The creative process is not limited to paints. In fact, I am discovering that creative confidence has the potential to spill over into every area of life. The necessary ingredient is a willingness to let the process mold you.
A couple of weeks ago, I began taking an art class and quickly noticed how much of a perfectionist I am. In fact, I had been so afraid of messing up that, under the guise of “protecting my own personal style,” I had avoided taking an art class for as long as possible. I was not very teachable and didn’t want to be compared to others. Not surprisingly, the first day of class was daunting. Let’s just put it this way: I felt more vulnerable than the model who was baring it all in front of the class.
After class I began to ponder my experience and why I felt so vulnerable. The truth is this: To create is to be vulnerable. Art is a creative expression, an extension of oneself. I was scared to explore new things or mess up, because I felt like my mistakes would poorly represent who I am as an artist. This is what made the class so daunting in the first place.
While the first day of class came with its challenges, it was a familiar experience because much of life is similar to the creative process. The only way to learn things is to step out and TRY. Relationally, this looks like taking risks, expressing needs, having clear boundaries and being confident. If it feels too overwhelming, it helps to take a deep breath and learn to embrace the creative process that has been pushed in your direction.
Outside of art class, I have been experiencing interesting relational dynamics, which is probably why I thought to associate the two things in the first place. I didn’t realize that it was okay to express my needs. For some reason, the notion of having needs made me feel ashamed. This equated to a pretty passive existence and many one-sided relationships.
To help you understand where I am coming from, let me rewind and share some of my story. You see, similar to the onset of my creative journey, I wanted to be perfect from the start. Like most humans, I didn’t want to fail. To me, failure was the worst possible outcome in life. I didn’t want to fail myself or others. Consequently, I spent most of my life appeasing others, keeping the focus off myself and trying my best to help others succeed. I left little room for mistakes or needs to be addressed, because having needs made me feel shame. It was vulnerable and risky to express my needs, because if they weren’t met, I would feel rejected, and if I was rejected, then I would be alone, and if I was alone, then something must be wrong with me, which equates to shame. If I was the one helping others, however, then I was convinced that I couldn’t hurt others and couldn’t be hurt. I was wrong.
As it turns out, people pleasing kills personality. I opted out of saying both “yes” and “no” to many things, and decisions were often made for me. This cycle was continuous and rather disappointing. I wondered why I felt incapable of living life the way I desired to live it, but the truth is that my mindset was perpetuating this cycle. I was so scared of messing up that I let others make choices for me.
The years spent pawning off responsibility and ownership of my life, both knowingly and unknowingly, was getting tiring. I’m happy to say that I have recently begun to assert myself more liberally. This has proven to be golden. It is still challenging at times to make choices, but I am learning to go for things and take responsibility for the life that I have been given! Thankfully, my art class has been helping me practice vulnerability to a new degree, and I am feeling more comfortable with the learning process.
I am hopeful about learning life lessons throughout this next season. In the meantime, I am simply enjoying my new class and the freedom that each stroke across the canvas yields. Messing up isn’t so bad after all, and being the newest person in the class doesn’t make my paintings less valid. In fact, when I look around at the beautiful pieces of art, I am inspired by what a few more years of practice might bring. Why is it ever “normal” to compare anyway? Each of us is on our own journey, and our process is unique. So what if I make a little mishap on the canvas or in life? I will still survive. I am learning to embrace failure and appreciate it for what it is–nothing more than a stroke across an incomplete canvas, and room for both growth and grace. Everything will come together just as it should in the end. “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” (Psalm 37:23, NLT).
I may not be the best student in class, but I certainly am capable of expressing my own creative style. This translates beautifully into relationships and most things in life. I want to be myself, and everyone else is free to do the same. If life was akin to a canvas, then as people are free to be themselves, the colors released are absolutely phenomenal. Cheers to learning both in class and beyond.