“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best” (Henry Van Dyke).
When I was twelve, my family moved to Bryn Athyn. I was excited to move to a congregation with other church people my age who cared about the things I loved so much. I was disappointed. I found few kindred spirits, but at the time I mostly felt mocked for my strong convictions. In the spring of that year, we had dance classes. With 27 girls and far fewer boys, it did not bode well. The rule was that once the first batch of girls were asked, it was assumed the boys would ask the “leftover” girls for the next dance. Then once all the girls had been chosen, they could re-ask the other more popular girls.
One day when I was standing in the reject corner (like I did every week), all the other “second class” girls were picked before me. I watched as one boy took one look at me, chose to ignore the rule, and went back to the popular corner. I wanted to cry. Instead, I just walked over to join the other girls who were not dancing. It left me wondering what I had done wrong to deserve such treatment. Was I not good enough? I repeated this question to myself over and over, feeling like I was inferior to everyone else.
Looking back, I can clearly see that I was not the problem in that equation. Perhaps the boy who snubbed me was just thoughtless. Perhaps he was dealing with his own inadequacies. Either way, I did not need to take it personally, but I did of course. I was an insecure girl and it hurt.
This was just one experience that left me feeling inadequate, but it has stuck with me. I think we all go through times of feeling inadequate, but while feeling like we are not good enough can help motivate us, it can also leave us crippled and unable to move forward.
One day, when I was feeling crippled and doing one of those useless comparisons of myself to other people, an idea popped into my head: “Just because someone is better at something than I am does not mean I am not good at it.”
It was simple and obvious, but for some reason it was a totally new and exciting idea that began to take root. Yes, there are people who play ukulele and sing better than I do. There are people who paint so much better than I do. There are people who write way better than I do! So what? Comparisons are odious!
Instead of letting myself be crippled by other people’s success, I decided to embrace different forms of creativity despite the fact that I did not excel at any of them! For 2017, in order to commit to learning ukulele, I decided I would share a song cover at least once a month. For September, I decided to paint every day. In the summer, I started a blog.
Opening up to the vulnerability of creativity and sharing my art invites people to take one look and walk right past just as that boy did all those years ago. As an adult I continue to be hit by this feeling of inadequacy again and again. I am that 13 year old girl standing alone in the reject corner of the dance floor. However, through writing and painting, I have developed thicker skin and opened myself up to the critiques that life invariably gives.
I have discovered a confidence in myself that I did not know existed and a willingness to accept my talents for what they are. I have found the ability to embrace and hone the gifts that the Lord has given me. It does not matter if I am not the best dancer, the best singer, or the best painter; I am still supposed to share my talents, not hide them — even if they are not perfect.
“So let your light shine in front of men, so that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens” (Matthew 5:16).