Like you, I am surrounded by wonderfully talented, creative people. Often, these people’s talents seem to jump right out of them and dance in front of me while the possessor appears oblivious. Comments I make about their skills and what I believe are their obvious passions may be shrugged off or appear to go unheard. And this used to really bug me until I learned a little more about myself and why I threw the spotlight on other people’s talents and why I dared not venture into the light myself.
I was a shadow artist. I mean, I was a classic case! I came to this realization in the first part of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron in which she describes this phenomenon; it was like looking in a mirror as I read her words – a very clean, gleaming, can’t-hide-anything-from-me kind of mirror. A shadow artist encourages and supports other artists (in my case, vehemently) while ignoring their own creative dreams. They enjoy the company of other artists and may help them achieve their creative dreams but do not acknowledge their own creativity.
Does this sound familiar to any of you? See if you can identify with any of the following:
I was sitting in my daughter’s room, nursing her in the quiet of the late afternoon. My eyes came to rest on a cluster of small paintings hanging on her wall that my sister-in-law had made for her. Suddenly I knew, I just knew, that she had to start selling her artwork. And so it began. I harassed the poor girl in every way I could, for weeks on end, to start taking her art seriously, including by assigning her homework to help her “get started.” She didn’t do the homework as I assigned it but she did start putting her artistic self in the spotlight more and it was a real pleasure to see what came out of her own hard work.
My other sister-in-law is a phenomenal card-maker. So, after I was done with the visual artist sister-in-law I turned to the card-maker. I offered suggestions when they weren’t requested -very often. I tried to be discreet this time, as by now my husband was picking up on what I was doing and noticed I was being consumed with other people’s dreams and passions. I’m proud to say that she does sell her cards now in stores and at markets – again, through her own hard work and effort. And again, I watched from the sidelines, my own talents left unexplored.
Then there’s my brother (told you – I’m surrounded!) who can write like nobody’s business. But he doesn’t. He can also pick up any instrument and play it by ear. But he won’t – despite my brilliant ideas on how he can pursue these passions. I had fun coming up with names for his entertainment company, though. It doesn’t exist – yet!
Do you see what I’m getting at? How could I possibly have had any time to figure out my own dreams and goals when I was busy “pursuing” other people’s? Oh, and being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a speech therapist etc. I was too distracted and busy to have any time leftover for ME!
Are you falling into this trap yourself? Take some time to notice your reaction to other people’s creative successes. Do you spend more time on other people’s achievements (either by supporting, encouraging, observing) than you do on your own? If you do, then recognizing this is an important step in remembering your Self.
Then we can focus on the fun stuff – YOU!