On Greatness: Finding your Artistic Voice and Offering Hope to Others

“Greatness is never achieved by trying to imitate the greatness of another. Greatness is chipping away at all that does not belong to you and then expressing yourself so truly that others can’t help but recognize it. It is in silence that we discover ourselves.” – Jewel, Never Broken

“Greatness is when you leave the room, & people have more hope than when you entered.” – Rob Bell

I read the first quote last month while reading Jewel’s book, Never Broken, and heard the second during a podcast interviewing the author, Rob Bell.

These words of wisdom have challenged my views of greatness and self-expression and the importance of being true to yourself.

Most of us start somewhere on our journey to finding our artistry – we often mimic others we admire first and then slowly learn to find our own personal expression and flow. This can take time however, and it is easy to compare ourselves and feel like we will never be “talented” enough or as good as others.  Maybe someone else is already doing what we want to do, and we feel like there isn’t space for us.

Greatness feels like a lofty and selfish goal, in some ways. As if it means being better than others or getting more recognition for your work. I love the freeing notion that greatness can bring hope. It isn’t about being better or more liked or more beautiful or making more money, but bringing hope to others.

I think about my various artistic endeavors which bring me joy – writing, photography, picking flowers from my garden and making simple arrangements at home, painting, drawing – and when I think about whether they are worth the effort or question whether they will ever “amount” to anything, I realize I am using a false measuring system and asking all the wrong questions.

I know that whenever I start to feel a motive creep through me that comes from a desire to be admired or make myself feel like I am better than someone else or to prove something to the world (or family, friends, competitors, etc.), I am allowing my step to be shifted away from greatness and toward something much less worthy of my time.

If we are simply measuring our accomplishments in life by “likes” and “shares” on social media, comments and recognition from friends or even comparing our own work with someone else and patting ourselves on the back for creating better content, we are allowing ourselves to get lost in the noise and stunt our forward motion, when true growth comes through silence and reflection and practicing the hard, everyday discipline of showing up and doing the work.

So now, when I question my worth and how much energy I am putting into something, when I look hard and deep and wonder if there is any point or if I am going in the “right” direction, I am asking new questions.

I am asking whether it brings hope.

Or sheds light on truth.

Or inspires beauty and growth and goodness in others.

Whether it brings joy to myself and those around me.

This feels so simple and can be applied to so much in life: work, art, parenting, writing, teaching – anything we aspire to do or be. Even small things can be done with greatness. But it is hard, because it feels backwards to what our culture teaches us about success and security and moving up in the world and making a difference and becoming something “big”.

But “great” and “big” aren’t really the same word.

And as Jewel states, greatness is actually about becoming smaller, shedding the things that don’t belong to us, and expressing our light freely.

-b.e.

 

 

 

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An “Unplugged” Summer

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It has been almost two weeks since I posted on my Instagram account.  In fact, I haven’t even scrolled through my feed.  I did log onto Facebook to post something to my business page and check on my notifications, but I didn’t miss much.  I wonder, a little, if anyone has noticed my absence in the vast sea that is social media. I worry if someone thinks I am purposefully distancing myself from them by not engaging with their posts. Funny that this is the reality I live in, people thinking I am angry because I do not respond, our main source of validation coming from a tiny blue icon of a hand gesture.

I haven’t had any very profound moments since I “unplugged” a little, but the margins created in my day-to-day life without checking notifications and mindlessly scrolling feeds have provided much needed space.

Space to sit and listen and think without being prompted by a meme or inspirational quote; to dream and imagine and wonder without comparing myself to the accomplishments of someone else. I have grabbed my “real” camera more in the past two weeks than I have in the past 5 months and have been reading books, rather than stare at a screen.

I am also learning something interesting about myself.  About what it means to do something without the appeal of being able to show it off, without it being a means to an end of praise and approval. Without Instagram on my phone, I can’t simply snap a picture and post with a humble hashtag or two. I know how many times I have raced to finish a product, only because I wanted to be able to post it so my friends could see.

The strange thing about myself is that I crave acknowledgement and admiration (who doesn’t?), but I don’t know what to do with the attention.  I wish I could just stuff it into a little bottle and take a look at it whenever I need it, when I begin to doubt myself and wonder about what I do and why it matters. When I begin to doubt that anyone genuinely likes me.

We want the things that we do to be of importance. We want to share our lives with others.  Yet, what happens after a day or two when we haven’t shared?  We are all but forgotten. The notifications disappear and the images fade from our friend’s daily scroll and that amazing moment or clever post is no longer present in anyone’s mind. We are all too involved in what is happening next.  We are all too concerned with our own search for connection and the next thing to keep our voice in the mix.

So, I’ve committed to going the summer more unplugged.  I deleted my FB and IG apps off of my phone and I have decided to not scroll through my feeds.  I am allowed to log into Facebook to check notifications and perhaps post on my business account when needed, but otherwise, I am checking out.  I find that as more time passes, the less I check or even think to log in.

And, I am hoping to write more again without the anxiety that comes with sharing a post on Facebook, or the obsessive checking if anyone is “liking” it or wanting to delete it if no one does within a couple of hours.

-b.e.

 

take hold

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Extended hand,
uncurled fingers,
exposed palm –

my eyes freeze for a moment
and slowly lift,
tracing the lines from wrist to forearm to elbow,
stopping once more at the shoulder,
and then,
taking a bounding leap to those eyes.

Fierce and full,
they reveal a depth I am afraid to know
and yet, also a love I long for.

And so, the moment lingers.

What do you want to save me from?
What happens if I place my hand in yours
or, is it much more than just that?
What do I lose? What do I gain?
Where will you take me?

Passion, faith, dreams,
creativity, ambition, love –
What reaches out now
and how long will it extend it’s arm
before the moment has passed
and all is as before.