The Art of Loving Who You Are... and Are NotNov 24, 2021
By Author: Leigh Penner
Cover Image by Corey Moortgat
THE ART OF LOVING WHO YOU ARE
(and Accepting who you are not)
I grew up in a church-going family, and one of my pet peeves has always been listening to sermons where preachers say, You Must, without saying, How To. How many times are the You Musts of life easier said than done, after all?
So, what if I tell you that you must love yourself in order to have the courage to proceed boldly with your art? What do you do with that? If it doesn't come naturally, how exactly do I learn to love myself?
I think, first, that you need the motivation to try. It is easy to only hear the negative voices which the world readily offers. Voices of comparison, of perfectionism, of competition. If you have self-doubts, love is how you overcome. Even if it is not initially love of yourself, love of art, love of creating, love of how a paintbrush feels in your hand. Whatever that looks like for you -- that is where you start. Focus your mind on what you love -- not on where your insecurities lie.
In order to love yourself and start to believe in yourself, sometimes you need to take the moment to honestly assess your behavior -- your past -- and forgive yourself for any choices you have made that haven't been reflective of the outstanding person you want to be. We all have them. No one lives perfectly all the time. Some of us have bigger consequences to live with than others do, that is all. Today can be a clean slate, a fresh start. No one can change the past, but there is no person alive who has not done something they wish they could take back. If you have failed, good news -- you are human! Welcome to the club. It is time to treat yourself with the gentleness you would treat another person. From now on, dedicate yourself to building beauty and walking through the process of releasing pain.
Next, be open to observing your successes and triumphs. When we don't expect to succeed, we tend to only see failure. If you aren't someone with a lot of natural self-confidence, taking a chance by putting your art out there and seeing it well-received is a huge boost. Hear that message. Use discipline to dismiss the rest. Every time a negative thought enters your mind, refuse to listen. Reject the negative thought and replace it with a positive alternative. This painting looks like soup. I am awful at this. But, those brushstrokes with that blue highlight really work well. I am getting pretty good at that.
Live in a space of gratefulness. Your art is the unique reflection of how you encounter the world. Anyone can increase their skill level, but there is no one else out there who sees through your eyes, has lived your experiences, walks in your skin. You can only be you. I went through a period in my life of extreme stress where one of my children was ill. I was exhausted in every possible way, and I remember sitting at the beach with my toes in the sand feeling like all the world was crashing around me. I tried to think of things to be grateful for. At first, there was only one thing which came to mind -- I was grateful for the feel of my toes in the sand. That led to me being grateful for the place where I lived. The sunrise I was watching. The coffee I was drinking. The health of my body. And on and on it went, building into a longer and more significant list with each addition. I came away from that experience with the same problems but a much lighter heart. The entire world was not black. The same pertains to your art. You may not be where you want to be, but what do you have to be thankful for? I am thankful for the time to paint, for the health to paint, for the learning and improving I am doing. I am thankful for that color, how that color makes me feel, for getting my canvas on sale... etc. Whatever it is, there is nothing so small it cannot reframe the negatives and doubt into hope and positivity.
Accept that you are never going to be anyone other than you. You are not Charla. You are never going to be Charla. And guess what? The world already has a Charla -- it doesn't need another. It does need you. So, make peace with that and accept it. The goal is to go one day and one painting at a time moving from wishing you were more like someone else, to accepting you can't be someone else, to waking up and realizing you don't want to be anyone else. You are you. And you are one incredible, fabulous, fine thing, and your work reflects exactly that.
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