Letting Go of Labels

Letting Go of Labels


These words are ringing in my head today.

When I was younger, my story went like this:

My sister was very good at art. Taking nude charcoal drawing classes when she was barely a teenager, creating pottery, and painting. I watched her excel at this, and silently, I decided I was not good at art. I let myself be “good” at other things – writing, for example, which I had never known to be an art form. These things don’t always occur to young people. I took a photography class, and I was the worst at it. I tried hard, and it didn’t help.

And so the narrative grew and grew until, without ever realizing it, I had decided I would never paint or sculpt or draw. I decided I could not. I was beyond help or skill or talent. Learning was not for me.

I regained my confidence as an artist when I pursued film-making. And then again when I became a photographer. But, in some way, those mediums were distinctly different from the raw talent of handmade art.

Up until two weeks ago, I would have continued to tell you that I can’t draw, that I can’t sculpt, that I can’t paint.

In fact, not a month ago I sat with my sister playing with Play Doh. Fast as lightning she made a fish, and then a dinosaur, and so on, until she demonstrated how quickly and easily her brain works in 3D, how she can collect the likeness of reality into clay.

I sat staring at my whale flattened to the table, entirely 2D, and not realistic in the slightest, and that feeling came back to me from childhood. And I joked that I was bad at this, and we all laughed as we do, and I moved on.

But a few weeks ago I saw a class pop up in my email from my local art center.

Ceramics for Beginners.

I clicked it, left it up in my browser for days, debating.

And then I enrolled. Without hesitation or further thought.

And I went to my first class. It was terrifying.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story. I tell it better in my video. I hope you’ll watch and let me know what you think on this idea of labels and how destructive they can be. I think it’s an important video to watch to…

Take control back of your narrative.
Cultivate a positive story for your life.

In the comments (either here or on YouTube), let me know…

What is the narrative that you need to change?

17 thoughts on “Letting Go of Labels

  1. I was just about to sit down to do my morning pages when I felt inspired to look at my emails; and there you were, of course, it’s Monday. So, I thought I’d watch your video then do my morning pages. Wow, I needed to hear what you had to say to me. I’ve recently completed a series called Dream Life, and while doing this series, I’ve been reminded of truths I’ve learned years back regarding the 4 Agreements, my paradigm, and most recently, as you stated, “What is the narrative I’ve been telling myself?”. I’ve been listening to a narrative that truly has been a part of my paradigm, a lie of sorts. One of my most glaring narratives is: I need to please others, but I’m not good enough. I totally believe I was led to watch your video before I started my morning pages and meditation. I’ve got a lot to think about, Brooke, and I thank you for fanning the flame.

    1. Julie, isn’t it beautiful when the honesty of our narrative reveals itself? I’m so glad that we could connect on this and I hope that clarity comes with your meditation this morning.

  2. My sad little narrative on bad days goes something like this: I am not lovable and I will never be great at anything.

    In the last few years I have gotten control of it – I accept this is my damaged spot, my hard wiring gone bad and probably not going to change but I can manage it. I manage it through my very strong desire to create. I am so grateful that I am such a stubborn soul or to re-phrase, I got a lot of persistence. This carries me a long way in my creations! Thank you Brooke for being an inspiration in my life!

  3. HI Brooke! Thank you so much for sharing.I love that you post on Mondays. It’s something to look forward to at the start of the week. I did the same thing to myself! My brother is an incredible artist. His drawings and paintings are so amazing. I would draw quite a bit when I was younger, but then I would compare myself to my brother. I decided that I wasn’t the artist, he was. Later on I felt compelled to paint. What I created was so different from my brother, that I realized that, sure I can’t do what he does, but I can do what I do. And then finding photography opened up another world.

    Now I guess the narrative that stops me is that I don’t spend enough time creating and I don’t produce enough to be an artist, and I don’t have time to be an artist. Even though in my heart I feel like one and there’s so much I want to do. It may just be an excuse because I don’t feel like I’m good enough to ever actually do anything with it besides post on Flickr.

    1. I totally hear you. I’ve had the same story going on in my head this past year. I haven’t produced very much that I love and that constant voice telling me to do more is always there. You and I should definitely chat sometime about this more <3

  4. I’m a fine art photographer and have been for many years using mainly processes from the 1800’s.

    A couple of years ago I had a chance to take a week of Russian icon painting taught by a couple from Russia who toured the US each year for 3 weeks.
    Boy – what a change – grinding your pigments – using egg tempura etc.

    I was the worst in the class but started getting better on the 4th day. It was an interesting experience. I think everyone should try something new every now and then – makes life interesting.

