Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of our agreement when it comes to our talents/abilities and the choices we make in whether or not we feel comfortable expressing them. I’ve heard so many people say things like, “I’m not creative,” or even to go so far as to say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Comments like this aren’t only heard in the sphere of arts and culture either. I’ve heard these words come out of my own mouth before: “I’m not, and never will be, a sporty person.” In the same way that acknowledging that we’re gifted in something was likely a result of healthy encouragement from loved ones as we nurtured our talents from childhood, thinking that we’re “bad” at something was surely a result of reinforcement from our environment?
The truth is, I’m not particularly sporty, and some people aren’t necessarily very artistic, but that doesn’t mean that operating and having fun in these spaces isn’t (or shouldn’t be) possible. When we dig a little deeper, we can all find bruises made on our characters when someone, or maybe even a few people, said something mean about our strengths, our weaknesses, or even our bodies. Life isn’t all about being the best at something, but why do we shy away from even enjoying certain things because someone once told us we weren’t good enough?
Friends have told me horror stories (and I have a few of my own) of how they were told at a young age that they are bad at art or running or dancing or singing. Adults have even gone so far as to tell children that they don’t have the right body-type to do something, as if it’s only possible to spin across a stage if you’re slender or kick a ball if you have an athletic build. It sounds ridiculous and downright terrible when you hear it, but comments like this fly around every day. It’s horrible, and it shouldn’t happen, but it does. I mean, sometimes insecure people even knock you down because you ARE good at something and it makes them feel ‘less-than’.
The question is, how do we bolster ourselves against these types of comments? The more and more I mull over these questions, the more I realise that the power is in my hands. It might not have been when I was a little girl, but it certainly is now. I have the power to undo the harmful affects of harsh words in my life from the past, present, and even those to come. How? I have to realise the weight of my own agreement in these situations. I have to realise that humans are fallible and flawed, and sometimes, without realising it, we all say or do things that have the ability to hurt another and affect their confidence.
As children, we didn’t have the strength and know-how to speak against these lies in our lives, and that’s when we hopefully had loving family or friends around us to speak the truth to us. But this doesn’t mean that some lies didn’t slip through the cracks. Worse still - some kids are hearing these lies from their own loved-ones, the ones who are meant to encourage and remind them of all the good that’s inside of them.
So where does our agreement come in? Well, these lies only sunk in because we considered them as potentially true and, either immediately or over time, agreed with them. Some of you might say this responsibility shouldn’t be ours, especially when we were just innocent little kids; that people should just stop being mean. Wouldn’t that be nice?! But we can’t change the world, and we also can’t self-isolate and not live out in it... we’d just be punishing ourselves for other peoples’ insecurities. All we can do is change ourselves, from the inside out.
*As a very important sidebar: we cannot ignore the results of blatant and systemic racism, sexism, ableism, ageism (and all the other ‘isms’) on a person’s psyche and views about their talents and abilities. This is the responsibility of ALL OF US to challenge and dismantle. There is far more than the power of agreement at play here, and we can’t put the responsibility in the hands of victims to overcome this kind of mental, emotional and physical violence on their own.*
I encourage you to watch and listen to yourself over the next week or two. Whenever you talk down to yourself about something you can or can’t do, whenever you mumble “silly” or “stupid” to yourself under your breath when you drop or forget something, or whenever you just internally talk yourself out of doing/trying something because you think you won’t be good enough. Make a note on a piece of paper or on your phone. Then take a moment (or if you happen to make a quick note of it in the middle of a busy day, take some time in the evening before bed or before you get up the next morning) to ask yourself where this lie originated from. It might have been one instance or a couple. Maybe it wasn’t something someone specifically said but rather something someone didn’t say when you were seeking affirmation. Then spend some time breaking these agreements in your life and replacing them with the truth. It can look something like this:
“I reject the lie that I am not funny, and instead I replace it with the truth that I am hilarious and I make my family and friends laugh often.”
“I reject the lie that I am not creative. Every day in my school/career/relationships I am required to harness my creative mind to progress.”
Take some post-it notes and write encouragements to yourself which you can paste on your mirror or hide in your lunch box.
I hope this proves to be a helpful exercise for you. I believe it will be the beginning of something... where you begin to live more mindfully about your authentic abilities and courageously dive into new experiences just for the fun of it! I, for one, have decided that I’d like to go for surfing lessons. Maybe I’ll post a little bit more about that adventure on my blog. Keep your eyes open!