Wednesday, 9 February 2011


Someone wrote in a forum: 

“In our culture, there appears to be an assumption that unless you’re shit-hot at something, you perhaps shouldn’t be doing it. There’s a pressure to strive to be “The Best” at something, to be really fucking good, or you’re “not good enough” to do it and should therefore not do it.”

My reply:

Isn’t that a part of our childhood brainwashing?

A Norwegian author has formulated the Jante Law:

Don’t think that you are special.
Don’t think that you are of the same standing as us.
Don’t think that you are smarter than us.
Don’t fancy yourself as being better than us.
Don’t think that you know more than us.
Don’t think that you are more important than us.
Don’t think that you are good at anything.
Don’t laugh at us.
Don’t think that anyone of us cares about you.
Don’t think that you can teach us anything.
Don’t think that there is something we don’t know about you.

And a part of that mentality seems to be a fear of letting kids be proud of what they’ve made or done … in case they become stuck-up or something?

There weren’t many rules in our house when the kids were growing up, but one was unbreakable: It was totally forbidden to belittle oneself. Visiting kids who didn’t know me would say: “Lookit this awful painting I made!” And I’d explain that I did’nt think any of us WANTED to make something awful, so in this house we were expected to be proud of whatever we made.

They learned very quickly.

This was a legacy from a wonderful art teacher I had when I was a very messed-up 8-year-old who had gone to 4 schools on 2 continents.
None of the other teachers cut any slack for culture shock - once I was rapped on the knuckles for not knowing long division.

But the art teacher left me alone to mess around with paints, so at least his class was an oasis of peace … and he buildt up my confidence in my colour sense so much that I never have to wonder if colours go together. And at that time he helped me find solid ground: confidence spreads like a virus - if we feel we can master one thing, it spreads over to other aspects of our lives. So after a while I did get the hang of long division and the plural of woman and all those other tangly English things.

“Not good enough” can often seriously impede creativity, is what I’m saying. Blah blah blah ramble waffle yadda yadda. Can you tell I sometimes get up my own arse about this subject? :)”

You’re not the only one, but I have an exception that proves your point: I worked as a potter when the kids were small, and I loved it … the turning, the mad scientist aspect of making glazes, the sheer slippery filthy  muddiness of it. BUT.

After some years I made a very hard decision: I loved this, but I was never going to be REALLY good at it. There was some sort of spark missing, the knowing how to get from OK to GREAT. So I sold all my equipment, but kept my beloved pottery books, cried for a whole day, and now, 30 years later, I’m a translator. With the spark.

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