Today I had a parent-teacher conference with my grade school daughter’s art teacher. Sitting on the tiny chairs surrounded by art supplies, I had a flashback to the moment I stopped doing art. It was seventh grade and we had just finished up a lesson on self-portraits. I remember looking in the mirror and trying to sketch myself just as I appeared. What came out was a very mediocre drawing of a plain looking girl.
At the time, I was quite happy with my drawing. I knew it wasn’t a masterpiece, but I thought I had aptly captured the essence of the exercise. My teacher thought differently. I got a C.
A C was a big deal to me back in those days. I was an A kinda girl. Even an A- sent me swirling into doubts about my value. So you can imagine what a C did to me! Not only did I get a C, I got a C on my interpretation of myself.
While I knew at that moment that I was going to stop drawing, it wasn’t until just today that I realized that I interpreted that C as much more than a measure of my technical skills in art. Because it was a self-portrait, my seventh grade mind got to thinking that the grade reflected me as a person. I was a C…simply average…nothing to celebrate or admire.
Today in the parent teacher conference, the art teacher offered that we are all creative, we just need to learn technical skills that help us express our creativity. Just because we don’t have a technique down pat doesn’t mean that we are any less artistic or talented than the next person. It just means we haven’t learned that skill yet.
Looking back, it’s so easy to see that my self-portrait grade had everything to do with my technical skills of shading and perspective and nothing to do with my personal value.
Sometimes when we get feedback, it can seem like a personal attack instead of commentary on a skill we need to improve. Separating your personal value from a skill or technique you need to learn can help you understand the feedback you’re getting in a more productive way. It might even open the door to mastering a skill that will take you to the top of your field.
So the next time you get feedback, take a step back and untangle the words from the emotion they generate. You are a beautiful “A” kinda girl (or guy). Your shading might just need a little work.