Some time ago, I’d visited an Aunt. In a home.
Walls bland, she’s the youngest by far and tragic circumstances have changed her life.
Wanting to do something to bring some colour and cheer, I painted a canvas.
Colourful, unique and my style. A gift for her.
Oddly, when I asked my parents, could they take it with them on their next visit and deliver it. They declined.
In fact, first dad and then after asking mum, she too said no.
It seemed weird. By all accounts, I am no Picasso or Van Gogh. That I know. But really? No?
So I dug deeper.
“I don’t like it,” said my Dad. Turns out when I questioned my Mum, she didn’t like it either and so they both refused to take it.
Now, I have to admit, many years ago, that would have thrown me for a 6.
I would have been devastated by those words and let it send me into a spin of the usual blah blah routine about not being good enough.
In Year 10, the art teacher at the time, discouraged my artistic pursuits for the HSC saying I wouldn’t be good enough.
With hindsight, have always wondered.
Heck… surely I could have done better in Art that the 51% that I scraped through with for Chemistry.
However this time around, bigger and wiser, I knew for sure. Those words from my parents brought out that inner lioness.
I won’t be PUT DOWN. I know how to look at things from a different perspective. I know how to give things different meanings.
Now, have to admit, in a way, it did have an impact, because I haven’t unfortunately been back yet to visit my Aunt and deliver that very same canvas.
However, what I have done is hung the picture pride of place in my office. I look at it daily as a reminder.
Never allow another person to undermine your value or own self-worth.
Never let someone take away your joy and passion.
Be your own Meaning Maker.
At that moment, I could have chosen to believe that my art wasn’t good enough because they didn’t like it.
However like all things art is fortunately in the eye of the beholder.
The other key lesson is sometimes hurtful (or their version of honest) words come from those nearest and dearest around us.
I know that they want (unconsciously) to protect themselves more so than me from the embarrassment of turning up with the picture they don’t believe she’d like. That’s all good.
Reckoning that because they don’t like the style. She won’t either. Of course, I’m curious, I wonder if she will. One day we’ll find out.
So it’s really key to become your own Meaning Maker and not let others rain on your parade or bring you down.
The canvas takes pride of place in my office and frequently at workshops when I share this story to help people understand the importance of being able to reframe what others say to us. We need to view and experience their words differently and perhaps change the meaning.
Here’s how you can become the Meaning Maker and do it too:
1) Remember it’s not the event, conversation or experience itself, it’s what you make it mean.
Consider all the various meanings or reframes you can give a particular situation.
2) There is no failure only feedback
So I’ll get my butt in the car, go visit and deliver it myself. Or maybe I’ll paint her a new one, even bigger and more badass, just cause I can 😉
3) Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have
Sometimes even our nearest and dearest are not better equipped with the language, self-awareness or ability to say or do things differently. We cannot change others only how we perceive and experience the situation. Thus how we subsequently respond.
So what meanings could you change currently?
Is it time to reframe a few conversations, situations or experiences that you’ve had or are having that may help you more?.
Does the inner Lioness need to come out for a play?
More on that soon.
Time to get painting again.
Be the Meaning Maker.
Genevieve “Well-Meaning” Matthews
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