Creating a Work of Art: The Process of Self-Discovery

As the story goes, when Michelangelo was asked about the enormity of creating a statue like David, he replied, “It’s easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.” While the quote is unlikely his, I love the sentiment.

As people, we bury and burden ourselves with so many things that are not ours. We take on and own things that don’t belong to us. No, I’m not talking about stealing. In fact, we’re actually giving something very valuable away. We give away our connection to self when we take on the imprints and beliefs of our family, friends, culture, or world.

So what exactly do I mean? We are all imprinted with numerous beliefs, beliefs really about everything we know to be “true”. These come in a myriad of flavors and forms. Big boys don’t cry. You need to have children so that you’re not lonely when you grow old. Girls aren’t good at math and science. Women who are strong and powerful won’t attract a man. It’s important to save 10% of your paycheck. Debt is bad. Pasta makes you fat. Air conditioning is for wimps. You should drink 8 glasses of water per day. You throw like a girl. You have to stay married for the kids. You should always take overtime. You have to take your medicine. Sometimes you just have to do things you don’t want to.

Wait, what? I hear what you’re saying. Some of those things are “true”. I will agree that for some they are, but these are not hard and fast “truths”. For example, it may be a great idea to avoid debt. On the other hand, using debt wisely to leverage a business development can be extremely profitable. Sometimes it is true that you have to do things you don’t want to….like when I’ve had to remove a tick from one of my children when I’m terrified of ticks! But do we really have to attend an uncomfortable family event, stay on a date that’s going badly, pick up extra hours at work, or volunteer on a committee?

Look back at the examples of some family or cultural beliefs. Notice that they are all “you” rather than “I” statements. They come from outside of us. How many of these beliefs are even in our awareness? How many do we truly believe at a deep level? How many do we just blindly accept as truth, not even seeing how they limit us? As I see it, every imprint or belief that is not truly held by the deepest part of our Self, is stone that needs to be chipped away. Chipping away the beliefs that are not truly mine, brings me closer to myself. What an amazing process of self-discovery!

This week’s challenge: identify as many beliefs as you can. It’s easier than you think. There are hundreds every day. Then spend a little time examining them, paying attention to what they feel like in your body. Are they really “true” for you? If not, chip, chip away.