Shake it Off and Let it Go!
If you have ever been to a Painting on the Prairies Paint Party, I am sure that you have heard me tell everyone “Before we get started I want everyone to take a deep breath and relax!” Usually I follow that up by saying that sometimes painting can feel stressful for beginners but that it should be fun and relaxing. So much easier said then done, right?
Whenever we first get into a new activity or hobby, no matter what it is, we figure that we won’t be any good at it at first, but that isn’t the point – we are broadening our horizons, improving our brain elasticity, challenging ourselves, and in the process we are keeping ourselves young! Yet it doesn’t take long for us to forget that we are still a beginner and soon the devil on our shoulder starts whispering negativity into our thoughts. But like Florence and the Machines once said, “It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back so shake him off”.
Hey, it happens to me too! It happens to all of us. No one becomes Master Chef overnight but for some reason we blind ourselves to that reality and expect that we should be better. Then, when we aren’t as good at it as we think we should be, we tell ourselves we suck which sends us into vicious spiral of negative self-talk that only steals us of our joy in the moment.
Shake It Off
Let me tell you a story about someone who is just like you!
So, my husband is into archery and occasionally I would shoot his bow. I would get into my stance, he would give me a check list of things to go through: position your feet, square your hips, square your shoulders, bend your elbow, look at the target, lift the bow, aim, draw back to your eye, let go. Let me tell you, I was terrible at it! I couldn’t hit the target for the life of me and it was so frustrating. “I suck, what am I doing wrong?” I asked him. We ran through the checklist over and over, my feet weren’t pointing the right direction, I hadn’t squared my shoulders, I was gripping the bow too tight and I wasn’t drawing back far enough. It was so hard to remember everything and implement them all at the same time.
[ Tip 1: There is usually a reason you are not getting the results you want. ]
Maybe you are using the wrong brush, maybe you are using too much paint, maybe you are holding the brush in the wrong place, maybe you forgot to dip the brush in the water. You heard me give you a whole list of instructions but in the excitement of the moment how many of them really sink in and become natural? It’s hard to retain everything you hear in a short 2-hour session surrounded by friends and/or strangers having a good time!
Anyway, I decided I really wanted to get into archery so we would have a hobby together. Upon shopping for a bow and having the same difficulty with aiming, the guy at the store realized I was left eye dominant. I had been drawing with my right arm but focusing with my left eye. Apparently eye dominance has nothing to do with which hand is dominant! So I tried out a left handed bow so that I could aim with my left eye and I got marginally better – but not much. Now not only was I learning a new activity, I was also doing it left handed which seemed very backward to me (I am right handed). Let me tell you, the first time I took it out to practice I almost had a melt down.
Once again I couldn’t hit the target if my life depended on it, good thing we don’t have The Hunger Games coming up anytime soon on the Prairies. Then, just as I was about to become what my husband calls a goober, Tay Tay reminded me, “Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it off, I shake it off.” Go through the checklist again, keep on trying. You should have seen the bruise I got on my arm from the string slap. Wait, I think I have a picture…
Be glad that all you go home with is some paint on your hands! I got a bruise like that the first two times I took my bow out (until I broke down and got an arm guard – I can be very stubborn!). I also spent hours and hours shooting before I finally started to hit the target. But let me tell you, the first time I got all 6 of my arrows in the target I was so proud! Wait, I think I have a picture of that too…
[ Tip 2: Practice makes marginally better until finally you hit the target. ]
Let It Go
I am no better when I start a new activity or hobby then you are, and I can get just as down on myself and frustrated as you do, but you just have to, “Let it gooooooo, Let it gooooo, You’ll never see me cry!” I have had to sing the Frozen song once or twice at a paint party. I know that if you had me over for a ballet party, or a piano party, or a tight rope walking party or a yoga party I would be in the same boat you are with your painting.
So give yourself a break! You came in to the party proclaiming you are not an artist and can’t even draw a stick man, so instead of focusing on the fact that yours doesn’t look like mine or her’s or his, or on how you hate your tree or you hate your clouds or you hate your waves, try to focus on the fact that you didn’t have to draw any stick men!
Guaranteed, no matter how many times I hear, “I suck at this, I hate my [insert part of painting here], this looks terrible, why can’t I get this, this is so stressful, mine doesn’t look like that…” during the party, at the end when everyone steps back I hear, “That was so much fun, can’t wait to do that again, they all look so good, I can’t believe I did that.” So try to hold on to those feelings and embrace them at the beginning of the night so that when the devil on your back start to prevent you from dancing, or painting, or arching or whatever else you are doing you can:
[ Tip 3: Shake It Off and Let It Go. ]
Happy Paint Partying!