I had not planned to write a post this morning but something has been a theme all week for me and as we struggled in class to paint apples using a new technique, I realized how hard things get just before turning a corner of growth. It is as if when progress is starting to be being made, and a little momentum is being gained, the enemy just starts kicking you in the teeth. Now, this is nothing new, I've known this and probably so have you, but knowing it and experiencing it are 2 different things. That being said, here are 5 reasons that you should know that you are onto starting something good and to never, ever wave the white flag and quit!
1. It has been a lifelong passion or heart's desire of yours
For whatever reason, along with wanting to learn about art, I've always wanted to know a second language. Even as a little girl, I soaked it up! When my parents spoke a little Italian to us or with our grandparents, it thrilled me to hear it. My best friend growing up was Vietnamese and I would always have her family teach me words. Her family thought it was fun to try to hear the little white girl pronounce them and so they would placate me. To my own family I would jokingly speak fake Vietnamese. One evening, I went to dinner with my friend, her family and all of her aunts and uncles. While we were waiting for our meal, her family asked me to recite the words I had learned. After speaking them, uproarious laughter from around the table followed. Yes, you can only imagine my humiliation. Fast forward to my grown-up self and I still love to hear people speak other languages and long to be able to actually speak one myself. This year I decided it was time to learn Spanish (mainly because I conveniently have very close Spanish speaking friends and it is similar to Italian in many ways.) I'm only just scratching the surface learning, but about 5 weeks in I hit a wall of discouragement ... enter point #2
2. You feel like you will never learn or accomplish a thing
When you melt down crying just thinking about how far you have to go and the overwhelmingness of it, you know you are on to something good. Having a pitiful moment when thinking on the futility of it all is actually a sign that you are on the right track. What?!? Yes. Stay with me.
When Nehemiah had the idea to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem this happened ...
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said:“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel...
You are on the right track, because you know that alone it is an impossible task.
3. When your head is filled with self doubt
As we gain strength and make progress or learn something totally new and outside of our comfort zones, the self-doubt kicks in. The joy of the progress mingled with the negative voices of why bother brings about an emotional response. This is where it is easy to get stuck, and if not recognized for what it is, it can become an unconscious form of self sabotage. We feel like, who am I to do this or that, or why should I have even thought I could try it!
Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way, says that it is like we are in a room, we keep around us our usual ideas about life, ourselves, God and what's possible. Sometimes the door cracks open and we see dazzling light outside with a lot of new ideas and things that we consider too far out of reach for us. The safe version of us in the room is comfortable and so just as we are seeing the sparkly light, we quickly slam the door shut. Sometimes we have to close our eyes for a minute but don't close the door. Close our eyes to all the obstacles that lie ahead and just prayerfully deal with that next right step in front of us.
"I shut my eyes in order to see." - Paul Gauguin
4. When you think you are embarrassing yourself even trying
Partly because of pride and partly because of that dinner staring down at my rice and Pho soup, I'm not comfortable trying out Spanish in front of people. Sure I can roll my "r"s and can throw on some accent, but it is the idea that they will speak back to me and I won't know what to say or worse, what the heck they just said! It's the idea of feeling like a fraud or an imposter. Like it is just not worth the trouble. We worry that this passion or desire is ridiculous or childish. In truth, we were created with it intentionally. Jeremiah 1:5
This fear is a common coping device that we employ whenever we are making progress in something. It is a self protective fight-or-flight mechanism. Suddenly avoiding the pain of embarrassment and vulnerability becomes more important then the learning process. We are faced with a crossroads. Choose to continue moving forward by putting on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-18
5. When all you can see is what you still have yet to accomplish
Sometimes when I'm learning something new all I can see is what I can't do yet. I'll never forget hearing someone say, "When you compare, then you despair" This is the time to only compare yourself to yourself. Assess how far you've come. Look back where you were when you started and rejoice seeing what progress you've made.
When I experience these attacks I have to stop, cry out and pray for courage. One of my favorite verses is 1 Chronicles 28:20 when David said to his son Solomon, "Be strong and courageous, and get to work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God is with you. He will not fail or forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly."
My dear friend Holli and I were talking the other day about how we hate that artists usually only show their final piece, not the journey to it. I'm going to try to remember to document more of my own learning process. As frustrating as it is, it's in the discovery that the magic of growth happens.
Below are my quick first, 2nd and 3rd attempts at painting an apple using a wet-on-wet method. I'm teaching and learning as I go!
Whether learning a new language, trying to paint an apple, losing weight, playing a new instrument or whatever the learning curve.. flag burning is OK when it is a white one.
Whether I am working with a client on their brand identity, teaching students or creating a watercolor piece, I hope to refresh and inspire others with my work. Read more ...