Digging into Defining Beliefs

November 6th, 2007

No art for the day yet. I had wanted to write more last night, but posting art takes time and so, I bumped it to today, which is probably for the best as I feel so much better than I did yesterday. Yesterday was a little rough for me. I felt it was probably the day before my period (and today I found out it was), which is typically a rough day in which I feel extreme sensitivity, sadness, irritation, etc. It's a lot like how I feel when my depression has taken hold. This time of year can be a rough one for me and whenever I feel a day or two like this, I have this twinge of worry that it's not going to ease up. I was at my worst in late October/early November, 7 years ago, which sounds like a lifetime ago, but doesn't feel like it. It was weeks and months of feeling the way I did yesterday until I nearly gave up on life. I'm so glad I reached out for help. And I'm so grateful to be in a better place now.

I'm going through a major cleaning/purging in my home with the focus being on my office/studio space which as I mentioned earlier is frighteningly cluttered. My best friend has been helping me with it with her super organizing skills, which has been so awesome, but some of the stuff I really have to go through alone. Last night, I was pulling things out of my desk and came upon two old notebooks. I flipped through them finding budgets, a period of time where I was writing down everything I spent so I could see where my money went, writing exercises and such. This stuff was probably from about 6 or so years ago. Some of those soul searching exercises you may do from time to time are a wonderful treat to come upon years later. It brings to light the ways in which you've changed, things you've forgotten about perhaps because the transition was slow and gradual. Much like it's hard for a parent to see how much their child has grown because they see them every day.

In one small notebook from about 6 years ago, I found a few pages about "defining beliefs." This must have been an exercise from some book, but I don't know which one. On the first page, I wrote: "defining belief: I'm not quite talented enough to make it." I nod reading it, yes, I still feel this way at times, but less than I did before. Next I've written, "evidence" and underneath it: "Not having my designs chosen in high school graphic design class; Criticism in my art classes; I'm not creating much; I need projects to keep me going; I haven't sold my art or shown it in any galleries." It makes me laugh a little that my first bit of evidence was not having my designs chosen from a class in high school. I took that a little personally, eh? Then I wrote: "Price I pay for holding on to this belief" and under that, "I feel inadequate; I don't feel ready for grad school; I don't send my slides to galleries; I hide my art." Next line was titled, "Result I'd like" and then, "to be a successful artist (acknowledged.)" And then, "Evidence: I've shown my art in galleries to rave reviews and sold my art for big $." Underneath that I'd written two affirmations: "I am a talented, prolific artist" and "People want to purchase my art."   

I wanted to share this because each year when I do AEDM, there are so many creative people who think their work isn't good enough, who feel inadequate or embarrassed, and/or who apologize for their work. And I want to say, don't apologize! Life is short and there is only one of you out there who can express what you can express. So, you've got to share it while you've got the chance! Maybe your skills aren't where you'd like them to be. They may never be what you consider perfection, but you can't let that stop you. It nearly stopped me, but my urge to create was greater than my need to be perfect. I know I'm never entirely satisfied with where I'm at, but it keeps wanting to learn and grow more.

And the other cool thing about finding this note, was to see how far I've come. I have shown my art in galleries, I sold 8 pieces in the last show I was in. I've sold individual pieces for what I consider a lot of money. So, by my standards 6 years ago, I am a successful artist. Now of course, my standard of what success is has shifted, but it was great to be reminded how far I've come and that I have accomplished a lot in the last 6 years. I also feel much stronger than that voice that wrote these pages, which is wonderful to see. Take a look at your own defining beliefs. And if they're limiting you, tear them down. It really helps to write it out if you can.

And here's a little something more. I found this on the first page of another notebook. I'd written out this whole quote from the book, "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. Clearly it made an impression on me then. And reading it now, I think it's quite relevant to the journey that AEDM is. The author is talking about writing as a practice here, but you can apply it to anything really.  She writes, 

This is the practice school of writing. Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don't want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don't wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run. It'll never happen, especially if you are out of shape and have been avoiding it. But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. You just do it. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop. And you stop, hungry for the next time.

So keep on creating, my creative friends. You are all a great inspiration to me. Thank you!

