CLAIMING, RECLAIMING & EXCLAIMING WHO YOU ARE

Last month, I returned from my first solo-international trip to Portugal. This is one of the stories that changed my perspective on my life. I expected this trip to teach me many things: I expected to be empowered. I expected to feel some sort of liberation. I expected to grow my confidence. What I didn’t expect was how my confidence would be both challenged and changed. “I Am The Fucking Artist.” As I strolled through the bustling but quaint streets of Porto, Portugal, I happened upon a storefront that stopped me in my tracks. In the window was exquisite artwork, with such beautifully detailed ink drawings of this small city. Along with this artwork was a mannequin, emboldened with these simple, but profoundly powerful words, “I Am the Fucking Artist.” I’m going to come back to why this moment was so important for me in just a moment, but first I have to tell you what precipitated my storefront encounter. The Retreat The main reason for my trip was to attend a yoga retreat focused on making space for rest, which a good friend of mine was facilitating. One of the retreat attendees, Natalie, had just finished the school year working as an art teacher. She spoke very naturally about being an artist in her conversations and it struck me how she spoke with such ease and confidence. It was just who she was. She claimed it and she owned it. She put on no errs, no attempts to impress. It was just simply who she was (and is). It was with that ease and confidence that I took note, curious. It dawned on me how terribly uneasy I have been to claim this part of who I am and I looked to Natalie’s quiet confidence as a teacher for myself. I wanted to go to Art school in college, but I didn’t. No degrees. No certificates. Nothing to tell me or the world that I am an artist. Nothing to “prove” my worthiness to claim that title. For the longest time, I thought I needed that degree. I thought I needed a professor or person of influence to claim it for me, as if* their* stamp of approval would or could ever give me the confidence I lacked to claim for myself. Despite selling paintings and prints of my paintings, despite taking on commissioned work, despite the recognition and positive feedback I had received, I still lacked the confidence to claim myself “a real artist”. If and when I would tell someone that I am an artist, it was with an almost apologetic and uneasy tone, unsure if I was good enough to really stake my claim. Because of this lack of confidence in this area of my life, I also struggled to make the time to create and I put unrealistic and unreasonable pressure on myself to “make good art” whenever I mustered the courage to create. Hearing Natalie’s humble claim to a part of who she is struck me so deeply and I left the retreat determined to dig deeper into this part of myself. For a long time, I didn’t think there was room for me to claim this part of myself. “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? THERE ARE SO MANY TALENTED ARTISTS. HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY CLAIM TO BE ONE, TOO? YOU DON’T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES…” BLAH BLAH BLAH. These thoughts too often and with detailed automaticity would pop right into my mind and nestle in as one of my prevailing beliefs. There were many reasons for this but everything boiled down to two words: “Scarcity Mindset”. Scarcity thinking loves to make you believe there’s not enough to go around and that is just what I had believed much of my life. The truth is I could not have been further from the truth. There is more than enough for me…and there is more than enough for you, too. Back to the storefront. The beautiful artwork. The mannequin. The audacious and brazen statement. “I Am The Fucking Artist.” She said it boldly. Confidently. She made room for herself, needing no one else’s approval or permission. She claimed it, owned it and exclaimed it. When I saw the mannequin in the window and read her unapologetic words, I smiled. In fact, I chuckled. I imagined the artist, in her shop, displaying her work. I imagined someone walking into her store, gazing at her work, perhaps with an err of judgment, making certain assumptions as to who the artist was, and then asking the sales clerk with a disapproving tone, “Who’s the artist?” I imagined that sales clerk, the artist herself, standing up taller, looking him dead in the eye and saying, “I’m the fucking artist.” The lesson was clear to me: There is a quiet confidence–being so sure of who you are that you don’t have to proclaim it to the world to know it, coupled with the boldness that comes with staking your claim, owning who you are and speaking your truth. I needed both lessons to help me claim, reclaim and even exclaim a part of me that I had quieted for far too long. No degree, no certificate, no other person can tell me who I am. That is for me to know, to decide, to share. Each lesson we learn throughout our life is intricately woven together. We can’t always see the magnitude of our life’s lessons, until much later when we take a step back and see the larger tapestry unfold. Sometimes, it might even feel like we are learning the same lessons on repeat and wondering if we are learning anything at all. Sometimes, we have a blind spot to those lessons. We need a change of pace, a change of location and oftentimes, we need someone else who can see our blind spots for us to help us get to a new place of knowing. For me, it has been the coaching I have received over

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