I’m a big advocate of journaling. The habit of indulging myself on the page has become a life-changing, enriching, emboldening, expansive endeavor. I write about stupid things. I joke that if my posterity ever read my journal they’ll be like, “Who is [fill in the blank] for whoever is causing drama in my psyche?”
“It’s not important!” I’ll reply.
“Yeah, but that name is mentioned like 7000 times in here!” And because it’s in a word document they can ctrl+F and actually get an accurate count. *Sigh.*
Then I’ll reply with some sage wisdom about how what is going on in life is always more about you and less about the other people that step in to fill certain roles.
Because it’s been such a helpful tool for me, I have trouble not advising everyone to journal all the time. But this isn’t fair—because some of us aren’t writers! What if someone told me, Michelle, I really need you to sculpt this life experience—like pour it all into a sculpture. Make me know what you are feeling and doing and being in this moment with clay…or worse—marble.
I would respond with a lot of fear and drama in my head because I know nothing about sculpture. I could do it. I’m confident of that. If I applied myself, I could produce some piece of sculpture that would represent a piece of me. It might take me 30 years but I could do it. But WRITING is so much EASIER–for me!
So there is something to are said for picking a medium of expression that feels somewhat natural. Maybe you have some skill with drawing or photography or singing or welding metal fragments. There are so many ways to express oneself–the point is to pick one!
What holds us back from picking one is the inner critic. It’s the voice that develops at some point between the time we are first introduced to crayons and the seventh grade. It’s the voice that says, You aren’t any good at this. This is stupid. No one wants to read this. That drawing doesn’t even look like a person. That critic becomes somewhat helpful as we navigate school, friends, college and career selection. That voice can push us into areas where we have natural ability. But eventually it becomes a crippling companion. It’s the Tanya Harding brute force that takes us out at the knees. It’s ugly.
So the first step is in identifying the voice of that critic. When it pipes up, just take note, hear what it says. Then realize that you are not bound to it. You are free to be BAD at anything you put your mind to!
There it is.
You can do anything as long as you’re willing to be bad at it.
You are hereby liberated!
So the choice in medium becomes less important—do what fills you in this moment! I’ll admit, writing was a natural choice for me. I chose it because I felt I was already a little good at it. That’s okay! And some days I draw and I’m really VERY mediocre at drawing but, when I’m most successful is when I’m willing to be bad at it! I like drawing and maybe some day I’ll take some classes and figure out how to be better at it, but why should that stop me from expressing myself that way now!?!
There’s an unspoken rule, once you reach real adulthood (I’m not talking age 18—I mean the time in life when you can really do you) that you should only do things you are good at. That rule is silly. And it sucks. Literally it sucks all the fun out of life.
Recently, I’ve been reacquainting myself with the piano. I took lessons from age 8-15. I *should* be quite proficient with that amount of lessons under my belt, but I’m just okay. That just-okayness held me back from playing for years and years! And I LOVE playing the piano. Finally I decided that was silly. When I got a piano in my home, I considered taking lessons to get myself up to a proficient state, but then I chucked that idea right out. NO! I’m going to allow myself to be bad at it. Taking lessons so I feel worthy to grace an instrument I love with my music was so silly. I’m worthy right now.
I’m taking opportunities to challenge myself in this way. I selected some challenging songs that I love. One of them is from A Star Is Born and performed by Lady Gaga. I do my best to play and sing like Lady Gaga, which is hilarious! But I tell you what! I get a lot closer to sounding like Gaga by shamelessly TRYING than I ever did by playing small. You won’t see me on America’s Got Talent EVER, but if you want a private, amateur performance in my living room—then I’m your gal! And all that’s changed is my willingness to be bad at it.
The same thing applies to surfing. Every time I paddle out, I face some of the same old insecurity demons. Then I just decide I’m totally fine being the worst surfer in the water and sometimes I am, and sometimes that mentality allows me to immerse myself so fully into surfing I completely forget about the ranking system and just surf!
I love how Mark Nepo describes this. He says that when we are gifted with something, it’s tradition to be told that we should become that thing. If I’m decent at writing, people will say, “You should be a writer.”
“But the power is in the DOING, not the in the BEING,” Mark says. The power is in the verb, not the noun. So forget about being a writer, and write! Forget about being a singer, and sing! Forget about being a surfer, and surf! Focus on the verb! Do the thing! Pick the medium! Be the YOU doing the things that bring you to life!
This is my commitment to myself—to continue to allow me to be bad at things—because that’s where all the power and all the life is! Here’s your permission slip to do the same! Namaste.