21 Responses

Wow, see how far you have come! Well done you! Your defining beliefs were not true at all, so thanks for sharing this… it is a lesson we ALL need to remember, everyday, especially when faced with those resistences that keep us out of the studio. (this happens a lot to me). Thanks Leah.

P.S. I think the picture you sent to Tammy is beautfiul too :-)

Leah: Thanks so much for this post! I’ve been following your blog for some time and you really hit the nail on the head with today’s post. It was encouraging to me to feel some companionship in this area of struggling and hope to reach my goals through hard work and bravery. I also took the liberty posting a link to this post on my blog – hope you don’t mind! Thanks again.

Leah, you are a wonderfully talented inspired and inspirational woman! I absolutely LOVED reading this post and could relate to a good deal of it. It is amazing to look back and say, “Wow, that was a different version of me.” I am no stranger to depression and despair, and I do believe that by digging deeper, I get better. Thank you so much for honestly sharing about your journey, thus far. You ROCK!!!

Oh, Leah, this is just what I needed to read today. I found myself feeling blue earlier this afternoon (and in fact that was inspiration for my day 6 work). I appreciate how candidly you share about your journey, challenges and successes. It gives us permission to be with our own experience fully, too, and to be aware of where we sell our selves short. I am grateful for your encouragement and the inspiration you so freely give!

I so needed to hear that. There are so many days I have done the exact thing you did 6 years ago, but what is strange even before I read this post, this morning I sat down and wrote I will get my stories published in a book by next year. No matter how big the circumstanes seem, I will do it. I am so happy you shared this. xoxo Nita

Thanks for your words. I feel a cold coming on, but I will press on. The house may not get cleaned, but I will create.

I used to love to draw. I’m still trying to figure out at what point I began believing that I couldn’t do it well. Perhaps it was lack of affirmation as a child?

I love it when people really share their hearts. There is a connection in sharing. I can relate to your story. I’m sure you could relate to many aspects of mine.

Thanks so much for displaying your art and encouraging so many of us to be creative. I needed that.

Isn’t it funny how many of us believe that we aren’t enough?! Especially when it comes to art! And every single solitary one of us on this earth is an artist of some sort. Shame on elementary schools or whomever else it is taking away our belief in ourself!

Like you I love finding old notes – especially the ones that say: draw, paint (none say clay – who knew?)follow your heart and stop worrying about money. It took a long time but I finally made it – at least to the artist part. I know I am one. How to thrive – that’s the next step/challenge.

Leah – I’ll say it again (and again and again): your work is amazing. Never stop and ALWAYS believe!

yes your post was very truthful and inspiring to those like me who have just begun the great art journey. I am also one of those who from day to day wonder if I should delete my blog and stop showing my amateur attempts at art there. I still love the art, so your post has definatly encouraged me to keep going!

While I was readig this post I had a vision that you will write a book about creative expression and it will be published and help loads of people!
With this very positive thought I am going to bed. I really should have turned off the computer an hour ago, but maybe I was meant to tell you this tonight!

OMG…are you sure you have not been reading inside my head?….have felt that way for a long time…but have finally taken that step and really showing my art to others through my blog and such…you really have made me feel good about moving on with it and I thank you…your art inspires me!
It is all helping me fight through a severe bout with depression that I have been fighting for too long….and finally the joy of creating is coming back.
Thanks for writing this entry…it really spoke volumes!!!
Peace Always

Thank you for sharing this Leah. I’m hesitant to share many of my creations because I don’t feel like an artist.. but I’m taking in what you say here. Everyone has a story and what I put down in color can be shared with the rest of the world – good or not.
I really needed to hear this today. xo

Very nice post, thank you. I have a book somewhere that’s similar – I’ll try and find the title. I’m hoping that connecting with your site will get me up and moving in the art front, since it really is important to me but I don’t give it enough time. I do quilt, yes, but I’d like to do more.

Leah, This was a wonderful post. We all need to be reminded (and to remind ourselves) of our uniqueness, abilities, and worthiness. Thanks for sharing. Tammy encouraged me to check out AEM & I’m getting a charge out of seeing what everyone is doing! It’s a great idea. If I wasn’t so overwhelmed with preparations for holiday art shows, I would have joined in. Keep up the good work!

