DANGEROUS STORIES COLLECTION
This series idea came about after I heard Brené Brown speak in person the first week in March this year. What an inspiring experience to see and hear her discuss shame, vulnerability, perfectionism, etc. just a few feet away from me. If you've never read her books or listened to her speak, here is a good place to start: Ted Talk. There were several moments during the evening I heard her talk that felt like a gut punch, but the part of her talk that influenced me the most was when she shared this idea about the ‘stories we make up’. In times of stress or grief or doubt or anxiety, we make up stories in our minds to help us cope… to lay the blame somewhere else, to criticize ourselves deeply, to dismiss our true feelings, whatever it is. These stories lead us down paths of defeat and destruction and cause us to dwell on feelings of unworthiness. She said this— “The most dangerous stories we make up are those that call into question our lovability, our divinity, and our creativity”.
It got me thinking...how often do we do this??? Do we carry untruthful stories in our heads and our hearts daily? I know I probably do.
Over the past 6 weeks I embarked on a journey of processing through these stories. I focused on truth and discernment…making sense of what is going on in my head vs. what is really happening around me and what my heart knows to be true. I spent time calling out the dangerous stories I tell myself as the lies that they are. I focused instead on calling forth the truth of my lovability, divinity and creativity.
I painted my way through this process and have 11 paintings to share as a result. Each painting tackled a 'story we make up' - one of the lies I tell myself to excuse myself from doing hard work. I shared a bit about each painting, the story I was combatting, and the process of working through it on instagram with the tag #dangerousstorieschallenge.
You can read about each painting below. I hope they speak to you! All are up for purchase in my shop.
Was thinking about the idea of fullness...of being fully ourselves for this #dangerousstorieschallenge painting. The story we tell ourselves is that in order to fit in, we must splice and dice and label and compartmentalizations each other and ourselves (especially online). We get such small glimpses and put each other and ourselves in small boxes and try to fit the molds we make up- like perfectionism, or inauthentic happiness or success. When we do this, it can perpetuate feelings of unworthiness and loneliness. It’s so hard to do, but allowing others to see the patched up or murky areas means we aren’t cutting ourselves off. It means we can authentically connect with one another. There’s nothing like being seen and accepted for who you really are.
Vulnerability is dangerous. The story we make up in our heads that I wanted to reflect on as I painted the third piece in my #dangerousstorieschallenge was inspired by a conversation with a #getgalleryreadyworkshop client. Last weekend we shared a powerful hour of conversation, she from a hotel room on a snowy mountainside in France, and me tucked away in my home studio on a quiet rainy afternoon. She was discussing her work, sharing her doubts from a vulnerable place. For a few moments, I could feel in her, what has happened to me many times before... when we are asked to be vulnerable, we tell ourselves to back away, to put up walls. We tell ourselves that vulnerability is dangerous, that it will make us weak. The truth, I am slowly learning, is that authentic and honest connection leads us down a path of being seen, known and loved. The story we make up in our heads about vulnerability not being a good thing for us is a story I must fight to recognize and stop before it closes me up. #dangerousstorieskaylan
Hide and Control. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much emotion we constantly control and hide. I expect it of my kids (“stop crying!”) and we expect it of each other, not wanting to make someone feel uncomfortable with our expressions of sadness, anger, or whatever it may be. In Braving the Wilderness, @brenebrown talks about this very thing “...when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.” So for this piece, I wanted to consider and explore the ways I hide my own emotions... considering those moments where I choose control over expression. Maybe if we were all a little more willing to express our deepest emotions, and were willing to connect with our bodies, we would be able to better honor and love one another as fellow human beings? So much to ponder.
I Am Responsible for You. Second piece for my #dangerousstorieschallenge is about a lie I tell myself far too often 👉🏼 “I am responsible for their feelings”. When in situations of conflict something that often stops me from thinking clearly is the fear that I am negatively affecting the way someone feels. The truth is that I am only responsible for my own feelings and actions, and being intentional about the way I perceive, project and act in situations is a hard enough job, let alone to worry about others. Thinking I am responsible for the way others are feeling is a trap I get into that causes me to feel shame and sometimes hurtles me into bad decision making. Has this ever happened to you?
I Don’t Have Time for This. Completed my 4th painting for the #dangerousstorieschallenge and as I painted this I was reflecting on the story we tell ourselves that our work is not worth our time. So much can cloud our vision and make this lie appear more valid— finances, the stress it takes to find time in our schedules, the risks to step out and make this our career... we think we should be spending our time doing other things. Working a better paying job, doing household chores, taking care of emails or whatever else. We make up the lie that art [or music or writing or whatever it is for you] is not worth our time. My truth (and maybe yours too) is that giving time to my art is ok, good, and valuable. It validates my worth, it reminds me of my creativity and it is something I love. Prioritizing this is a good thing and it’s ok to remind ourselves of that.
