation of their wrongdoings (or is that just me?). In real life, I bet you’ve never have that satisfaction, the outcome that would grant you vindication and peace. Sorry to burst your bubble but it ain’t gonna happen, not that way anyway.

You have to make your own peace. Waiting for another to suddenly see the light and take it all back still won’t undo what is done. It’s kinda like the artist Prince becoming Prince again, still doesn’t change the fact he went off and became a symbol, something we couldn’t call him for a while. Waiting for your peace to be granted only perpetuates the powerlessness that keeps you locked in a cycle of grievances.

Put the stick down

Stop critisizing yourself. In fact, stop criticising others too. Believe me when I tell you this is key, when you do this you’ll be amazed at the amount of energy you’ll free up from operating the default position of always ‘correcting’. Don’t let that be your purpose in life. It’s exhausting, stop it. Use the same habit cue to practice compassion instead.

I’m not suggesting you become a robot here and deny your emotional stress reactions, you’re not perfect, nobody is.

The other day I spent hours on to customer service, trying to resolve an issue with my phone line. My call was repeatedly dropped and eventually I lost it, I screamed the house down in pure anger and frustration before calling back. Calm and composed I was not, so I’m not going to pretend there aren’t days my shit is far from together. You’ll lose your shit too, just remember to forgive yourself, recover and move on.

It’s gonna be alright

If you know the song I opened this post with above, you’ll know Kate Bush carries the chorus. She represents the voice of compassion, arriving to interrupt the protagonist’s failure story with another perspective. Her message is one of love, hope and encouragement, a reminder that he is loved, cared for, supported, that there’s no burden on him to prove himself, no need to be ashamed.

Be like the voice of Kate Bush in this song, develop a compassion mantra. You don’t have to come up with an original one, borrow one from a song or poem or story you like. A mantra I absolutely love to use is borrowed from Three little birds by Bob Marley, ‘Every little thing, is gonna be alright’… Keep it simple.

P…lots of P!!!

Practice, patience, persistence, repeat. I’ll never forget the first time I actually experienced compassion for my own self. I had been ‘in practice’ for about 18 months before it finally came to me, but when it did I was so humbled by it, it’s a beautiful experience.

If you want to read a little about that, I’ve written about it in this post, but I mention it here now because I want you to know it doesn’t happen overnight, you have to do some emotional work and prepare for it. To arrive at self compassion after having been foreign to it is a big moment, very moving, overwhelming really, but in a good way.

Show up

Unlearning self bashing and developing compassion requires a leap of faith, you have to hope, keep going, keep believing, you will get there. I’m not saying it will take you the same amount of time as it did me, just don’t expect miracles of yourself or the universe and don’t expect to arrive without the required journey on your behalf.

Nobody else can walk your road for you, but know that you’ll never be alone, on this adventure you’ll meet many fellow travellers, each at various stages, each seeking, so remember to be kind and let kindness be.

Take your time and for now, just promise you will at least show for up yourself, as you are.

State your intention out loud with me now…

“Dear (Amanda), I promise to show up for you”

How does that feel?

Always, Amanda xoxo

If you have an experience to share on this or questions to ask, leave a comment here or you can always email me hello@amandagraceart.com, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

P.S…. Check out my links page for some amazing resources to get you on your way home