I recently went on a weekend creative retreat. Just me and 72 other women, meeting together to be inspired and challenged in our creative endeavours. There were artists, photographers, writers, singers and musicians. There were creative entrepreneurs, poets and event stylists. There were speakers, journalists, florists, and bakers.
There were people who had written loads of books, and there were those who had written none. There were people who had written albums, and those who had written only one song. There were those that were using their art to provide for their family and those who were just trying to find what they really want to do.
It was diverse, it was beautiful, and it was challenging.
You see walking into the room with those 72 other talented women, awoke all the insecurities in me. “You dare to call yourself a writer, you haven’t published books like her, and you haven’t studied the craft like her, and you don’t even know how to craft a beautiful phrase like her”. It all rose up within me, this ugly mess of compare and contrast, with a healthy dose of low self-esteem thrown in for good measure.
Insecure; anxious or afraid; not confident or certain; not adequately protected (of a building); unstable or shaky
Isn’t that definition so accurate? Especially the one of a building not being adequately protected? I felt like I was crumbling, that my foundations were unstable. I was full of anxiety and fear, and I was questioning why I was there and in fact what I was doing writing at all.
But as I got to know these women, as we shared over the course of the weekend. As we moved beyond the surface of “what do you do” and exposed a little of our souls, and our hearts; I discovered that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way that weekend. Pretty much of all of us walked into that room comparing ourselves with someone else. We were all a mess of anxiety and fear.
And slowly as we shared more, I discovered that actually my calling and my assignment; my writing and my voice are for my message and my audience. And the girl sitting next to me, her message is totally different and for another audience altogether. I discovered that in fact we weren’t in a compare and contrast situation.
And freedom came from that realisation. The freedom that comes from knowing we all have a unique voice, we all have a unique assignment and that we all have our own road to walk.
The opposite of insecure is of course secure:
Secure: free from danger, damage; free from fear, care; in safe custody; not likely to fail, become loose; able to be relied on; to make or become free from danger, fear; to make fast or firm; to make or become certain; to assure; to make safe from attack
Did you notice how many times the definition above, mentioned freedom and safety? If I stand secure in my own voice, and my own calling, and my own journey then I am free from the anxiety and fear that comes from a compare and contrast life. If I trust that my path is for me, and her path is for her, then I don’t find myself crumbling and shaky but rather strong and safe.
You see the compare and contrast life has you stopped on your path, looking to the side, to see what she is doing and how far ahead he is. But when you live a life where you lift up your head and you focus on your path, then you are free to encourage others, safe and sure in your footing, and your assignment and you can use your energy to get to your destination.
there’s a crowd in my way
pushing and shoving
and making my life uncomfortable
I just caught a glimpse
and over there
and right by my shoulder
with his elbow in my side
they’re overwhelming me
pulling me down
I look up
and see the great expanse of sky
and the hills in the distance
and I realise that I have somewhere
someplace to be
so I get up
I walk right through
I go on my way