Balance is Not Mine. Littlest painting of the bunch, but not lacking in truth. Was thinking about a conversation I had with @kellyknaga week or so ago about balance. Seems like we often tell ourselves that everyone else has it figured out but us and that balance will never be obtained. Or maybe it’s that balance is only achievable if we follow a certain formula, expecting that it’s possible to look the same for our own lives as it looks for others from a distance. We tell ourselves that everyone else has it figured out, that their days are perfect and their time swings between peaceful yoga practices and sun drenched productive studio sessions and 3 course healthy family meals. The truth? The truth is that balance looks different for everyone and that no one has it figured out. As @kellyknaga reminded me, balance often feels more attainable when we are looking at the big picture, not at individual days. Some days are crappy, and chaotic and work is squeezed in and frozen pizzas are pulled out for dinner and a good yoga session isn’t even on our mind. But hopefully those days are also balanced with days (or maybe just hours or moments) that feel utterly blissful. Where we can steal away for a few hours of painting and it flows and feels productive. Hopefully during the time in between we can learn to call out the lies from the truth. That balance might not be ours every hour of every day (and that it’s not that way for anyone else), but that we can find contentment in our big picture.
Nothing Within. Not always, but sometimes the paintings that take the longest, the ones I wanted to give up on time and again and the ones that are painted over the most, turn out to be my favorites. This is the eighth painting in the #dangerousstorieschallenge and it might be my favorite because I was considering a story made up in my head that I’m guessing many of you can relate to— the lie that there is nothing within us worth bringing forth into the world. The truth is that we are ALL creative, we all have “strange jewels buried deep within us” as Elizabeth Gilbert says, so even if it takes layers of change and fixing and painting over — or maybe lots of digging deep, we all need to dismiss the lie that we are not capable of putting something into this world that brings hope, empathy, joy or beauty to others. We should all be consumers AND creators, and shut down the stories we make up that tell us otherwise.
Can't Show You All of Me. Was thinking about the idea of fullness...of being fully ourselves for this #dangerousstorieschallenge painting. The story we tell ourselves is that in order to fit in, we must splice and dice and label and compartmentalizations each other and ourselves (especially online). We get such small glimpses and put each other and ourselves in small boxes and try to fit the molds we make up- like perfectionism, or inauthentic happiness or success. When we do this, it can perpetuate feelings of unworthiness and loneliness. It’s so hard to do, but allowing others to see the patched up or murky areas means we aren’t cutting ourselves off. It means we can authentically connect with one another. There’s nothing like being seen and accepted for who you really are.
Just Being Helpful. This is a hard one to write but I’m putting myself out there for the sake of believing that the internet is a place where we can and should discuss hard things. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take on this #dangerousstorieschallenge without telling some hard truths. The story I make up in my head that I wanted to consider while painting this piece is about criticism. You see, too often I criticize myself and the ones I love that are closest to me. I do it in my head as well as out loud. I often tell myself that I am just being helpful or just trying to do the right thing (that’s the lie/the story I make up) when what I’m really doing is dolling out criticism that is mean or unhelpful. This is usually happening because I am feeling hurt or am not engaging with something else that is going on inside of me that needs to be addressed. Instead of criticizing, I can shut down the story in my head and focus on sharing words that are only uplifting and encouraging. Easier said than done, am I right?
Past Trumps Present. This is the first story I make up in my head that I wanted to focus on for my #dangerousstorieschallenge because it affects so much. I was just talking to a friend yesterday about times when I know I am letting things I have said or done in the past hold power over the present in ways they shouldn’t. For example, bad parenting moments I regret from 3+ years ago still jump to the front of my mind when I am frustrated with my kids and the guilt and shame I feel for those past experiences often cause me to spiral into further frustration in the present. The story I make up in my head sometimes is that I should still feel shame and guilt for things I have done in the past, and that influences how I act today. Wrong. The truth is that today is what matters, and I have to let go of things in order to accurately read the situation at hand and respond to the present moment with grace.
Always/Never. Do you ever get caught up in the always/never trap? Like when you are in conflict with someone and your brain starts using phrases like “He *always* does this...” or “She will *never* change...”. Or maybe you use these stories when you are down on yourself, saying you’ll never get to the goal you want or that you always fail. It’s such an easy trap to fall into and the language can feel difficult to overcome when you are overwhelmed by emotion... ultimately it is a dangerous way to think, threatening our ability to change and grow, and threatening our confidence and self-worth. Last week during a (now insignificant) conflict, I could hear the lies in my head immediately jumping to this language. It’s been a strange experience to feel the call to stop and examine the voices in my head at the prompting of this painting project. Though it wasn’t easy, and like that dark shape in the bottom right, my emotions felt heavy and forward and made it difficult to shift gears, I was able to let it go.