Drinking From the Well of Confidence

Yesterday I caught my four year old son leaping and twirling in front of a couple of paintings-in-progress by my 12 year old. He was amazed by her work and seemed to be having a bit of an “in body” experience with it – jump, spin, look. Tumble, turn upside down, look.

The art was pretty much eye level for him and he was definitely appreciating it.

“Mommy, How on EARTH did Ani get to be such an amazing artist? I mean really, Mommy. Look at this! Would you just look at it? AMAZING!”

Ani of course was nowhere within earshot. I whipped out my phone to capture the moment.

We all tell her how much we like her art, and it falls on deaf ears.

If only she had heard her brother singing, and dancing, her praises.  Maybe something about his raw little kid-in-joyous-motion honesty would have struck her as authentic. The real deal. Maybe it would have been the magical moment where she believed in herself and saw her own talent. Maybe she would have been flattered, embarrassed but an ember would have landed and caught fire to her core.

Over and over she has told me that it doesn’t matter what I think. Mother’s HAVE to like their kid’s stuff. Mothers are famous for having a warped view about their kids and their talents. Mothers, do not count.

Maybe she’s right, about Mothers. I’ve seen the same. I don’t think I’m “like that” but I’m probably the last one to make a reliable diagnosis of Warped Mother-itis. Her unwavering lack of faith in herself has been enough for me to seek out the opinions of “experts” at times. Art teachers, strangers on the internet and  four year olds all agree that there is a certain something about her work. Just maybe not the something she wishes it was.

This makes me unbearably sad.

She may be right about me, but she’s wrong about herself. Would that I could fill her parched soul with the confidence she lacks. I see where it comes from.  I suffer from the same extreme seasons of doubt and drought. Good at a few things… great at nothing. It’s almost worse than being terrible at it all. Accepting that you are terrible gives you permission not to try. It protects you from rejection, disappointment, failure. There’s some comfort in that. A release.

I hear the whispers of frustration and I wish for a well of calm certainty. A belief in a talent that motivates a clear path. For both of us. Wouldn’t that be nice? How can I arrange for that? For a dip in the well of confidence?

You cannot bottle the contents of that well.  And even if you could, you cannot force people to drink it.

But still… how I wish she’d overheard. For both our sakes.

 

 

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11 Responses to Drinking From the Well of Confidence
  1. Aliza
    February 19, 2013 | 2:29 pm

    This is an achingly beautiful post. What does the Hebrew on the sculpture mean? xoxo

  2. Carolyn West
    February 19, 2013 | 2:53 pm

    I can’t over-emphasize what getting praise from a sibling means. Parents can be biased, friends just want to be liked, but a sibling tells it like it is – they’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but it’s the times that one of my brothers has said “Good job” or “Nice work” or “That’s awesome” that have meant the most to me.

  3. Anne
    February 19, 2013 | 3:31 pm

    So true-approval from a brother-huge! My brilliant oldest brother Gene once gave me some of the best approval of my entire life: “Be so happy with yourself & what you’ve accomplished! No matter what you do in life, there’s going to be someone who does it better-and someone who does it worse-than you. Just be the best you you can be.”

  4. momfluential
    February 19, 2013 | 3:35 pm

    I think it’s “We accept the love we think we deserve” which is sort of perfect, no?

  5. momfluential
    February 19, 2013 | 3:42 pm

    Spot on Carolyn. If I can soul bare a little further on my own need for approval… I remember the family dinner right after I optioned a tv show. I’m a much younger sibling and have learned the hard way that my “stuff” is generally ignorable, over the years. When I was in HS, they were becoming DOCTORS. When I was graduating from college, they were having KIDS etc. But a TV show, surely that would impress, I thought! Blank stares for ten seconds, then back to talking about a fishing trip they were planning and congratulating each other on their gear, timing, vacation days etc. No congrats, nothing. A small part of me died that day, but also grew up and grew calloused over. I realized that this was one form of praise, one source of approval that was never going to happen, and it sort of ceased to matter to me after that. I realized I was judging myself by the lack of praise and if they couldn’t scrape something up for something so “huge” it really wasn’t me!

  6. Tara
    February 19, 2013 | 6:00 pm

    From what I can see, her paintings do look amazing! :)

  7. Holly
    February 20, 2013 | 6:32 am

    I’d like a dip in the well of confidence to pass on to my daughter, too. I fear that she will inherit my self-doubt.

  8. Holly
    February 20, 2013 | 6:32 am

    I’d like a dip in the well of confidence to pass on to my daughter, too. I fear that she will inherit my self-doubt.

  9. Doctor G
    February 20, 2013 | 12:57 pm

    I think some of us are born with that ego, that drive that says “Heck yeah, I can do anything and be awesome!” I think some people are not. The only thing I’ve seen that works is to let your calm certainty about her flow gently and quietly but persistently. She won’t (can’t) believe you yet. But she will someday. Don’t argue, and yet don’t give up.

  10. elissapr
    February 20, 2013 | 4:18 pm

    Wow! Those paintings ARE gorgeous! What talent at such an early age!

  11. […] them feel better. When they succeed, we tend to reward that success in the hopes of helping them build confidence. On the other hand, we shouldn’t artificially inflate their sense of accomplishment. The problem […]

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