“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”
– Khalil Gibran
This summer I decided to teach myself how to draw something on demand – a party favor if a student makes a request. Give me a blank piece of paper, et voila. My version of the balloon man.
Step by step we drew trains, flowers, and frogs together. I felt inspired. A gift of childhood is curiosity and constant learning/growth. It’s your job. As adults, it’s easy to lose touch with the personal growth mindset.
I nudged the child inside, and brainstormed to find my subject. I naturally landed on the Eiffel Tower. First, I’m a French teacher, and I’d like to teach my students how to draw it. Second, I love the picture (above) that V painted in Kindergarten. Plus, La Tour Eiffel is a world favorite: Millions of people flock to the giant on the banks of the Seine every year.
The hardest part for me: Holding off self-judgment.
My drawing skills are remedial at best – left behind in grammar school. My besties in college were art majors – and let me tell you, I envied their skills. Creating tangible art from a blank canvas is fresh and invigorating.
I never thought, “Give it a shot.” I thought, “Whoa, you are terrible.”
See, I like fine arts.
Unlike my friends, though, I lack technique and training.
So I judged myself.
My inner critic popped by: An artist? Ha. Get real. This isn’t your thing.
Thoughts are a powerful tumbling block to attaining a new skill. They can wreck havoc and cause murky chaos in your mind. Art is an observational game, but also very much a mental game. Internal beliefs can be crippling if left unattended. If you keep on thinking you can’t draw, sing, dance, tell a joke, guess what? You won’t.
Even as I took joy in the process of drawing the Eiffel Tower, my inner-critic tried to step in front of me.
Truth be told: I am a recovering perfectionist. My inner-judge likes to push me around. He’s a bully: mean, insensitive, and determined to hold me back.
I’ve paid my dues in psychotherapy, yet the inner-judge continues to lurk in the dark corner. When self-doubt creeps in, I nod at him, I see you! But you can’t torture me. Silence! Get back in the corner, silly. This shifts the power and I regain control. More concretely, here’s how I turn the volume down:
- Patience and Practice. A growth mindset recognizes that basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the start. As in all activities, my skills can improve as I learn basic principles and practice, practice! The key to learning to draw, just like learning to write, is working until you own it.
- A Cognitive Shift. If I keep engaging my inner critic, I am firing up the left side of my brain. The left brain focuses on words and numbers (read: logical, rational, sequential) while the right brain focus on visual images and patterns (read: holistic and free-association). Focusing on the process instead of the end product helps with that.
- So What? – When I start to think what if…?, I stop and reframe the question to so what? A so-what mentality is a weapon in a ruminator’s arsenal. Thinking so what opens the door for an action plan in lieu of what if’s fearful stagnation.
- Why Not? Why shouldn’t I do this? I want to do this … so I’m going to just keep diving in.
I’ll show you mine:
I plan to keep at it, so I can teach my middle schoolers how.
Eiffel Tower fun fact:
- The Eiffel Tower is painted every 7 years and takes about 18 months to paint using lead free paint.
What can you draw? Is there a new skill you’re yearning to hone?
Ciao for now.