cutting myself some slack

Jay Clouse Uncategorized

When I was in middle and high school, my favorite thing to do before baseball practice or games was to go to McDonald’s. I know that sounds sad and weird, but I promise it had nothing to do with the food. My friends and I were obsessed with these new Megatouch kiosks that let us play Photo Hunt.

If you are unfamiliar with Photo Hunt, this is all you need. Two very similar photos, five differences, and a limited time to find them all. Sort of like the Highlights magazine puzzles you may have also done as a kid.

We were really good at Photo Hunt too. I don’t remember what our high score was, but I assure you it was astronomical. So, from an early age, I inadvertently honed and indulged my brain’s natural tendency to spot patterns, put things in categories, and make comparisons.

Stealing an explanation from The Artist’s Waythis is my ‘Logic Brain’ at work.

“Logic brain is our brain of choice in the Western Hemisphere. It is the categorical brain. It thinks in a neat, linear fashion. As a rule, logic brain perceives the world according to known categories…logic brain was and is our survival brain…Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possible dangerous. Logic brain likes things to be neat little soldiers marching in a straight line. Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.”

The logic brain loves thinking dualistically. i.e., good vs. bad, short vs. tall, love vs. hate. And honestly, the logic brain works great for getting me through the day to day. But if I go on autopilot and let my logic brain operate all the time, I’m going to be unhappy.

Let me give you an example. In the last week alone, I had in-depth conversations around:

  • Digital marketing/SEO
  • Videography
  • Web development
  • Performance art
  • Painting/street art
  • Nonprofits
  • Venture Capital
  • Scotch
  • Songwriting

…and more. The problem is, all of these conversations were pretty one-sided. I was asking a lot of questions, learning a lot, and generally having a great time talking about this stuff. I’m genuinely interested in all of it.

But since I am interested in all of it, my dualistic logic brain put all of these into the category of “reasons why I suck.” If I’m interested in this, shouldn’t I know more about it? After all, if [person] knows this stuff, and we’re good friends, why shouldn’t I know all of this already too? Have I been mismanaging my time?

I do this constantly. I’ll talk with someone that I share an interest with, but they know WAY MORE about that subject. Then I beat myself up over it. I love this stuff too. Why haven’t I put the time in? Why am I not an expert on this? Why doesn’t my creativity manifest that way?

Enter my artist’s brain. From The Artist’s Way:

“Logic brain is our Censor, our second (and third and fourth) thoughts. Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What the hell is that? That’s not right!’ Artist brain is our inventor, our child, our very own personal absent-minded professor. Artist brain says, ‘Hey! That is so neat!’…Artist brain is associative and freewheeling.”

The truth I’ve found is that directly comparing myself to others is unfair for two main reasons:

  1. I downplay or even ignore my own knowledge and experience
  2. I assume their knowledge and experience is exponential from what was expressed

And that’s the rub. It’s never a true apples to apples comparison because I am working from limited and assumed information. I am my own biggest critic, so it’s easy to ignore that my largest focus(es) is/are nowhere near any of the above subjects. And in most cases, the individuals who I’m speaking to are experts or spend a large portion of their time on the matter. That’s why I’m interested in speaking to them about it!

I don’t know the extent to their own knowledge. I don’t know their own nightmares. I don’t know their insecurities. I don’t know what they may be thinking about me. My brain just goes to “they are great at this and I suck at this.”

Over the past three weeks, I’ve begun taking steps to recognize and quiet my Censor in order to free up my artist brain (one of them being a manifestation of my Censor on my desktop wallpaper, above). I want to embrace the “Hey, this is neat!” and encourage myself to keep branching out and learn about subjects I’m interest in, even at a basic level.

I want to have fun and appreciate people for what they know, and then maybe make the effort to learn more if I’m intrigued. But I’m going to cut myself some slack and stop expecting myself to know all aspects of all subjects; it’s my greatest frustration, but it’s just not possible. I’ll work on my strengths and my greatest interests, and continue to surround myself with folks who understand my other interests – they make life fun.


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