Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Not Walking But Don't Tell Me Who To Be

I read the second chapter in Walking in This World, by Julia Cameron of The Artist's Way fame.  Just so you know, I still haven't started the walking, but it's been very interesting reading.  This chapter is about the personal identity of the artist.  As artists, we know we are creative and some of us get that mirroring to know how creative we are.  Most of us get that worried feeling from the people around us, that we better know what we're doing so we're not starving artists in the future.  Better to have something stable to fall back on just in case we fail.  Thanks alot.

As I read along, I came to a paragraph about friends helping to reinforce our mirror of who we are.  This resonated with me not only as an artist, but on a universal human level.  The thing about having the wrong people as our mirror is that sometimes those friends reinforce the person that they see, not who we see.  Those people want us to be something that isn't "threatening to them, that gives them a sense of their own size and importance."  They are "used to their relationship with you in a certain way." When we grow larger into ourselves to who we really are, it's scary for the other people to see it happening.  The book didn't call this competition, but I would.

The concept just shows you how people around you can be jealous of your growth and they let you know it by their actions.  When I read this paragraph things clicked in my head.  I've had this happen to me and it's happening to someone very close to me at this moment.  People are uncomfortable when you grow and change into something they didn't think you could be.  It's confusing and threatens their own existence.  Cameron writes that these friends, and they're not friends if they do this stuff, want to downsize us to what we once were before.  If we're intimidated by these "friends" we might shrink back down to a size suitable to them.  Problem is we aren't small and compact anymore. It's not going to happen and that causes friction.  Suddenly, they say we've got a swelled head.  We're too big for our own self now, to them.  They are unable and unwilling to mirror back to us who we know we've become.

Have you ever done something or learned something you think is amazing and your friend, or a family member, or even a colleague, tells you, "What are you doing that for? That's not how it is!"   How disheartening is that?  Brings you down to size, doesn't it?  But that's how people are, like a distorted fun house mirror.  You know who you are and when you face that mirror you don't recognize yourself. 

Rather than allow that distorted mirror to shape our new size back down, we need to find new mirrors, new friends who can see and recognize, and support this new being. The question is how?  Can they be fixed?  If you can't fix them, can't avoid them, can't change them, what do you do? Cut and run, or stand your ground?

All human beings are supposed to change and grow into who we are meant to be, regardless of what others want us to be.  Cameron writes that we can play small, humble and modest, but we will never be comfortable with "yesterday's definition of ourselves."  If the Universe wants us to expand and grow, why not cooperate?  Those people who resist that new identity can never stop it, and they know it.


  1. Bingo. This is happening in my life right now. Thank you so much for this post. I loved the Artist Way. Think I will check out Walking in this World.

  2. The Artist's Way was really helpful, but this book seems to get down to nitty gritty stuff, life stuff. The way some people treat us, you almost want to dig a hole, jump in and stay there, right? But we have to stand tall, head up and march straight into the studio, or where ever, again!
    I'm so glad you commented, thank you.

  3. Hi Dora - I love this post and the example of the distorted fun house mirror. That imagery - now implanted in my brain forever - is going to be very useful in my life in the future. We all have have our "stories" about everyone (and ourselves). None of these are perfectly accurate and in the end - they are all self-serving. I am not going to let other peoples stories about me impact what I do and how I feel about myself - life is too short! Thanks!

  4. Additional comment. If there is going to be a story about me - I am going to write it and it is going to be a good one!

  5. You go Betsy! I really appreciate the comments. Looks like this hit a nerve, I know it did for me while I was reading the chapter.