If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.
- Vincent Van Gogh
Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a fashion designer. I filled my sketchbooks with pictures of women wearing clothes that I have designed.
I imagined what it would be like to have models walking down the catwalk, wearing my designs.
I imagined what it would be like to be popular because of my beautiful work.
Drawing these pictures allowed me escape the humdrum of school.
I was happy because I was in the creative flow.
Then, one fine day, I mustered enough courage . I showed my drawings to a girl who sat next to me in class. She had also been harboring the similar dream of being a fashion designer.
Well, she returned my drawings with plenty of comments on how I should have drawn them.
I could not remember if she meant them as criticisms but I certainly took them to be.
At first, I tried to make the necessary corrections for sketching but my drawings slowly dwindled to just a few strokes.
Eventually, I realized that I could not design anymore.
I gave up on the dream.
I went on to taking Accountancy in the University, a course that would put me in good stead in a country that is the financial capital of South East Asia.
I had long forgotten about this dream if not for a jolt in memory a few days ago. It happened when Rachel, a participant from my Vision Board Mastery Workshop , wrote me a follow-up email.
(During the workshop, I had done a “live” 5-minute demonstration of Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT. The demonstration was made to show how to unblock resistances that could be in the way of our vision and dreams. Rachel had gamely volunteered for me to work on her for the demonstration in front of the class.)
With her permission, I share what she has written in her email…
If you can recall, I had shared with you that I was hurt when my art teacher threw my drawing on the floor. Even though this event had taken place 6 years ago, I had continued to feel the rejection, the pain and the hurt. That was why I cried during the EFT demonstration. After you helped me with releasing some of the pain, you mentioned that there could be an earlier incident. You said that it was typical to uncover early childhood events.
Hence, since the workshop, I tried to recall if in fact, there was an earlier incident prior to the one 6 years ago. I was not able to until today. I remembered that it happened when I was in Secondary One. I had taken up a drawing class. While I had no memory of who the teacher was, I could recall that it was a still life painting class.
Since I have had no previous skills on still life drawings, I drew a picture that was out of proportion. Well, the teacher gave me a F for it.
For the next 20 years, I had this belief that “I can’t draw well” . Then again, I had not realized that I had been holding on to this belief because I was scoring As in my Chinese, Mathematics and Science. My good performance in the other subjects obscured the subconscious fear.
However, when I eventually wanted to be a successful creative director, I found myself being hindered. It was when I began to realize how much this belief has been hindering me. I didn’t dare or most of the time I avoided drawing to my best ability.
I started illustration skills in Feb 2012. At first I was full of self-doubt, fear, and uncertainty . I had little clarity. I continued to draw despite having to face my own negativity. And so, my confidence from first drawing 10% of the complete image and then gradually, more and more. Slowly, I experienced greater joy, relaxation and confidence. Each stroke became easier and smoother as time went on.
So it was nice to completely release any remaining doubt during and after the workshop. I know that this belief no longer serves me. Now, I can say to myself confidently, “Yes, I can draw and I draw well”.
Thank you for your words of wisdom. Although it is just a few words, your guidance has helped me to overcome my fear .
Never Be Held Back by Criticisms
Now, how many of us cause ourselves to be held back by the criticisms that took place long time ago? The thing is that the same voice of disapproval still echoes in our subconscious mind . Because of it, we are not able to go all out for our dream. And so we settle for something else or dream a smaller dream.
Mind you, the comments provided by others might have been constructive. It could be true that we needed to improve on my drawing skills. But what is essentially more important is how we perceive the comments. Based on what was said to us, do we then conclude that we will never make it, will never succeed or will forever be doomed for life? The thing is that the mind has a tendency to blow up our fears to catastrophic proportions and mostly, the fears are not even true to begin with.
Luckily for me, even though I did not become a fashion designer, I have found a way to carve out work that is based on creativity. Having forgotten my childhood dream, it took me a long time to realize that art was in my soul. It did not even occur to me at a time when I was taking a whole string of part-time classes after office hours in quick succession: pottery, graphic design, folk art painting, and jewelry design.
However, just imagine if the reverse is true. If I continue to be held back by the same disapproving voice, I do not think I would have come this far. It would be the same for Rachel or any of us too. We remain stuck because of the belief that has been formed out of someone’s comments.
Also, to be creative is not just about producing artistic works alone. Creativity is an innate soul desire for physical expression. We like being creative because we enjoy making a difference to the world. Creativity helps us connect the dots and see meaning in life.