Part One: Self Esteem
There is no doubt that when we consistently create art, we are learning how to accept both criticism and praise from others as well as from ourselves. How many times have I heard an adult criticize her work? MANY more times than I’ve heard it from children.
Children aren’t self-deprecating perfectionists by nature. We become that way somewhere along the path of growing up. It’s no wonder since so much of our adolescence is spent being graded on our studies and judged by our peers in all things from our looks to our athletics abilities.
Because the possibilities of creating beauty are endless, people who consistently play with art throughout adolescence discover ways to make something beautiful despite their artistic weaknesses. One who isn’t so great at drawing may discover that abstract watercolors are their thing, for instance. This is an important reminder that self discovery takes exploration… and exploring is the fun part!
Of course, we can learn this lesson in any endeavor where failure is possible, but can you think of an activity that is as fun to fail at than art? So your painting of a flower didn’t turn out so great. Wasn’t the process pretty enjoyable? Is it so terrible to just throw it away and come back tomorrow to try something a little different? Children seem to know this by nature, but some adults get really stressed out by a painting that turns out less than perfect. I think that if these adults consistently played with art as they grew up, they would be perfectly proud of their painting (imperfections and all) and would carry that confidence into all aspects of their lives.
Creating art can also be great therapy for adults who struggle with self esteem. However, it’s crucial that this therapy is an ongoing process. An adult who is wildly self-critical will most likely feel like crap after trying to draw or paint something. I see it all the time… in a class of ten adults, I can guarantee that at least one will walk away more stressed than they walked in.
This phenomenon used to make me sad. It used to make me feel like I failed as a joy-through-art guide. I would begin doubting my mantra, “art is a shortcut to happiness.”
However, I’ve come to realize that these souls can still find freedom in their creativity. They just need more practice accepting their imperfections and praising themselves in spite of them. I wish I could convince just one of those people to give art a chance every day for a month. I’d love to see how they improve. Not in their drawing… I don’t give a toot about that. I’d love to see how they’ve improved in their spirit of forgiveness and self praise.
So give yourself and your kids opportunities to play with art every day. I guarantee this “playtime” will foster their confidence and self esteem, but only if it’s consistent.
How do you incorporate art into every day for you and/or your kids? Share your ideas in the comments!