Mirror Michelangelo’s Magic

Some of the hardest challenges we will face in our lives are the challenges of the mind: overcoming thoughts of doubt, worry, anxiety, insecurity, and even inadequacy. Some of us are somewhat frequent grapplers in this recurring wrestling match of the mind. Many of us may even do battle daily. But for all of us that do find this challenge familiar, I believe that one of the underlying drivers is our lack of confidence in ourselves and our lack of confidence in our ability to realize a specific future outcome.

The tricky thing about confidence is that it is very often defined by a specific goal; it is an internal disposition about the achievement of an often external objective. This objective may be self defined. For many of us however, we find ourselves reaching for objectives not of our own creation: goals and standards set by peers, mentors, parents, and society at large. We let someone else define success and then find ourselves lacking confidence in embodying that definition. Stated differently, we let others create our bar for success and then find our internal thoughts and feelings guided by these external barometers of success.

It’s a rather curious thing when you think about it: each of us, born a wondrously unique, never before seen creation but yet constantly seeking validation in a world that has no prior knowledge or understanding of our particular variety of uniqueness.

This is not to say that the external world has nothing to offer us; rather it is to highlight that we alone have the final say on how we choose to engage with the external world and on the particular elements we choose to let into our minds and consciousness. We know who we are and should therefore determine who it is we are to become and what it shall look like; the expectations of others should be irrelevant.

All of these things give me a newfound admiration for Michelangelo, the Italian and largely self-taught painter, architect, sculptor, and poet. Having gifted the world with such wondrous works as the sculpture of David and the Sistine Chapel, he is certainly worthy of being labeled a prodigy.

However, after accomplishing all of these things, he was noted as proclaiming these words in his 87th year of life: “Ancora imparo.”

I remember when I first stumbled across these words several years ago. I didn’t speak Italian but, realizing there was some significance to these words, I looked up the translation: “I am still learning.”

I was both shocked and awestruck. Here was this extremely well accomplished artist who had spent a long life granting the world with some of history’s greatest gifts and works but yet felt that he was still an ever-evolving and growing human being. Unfazed by the labels of the external world — both good and bad — he was resolute in his internal disposition: confident in the fact that he still had more to do, more to give, and more to become in the world.

This confidence and commitment is what o admire most about Michelangelo. It is also, in my opinion, the true source and definition of his seemingly magical abilities. This resolute disposition about himself and his capacity to continue learning and sharing that learning with the world enabled him to continue creating gifts that the world is still amazed by today, over 450 years after his passing.

For those of us living in today’s times, we have much to draw from Michelangelo. While we may not be blessed with his prodigious gifts of artistry, we can certainly all mirror his resolute and confident disposition about himself. We can all decide to not be swayed by the world outside and determine to only march to the beat of our internal pace. We can create our own bar for success and judge ourselves by that and that alone.

In fact, we must do this. It is the best way for us to overcome those feelings of doubt, worry, anxiety, insecurity and inadequacy. And it is, I believe, the best way for each of us to become the very best of who we have been uniquely created to be.

Ancora imparo.

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