Note: Fellow artist Leah Piken Kolidas recently interviewed Dr. Paris on her blog. You’ll find the interview here
Finding Strength In Mirrors
In Chapter 4, Dr. Paris begins to explain the three types of relationships that she believes are crucial to all creative types. Chapter 4 focuses on “mirrors;” those people who validate our strengths, our talents, and our uniqueness.
Chapter 4 begins with a relatively well-known quote from Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
It appears this fear of our powerfulness may stem from our childhood experiences. According to Dr. Paris, many theorists believe people are born with a feeling of specialness. It begins when a baby cries because she is hungry and expects to be recognized, fed, and nourished. The mother feeds the baby and the baby feels recognized.
As the baby grows into a toddler, a feeling of invincibility emerges. Remember playing the role of your favorite superhero? At this stage, the parent may support the fantasy and keep the child’s self-esteem intact. More often, well-intentioned parents try to protect their child from disappointment and tell the child that s/he does not have any superpowers. Now the child may hold on to the fantasy even harder to preserve his sense of power or the child may fear devastation of his self-esteem if he dares dream of being anybody special.
Can’t relate to the superhero scenario? How about this situation:
As a child you bring home a drawing you did in school and proudly show it to your mother. Mother is preoccupied with other tasks, doesn’t sense your enthusiasm about your drawing, and, in a disinterested voice tells you “That’s nice.” Or, as Dr. Paris adds, the mother finds fault with the drawing.
The mother did not mirror or reflect back the child’s enthusiasm. The child is humiliated for feeling proud and disappointed in her mother. Moving forward, the child decides not to show future drawings to her mother. In fact, the child tells herself that she isn’t very good at drawing which may, in turn, become a block to immersing in creativity.
Our need for validation, for reflection of our sense of greatness does not end with childhood. Our need for the admiration of others continues throughout life. Even the most self-confident person needs to feel validated by others.
At this point our childhood experiences and our lifelong history influence how we deal with current blocks.
Blocks and Fears
Dr. Paris briefly discusses the ability to feel special, the capacity to immerse and receive constructive criticism before discussing blocks and fears. The following are common blocks and fears that artists may face in the realm of feeling special and great.
Absence of Positive Mirroring in Childhood
In this situation, you may have grown up without positive mirroring from others and do not expect to receive this kind of affirmation. To work through this, we must begin to clearly ask for what we need from those around us. Yes, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Aren’t we taught, especially women, to NOT ask for what we want?
Another alternative, if asking for what you need is not easy, is to visualize someone or an entire audience being appreciative of your work. Perhaps you can then begin to visualize asking for what you want or need to hear.
Fear of Exposure and Not Being Good Enough
I think many of us can relate to this situation. How often have you said to yourself “I’m afraid people will discover I’m a fraud” or that you’ll be “found out.” Or how about this one: “I would have done better if I had spent more time on it.”
Many of these statements stem from our fear of rejection or criticism. Rejection or criticism injures our self-esteem. Therefore we procrastinate, avoid immersion, don’t fully invest ourselves, and shield ourselves from a full creative experience. In some sense, we can’t live up to our own high standards or previous successes. We keep our selves from taking risks.
Fear of Success
This one is key for me. For the most part, I’ve moved past the fear of failure scenario. Nowadays, I tend to fear success. Sounds silly doesn’t it? And where does this fear come from? Fear of change.
Think about it. Success may mean a change in lifestyle; finances improve, new friends emerge, professional visibility increases.
Uh-oh. But I like my comfort zone.
As Dr. Paris points out the creation of anything new involves the destruction of something old, which brings considerable anxiety.
The Fear of Having Nothing to Offer
Ah, another one I can relate to; the fear of having nothing of value to offer or that no one would be interested in our gifts. Ever say to yourself “Who would want to buy this stuff?”
While we need to receive positive mirroring from others in order to be nourished, we also need to be able to provide nourishment to others. The give and take between self and others, or between self and creative medium, creates a mutuality of interaction that underlies our strength and confidence. When we experience being a capable and trustworthy provider to others, we may then feel that we have something valuable to offer through an artistic realm.
Dr. Paris concludes this chapter with the following tasks to consider.
- Dare to dream big. Take back your dreams of childhood and reach for them.
- Evaluate your support network. The presence of others in your life does not mean they provide the kind of support you need.
- Reach out for support. Be aware of what you need and be able to ask for it.
- Mentor or teach others. Self-confidence and strength are bolstered when we feel others recognize our skills.
I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.
Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:
Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion
Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines
Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry