When people come to work with me one of the first things I tell them is that this intuitive painting process is an exercise in Radical Self Acceptance.
And everyone who hears that invitation nods their heads in agreement. I mean, who WOULDN’T give a huge thumbs up to the idea of accepting yourself totally and completely?
But liking the idea and putting it into practice can be two entirely different things. That gap between the idea and the practice shows up in full force when people begin to make original art from their own heart and soul, because nowhere is the adage “wherever you go, there you are” more true than when you’re painting intuitively.
The truth of it is that you literally can ONLY paint like yourself. Your individuality will make itself known in a million different ways on your canvas from the color choices you make to the way you hold your brush. So who you are comes through loud and clear with each brushstroke. Every time you make art you are reveaing yourself to yourself in no uncertain terms.
And that moment of revelation is the point when people start talking about feeling stuck or being blocked or no longer having any fun as they paint. As they see their real selves unfold on the easel before them they are often brought face to face with all kinds of internal psychological distress that takes the form of negative judgments and unflattering opinions and a heaping load of inner put downs. These judgments are always rooted in experiences where the person has been shamed or traumatized for expressing themselves sometime in the past, and where the messages of not being good enough have now been internalized as a nasty, unkind and often bullying inner critical voice.
The biggest problem is that we believe that voice without question. We take what it says at face value and are convinced that it knows what it’s talking about. And because we believe it so completely we never stop to ask where it comes from and why we should even pay attention to it.
We have a hard time questioning it because that voice is always rooted in ways that we were traumatized, ignored or abused around our authentic creative self expression. And recognizing that trauma means we have to be willing to feel all the ways we have been hurt so that we can begin the process of engaging with those painful feelings in the service of healing them.
So the next time you get stopped in your tracks by a shaming inner critic message around making your art, try and remember that the first step to radical self acceptance is to recognize that you have been hurt by a person or an ingrained, unconscious cultural message somewhere along the way. That you didn’t EVER deserve to be treated badly. And that voice is always, always totally full of shit and doesn’t have clue ONE about you OR your art.
Your tender artist self needs HUGE doses of compassion. Under any and all circumstances. That part of you is beautifully vulnerable and only wants you to love them and see them and celebrate their unique way of being in the world. Always.
And you are the absolutely best person to give that to your creative self because they want that acceptance from you the most.