She was a child who loved to create!  Colours in her paintings, unusual shapes in her designs, squiggles on paper that became flowers and patterns and who-knows-what in her young imaginative mind, brought her great delight and satisfaction.

But when her teacher didn’t “see” what the child saw and said “Why can’t you colour within the lines?  Why can’t you do the assignment as I gave it to you?”, that all came to an end.  The little child interpreted those comments that she was a failure and carried that feeling with her throughout her adult life.  She hardly ever uttered the words “I’ll try.”   And if she did try, it was always stated as “I’ll try, but …”

One day at coffee during a workshop I was facilitating, Elspeth began to explain her frustration telling me that she was not creative, she could not draw or paint, she had no artistic ability, and she was going to leave the workshop.    “I’m such a failure!” she said, staring at the blank sheet of paper, unable to put any mark on the sheet of paper in front of her.  Failure?  Not in my eyes.  But in her eyes, yes, failure.

Elspeth was not looking at her work that day through the eyes of the happy little girl of long ago who took a pattern and played with it using paints and crayons and coloured pencils and her creative imagination.  In her creatively extended pattern beyond-the-shapes’-boundaries, she was anything-but-a-failure.  When Elspeth grew up and remembered her childhood teacher’s comments, her spirit was stifled. For decades, she saw herself as a failure, not just in artistic endeavours, but in many areas of her life.

As we chatted, she began to realize that a comment made long ago had crippled her adult self-image.  Right then and there, she made a conscious decision to no longer give her power away to that memory and she decided to remain in the workshop.  Before she knew it, she was creating incredible pieces of marbled paper which she later turned into envelopes, greeting cards and wrapping paper.  “I didn’t know I could do anything like that” she said with a big smile as she left that day. “But I can!  And I will!”   And, she has!

How often do we let the negative words of the past flood our present and restrict our creativity?  How often do we allow others or memories of the past have power over us? How often do we put limits on ourselves and don’t risk, don’t travel, don’t take workshops, don’t step out of our comfort zone and try something new.  We’ve all done it at one time or some way or another.  There are places I have not travelled – yet.  There are books I have not read – yet.  There are dreams I have not realized – yet.  There are things in the technology world I cannot do – yet.  There are crafts and skills I cannot do – yet.

One thing I know … I won’t let negative thoughts, memories, people stop or limit my forays into learning and growing. So, this weekend, I’m off to learn a new Paste Paper technique … removing another thing on my “Yet-List.”

©  June Maffin