    1. Change certainly does make life interesting. I really like knowing that you persevered with the new technique. It sounds incredible!

  5. For a first sculpture, I thought the hand looked really good! Getting your mind to work in a 3D plane in very hard, and takes a lot of practice, I hope you continue with your sculpture. I bet your sister was very proud of you when you signed up for this class.:)
    When it comes to art and most other things in life, I have never let myself believe that I can’t do it. But there is one thing. I have never been a flexible person, not like insanely bad. But I could never do a backbend as a little kid, and I have never liked people saying “you’re just not a flexible person” (Mostly my dumb sister.) So just yesterday I started yoga, and now at the age of 30, my goal is a backbend. If I don’t show up at PPC I snapped in two and died! LOL

      1. LOL Maybe PPC in a few years, I don’t think it is going to be a quick process! LOL
        Thank you though.

  6. Those labels!!! The one I am working to break out of is the “I am not good enough” label. I am feeling further out of that tunnel than I have ever been. It’s funny you took a ceramics class because before you even posted that on social media, I had it in my mind too to take one. I love the hand you made. It looks quite amazing actually. I hope to see it in one of your portraits. This video definitely has a great message that needs to be shared more often!

  7. I love this theme! To be honest I am quite confident in my skills and I can’t remember a time when my fear of “not being able to do something” held me back. In my belief hard work beats talent – every single time! And that means you are able to learn everything you want to if you just put in the time and passion. Trying out new things is the only way to realize if you love or hate something. And learning new skills makes you and your art grow. Just go and do it! But there is one story circling in my life over and over again – and that is the story of “not being good enough”. I am a perfectionist and I have a hard time to let this go. My perfectionism never held me back from learning new things and dabbling in all kinds of creative work. But it held me back from sharing my work and thoughts for a very long time. This perfectionims paired with my introversion is like “shut the doors and let nobody in”. But I am slowly learning to let this go and I am more and more opening up to share my work, my thoughts and my process. And I thank you, Brooke, for inspiring me to do so with every single Blogpost, Video, Insta-Post and just everything you do. You teach me to be vulnerable. And I love you for being so open and honest about your own artistic work! <3

  8. This is a wonderful post. It is like a reflection of all the things I tell myself. Since I was little I believed that I will never be able to create art. I am constantly told that digital art is not an art form; since it is technology based and does not show “the raw talent of handmade art.” My mother was a painter and could work in different mediums and I still believe that I will never be able to do that. I hear things such as; ” One day, you should try to create real art.”

    As I became older I had the constant urge to create beautiful things, mostly images through digital art. I have learned so much over the last couple of years since my children have left the nest and I love it, but I am still “hiding” most of it. Scared to expose myself and scared to hear that it is not good enough.
    Thank you for sharing your story and for inspiring so many people to live a creative life. Maybe it is time to let go of the labels.

  9. Wow! Labels–that’s all the college courses want to do–pigeon hole what type of artist you are. I keep being told I need to narrow my field “You can’t be successful with more than one genre”.
    Then there’s my mothers voice always present in my head, “Don’t be prideful” “Don’t brag” “Stop being a showoff” this voice keeps me from showing my work, from seeking others opinions. To top it off I have my voice circling around and around telling me “your not good enough” “their work is so much better than yours” “you need to learn how to do this better before you show it” “your not a real artist”. I fight these off as much as possible. I started forcing myself to introduce myself as a PHOTOGRAPHER. I hope to become confident enough to add the FINE ART into the sentence sometime soon. And there I go hoping to have a label applied to myself that then says I am good enough.

  10. I feel like I let labels dictate the course of most of my life. I always felt like I had something to prove. I always imagined that I was “special” and would turn out to be something extraordinary. It took a long time for me to realize that I also held a corollary belief: if I wasn’t doing something extraordinary, I was not special. Subconscious though it was, that fear drove so many of my actions. My dad used to tell me that he admired Michael Jordan because he was born with enormous natural talent, so much so that he could probably have coasted through life, but that he chose to work hard anyway. That’s how I wanted to be. A born prodigy with an unassailable work ethic. So I got perfect grades, went to college with a scholarship, got a high-paying job in corporate America. That was the easiest way to exceed people’s expectations, to impress them, to provide evidence that I could be highly successful. I became terrified of failing because I thought it would prove the opposite. In the past year I wrote a book and began experimenting with all kinds of creative work, but I still struggle to answer the question “What do you do?” It’s been the bravest year of my life, but there is no label for it that makes me feel “good enough,” let alone special.

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