As a creative coach, I have heard so many stories from people being shut down by their teachers. Writing teachers who were dismissive. Art teachers that gave no instruction. Body-shaming dance teachers. Impatient music teachers. Acting teachers that overlooked all but a few.
Some of us have walked with those art wounds for decades!
I want to share an approach to healing but first let me acknowledge the tremendous blessings of good teachers. The ones that see us. The ones that impart knowledge and transfer skills. The ones that inspire us to follow our instincts and to keep going even when the learning is tough. Here’s to the encouragers, the believers and the mentors and the difference they make in our lives.
To this day my dance teacher, Marjorie, informs the way I show up in the studio every single day. That’s how I know that we can show up for ourselves as good teachers. We can be the best teacher for our wounded artist selves.
When someone’s approach knocked you down or left you out, what were you aching for? What did your budding artist need? How can you give yourself that today?
So often we repeat the harmful behaviours of our teachers, as though we are caught in a loop. We are our own worst critique. Our self-talk is judgmental and mean. We deprive ourselves of creative resources or stick to shabby supplies because our ‘hobby’ is not worthy of investment. In contrast, we might invest in the ‘talent’ of a loved one (often our child) because we find it easier to believe in them than in ourselves. We are being supportive but we are also perpetuating the idea that only a few are chosen.
Let’s do it differently
Let’s learn to be good teachers to ourselves.
Replace the embedded self-criticism and harsh self-talk with the loving and encouraging words you longed to hear. Write your artist self a supportive letter so you can read it again and again. Record a message of love and belief in yourself. Pile on the praise for what you are proud of. Put your art on the fridge.
Protect your sweet creative soul against the naysayers, the haters, the critics and the gatekeepers. Don’t let them define you, your creative work or your potential. As you dance or draw or film or sculpt or bake or make your jewellery, decide that it is worthy of your time, your love, your heart, your effort, your investment and your attention.
And when you feel strong and sturdy, look for teachers and resources that will help you grow your gifts. So often we stop the healing process at allowing ourselves to ‘play’. We do this because we believe that as long as we’re not trying to be skilled, we are outside the realm of judgment and are therefore safe. Playing is awesome and also, you deserve to learn, my love. You deserve to learn how to play your guitar, to read music, to throw pots, to use a sewing machine, to draw in perspective, to mix colours, to knit cables, to use your camera – whatever it is that would grow your creative capacity so there is more and more room for you to pour your artist’s heart in. These are just skills to be learned – and you can learn them.
When you become a loving and encouraging teacher to yourself, your artist’s heart will heal and your potential will at long last be revealed.