I was interviewing a designer friend last week about how difficult it is to come up with an idea that is your entirely your own. Is that even possible?
Tim McClellan learned this the hard way when he designed a piece of furniture that made him the winner in Ellen DeGeneres’ new show Ellen’s Design Challenge. Unfortunately for him, it was later discovered that the piece was his work, but not his idea; someone in Germany had created it. We can assume that Tim had simply copied the work, or we can allow him the benefit of the doubt and believe him when he says that his subconscious picked up the idea when browsing a design blog. Some of my musician friends have come up against this in their field: the old five-consecutive-note rule is a killer.
We are bombarded with images, words, ideas, information. It is the air we breathe. And by breathing in at all – which most of us do, I think – we take in a lot of stuff these days. And of course, this affects what we say, or do, or think. Inevitably, a lot of what we put forward in the world is a variation of someone else’s idea; or something we have built on from someone else’s foundation.
Part of that is lovely; it’s why communities like threads are so good. We get to exchange ideas, and develop them, together and for ourselves.
Before I go any further, don’t worry, friends: this post isn’t going to be a ‘be careful little ears what you hear’ lesson. We are all well-versed in how what goes in, must come out. I believe this: I listen to, read, watch, and surround myself with things that will challenge, inspire, and push me to grow.
But as much as I do this, I still come out with a lot of rubbish. In particular, a lot of rubbish aimed at me. What I mean by that is this: I am really harsh toward myself. And no matter how much ‘good’ stuff I take in; I still manage to put myself down, to criticise myself for both little and big things in ways I wouldn’t dream of articulating to anyone else, to belittle myself in exactly the way I tell my friends not to do to themselves.
And, so I’ve realised that I’m more responsible than I think; not only do I have to watch the external things that influence me, but I also have to watch how I’m influencing myself. What I say, I listen to. What I listen to, I internalise. What I internalise, I say. Get it? It’s a cycle. I recycle my thoughts.
Dove France recently released their new campaign, #OneBeautifulThought. Now, we really need to talk about how this company, which capitalises on men and women feeling not good enough and thus, needing their products, is now claiming their messaging is empowering, but that’s for another day. The campaign video struck me. It shows women criticising other women with things they would only say to themselves – and, rightly so, this shocking passers-by.
If we’re honest, I think a lot of people would benefit from writing down some of the things we say to ourselves for other people to read. And knowing how they sound out loud. I know I would.
My inner dialogue can be toxic. It’s not limited, as Dove might have you believe, to what I look like – although that does feature. Rather, it can be like a reel of comments running through my mind again and again – they’re certainly not original. ‘That wasn’t good enough. You’re not good enough. Someone else would do a better job. You’re not ready. Maybe this isn’t what you should be doing, after all. Are you sure you should have said that? Couldn’t you be more this, or less that?’
Hear me out, I am very much into self-awareness. I love knowing my strengths – and my weaknesses. I think it’s so important to know ourselves, and to always be looking for ways to improve.
But my inner dialogue does not help me do this. It drags me down, if I let it. And some days, I do. If I’m physically tired, if something outside of my control is distracting me, if something has gone wrong. I’m more prone to listening to this voice.
This voice that doesn’t help me grow. This voice that doesn’t help me move forward. This voice has no place in my head.
I love how the psalmist’s inner dialogue is evident in the Psalms. We read about David on the rooftops, and in the valleys; we see him crying out for help, we watch him rejoicing. And through it, David is good at reminding himself of truth. He has particular things that he keeps coming back to – about himself, about his God. These truths are the constant thread in one heck of a tapestry.
And so I’m resolving to find that thread, and to nurture it, and to fight for it. It’ll take work. What is the truth that I want to be reminded of? What truth is weatherproof? How will I make it grow? Can I turn up the volume? It’ll take a battle; ushering out of the building the voice that demands centre-stage. It will be a quiet ‘no’, a quiet ‘yes’; a quiet correction. It will be a loud ‘NO!’, a loud ‘YES!’, a loud proclamation.
I am enough, and my God is enough.