Several years ago someone I had recently befriended declared me an artist. Not directly, but in passing, she mentioned our “artistic connection” and how important it was to her. I immediately protested, because my picture of an artist was someone who painted and sold art in galleries and maybe went to art school. But she insisted. The strength of her conviction that I was indeed an artist, despite my fear of paint, started me down a journey that has led me to embrace not just the craft and tools of art, but the essence of art. Art is now one of my spiritual practices, teachers, and orientations. It took several years, and I’m still uncomfortable with the label “Artist”, but I am making art and it feels wonderful and right. My friend named something true and essential about me and that naming helped me find my way to it.
A few years back I was discussing my business ideas with a cousin and he said something of the effect of “Oh, you are totally on your way to being this business mogul. I can see you, all high powered and calling the shots! Go you!”
At the time I was doing everything myself, and the thought of having employees or dealing with people in any kind of leadership role was beyond my conception of myself. My business vision was pretty narrow. It involved me and a computer. But my cousin saw something in me, a potential for leadership and growth, and he didn’t know about any of my self-imposed fears around people. So he just spoke it. And finally, after a few years, I’m beginning to explore that territory and learn the skills necessary to build a business larger than just me.
Sometimes others see what we can’t yet.
From inside our walls, it can be hard for us to see who we are. If we’ve gotten good at learning how to hide, we need to learn how to listen to what others see in us.
I am a master at denying what other people see in me. Some of it is pride: I’m the one who is the expert on me, thank you very much! But most of it is fear. If we’ve grown up in a shaming family, or even just in general American culture, we absorb a big dose of “I don’t deserve to shine” and “I’m not good enough to shine anyway”. Not to mention some “If I got shiny people would reject me” or “Shiny people are fake” or “What if I shined for 5 minutes and then everyone expected me to keep shining and I choked and became a failure instead?”.
Finding our way out of our maze of doubts and accepting our gifts can be tricky, and other people’s positive prophecies can be like a guiding light, floating just above our inner turmoil. Our ego fears might reject it or push it away, but it it sticks there, softly humming its truth. You are capable, it whispers. You are valuable, it says. You can do that, it sings.
Be willing to hear what others see in you.
Think back to a time when someone saw something in you that you rejected at the time. Did it stick with you? Why did you object? Where you defending your fear or a limited belief about yourself? Where you defending an identity, of being a victim, or not smart, not capable, not disciplined enough, etc? Could you let go of that? What would happen if you just went towards whatever truth you felt in their words?
To embrace my inner artist, I had to work through issues with my brother (he was the artist of the family growing up). He went to art school and has the stamp of legitimacy (in my mind). I still find myself comparing our work in my head, but now that comes second to actually making art and enjoying it. Being an artist doesn’t belong to my brother anymore. It’s mine now.
What strengths have people seen in you and where are you in the process of owning them? Wherever you are, know that it is OK and just keep walking forward. I’m still scared that each piece I make will be the last one I really like. I’m still scared of what people will make up about me if I talk about being an artist. It’s OK. We’re all scared. Just keep walking. The light is there and it’s waiting for you.
Share what you see in others
Really seeing someone and acknowledging them is a gift. The times that people have named what is deeply true in me have changed my life for the better. Is there someone in your life who you can see something in, something that you could name for them? Could you name a space for someone to step into, plant a seed that they can grow with? When you see them, if you feel that internal prompt to say something, to acknowledge and share what you see–take that chance. Even if they resist or deny it, it may seep into their consciousness and help lead them home.