Wow. You are my new hero. This is great stuff. Natalie Goldberg is an awesome writer and I love that book.

I loved this entire post, every word in it.

I feel that I’m creative but am too scared to actually create. I look at the past pieces I’ve done and I cringe that I would even BEGIN to call myself creative or an “artist”.

Same with writing… I do freelance work but I never persue it actively enough to be called a freelancer.

I love the quote by Goldberg. It really does fit any situation, doesn’t it?

THANK YOU for being so inspiring to me!


Karen Beth :)

I too appreciate your words in this post. It’s exciting to look back at one’s past and see where they’ve been and where they’ve gotten to. And what they have accomplished in between. I did something similiar when I first set out to set up a private practice as a counselor some sixteen years ago. I affirmed what I wanted it to be like, how much I wanted to make, etc. I had lots of doubts, but the affirmations helped and they worked and I did it, way beyond my wildest dreams. And it’s on going. Now I venture into being artistic. I’ve done it with crochet, more recently teaching myself to knit and now on the sewing machine with quilting and a strong desire to make “art quilts”. Who me? What am I thinking? But a few classes later, a few months into it and I have already produced four quilts I am very proud of. They are not perfect, they would not be judged winners, but I am excited about being in this learning phase and will affirm that in sixteen more years (godwilling)someone might even offer to buy a quilt I made as an art piece. Or at least accept it lovingly as a family heirloom. Who knows? Our possiblities are endless.

Leah. There are tears in my eyes as I write you this. I get overly sensitive when I start my period too. Plus, the new moon energy of Scorpio is harsh on my already-sensitive Piscean frame. This Scorpio moon is taking me deep into my psyche and the roots of things that need to be either healed and nurtured, or simply composted. Your post is so inspirational. It’s excatly what I needed to read today. I see the spirit of the universe working through you and your artwork. It wonderful. I can’t even tell you how blessed and authentically happy I am that I get the opportunity to know you in this life.

*hugs and extra hugs*

Bodhi Girl

Isn’t it wonderful to come across that old stuff? To see how far you’ve come? I once had a moment where I suddenly realized I was living the ‘dream life’ I’d imagined for myself several years before while doing exercises from Barbara Sher’s “Wishcraft.” And it’s so great that our dreams keep morphing…we keep shifting them forward with us. And, yes, sometimes we haul along some of those old (negative) defining beliefs. But NOW we have the opportunity to RE-define and reframe them into what works for us. To turn them into magical wish-fulfillment dust…instead of anvils we like to drop on our own heads… ;) xoxo

Wow! This is a fabulous post, and there is so much to respond to, here.

First, thanks for sharing your journey – starting from years ago – with your readers. It is both a little funny and sad to see what you wrote about your initial belief – how you were down, and so very sad to also know that 7 years ago you were wondering if any of it all was worth it. And now you bring such inspiration to SO MANY!!! I’m so very grateful for all the work you do w/CED and the work that you share!

I hope I can hold on to the line: “my urge to create was greater than my need to be perfect” That is fabulous!

And I also really like what you say about “if your beliefs are limiting you, tear them down.” I’ve never really thought about taking that kind of drastic action to my beliefs, before. I tend to think of them as “inherent” – something that I can’t simply “decide” to change. But I like what you say here.

There is so much fabulous stuff here – thank you so very much for sharing!

Great post, I’m glad you pointed to this one. Lately I’ve been feeling a bit down and the super cold weather doesn’t help – freezing fingers make it easy to not do anything. Plus I keep seeing the disorganization around me and it all gets depressing. Of course when you look back, you see how far you’ve come…sometimes we have to remind ourselves!

Just read this in 2013 showing your words from 2007 mean just as much to us aspiring artists as your current posts. Thank you so much for sharing your doubts from the past with us. I have a dream of having my own art and design online business but as I’m doing a part-time degree that is on hold for another few years. In the mean time I’m learning as much as I can in readiness and loving the journey. Thanks again, your blog is so inspiring xxxx

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