My Grade 2 teacher, Mrs. MacDonald, involved our class in a fan-making contest. Each student was to create a hand-held fan from folded paper, decorate it, and the results would be displayed around the classroom. Then, each student voted for the one she/he liked most. The owner of the fan with the most votes received a small prize.
My mother found some pretty wrapping paper for me to use, showed me how to fold it carefully, and how to make a ribbon bow to decorate it. I was pleased with the way it turned out and carried it carefully to school the next day. Somehow, when it came time to vote, I felt it immodest and prideful to vote for my own creation, although I thought it wonderful. In the end, my fan tied with one other for the most votes. When it came time for the tie-breaker vote, I voted for my own fan, won the competition, and felt ashamed for doing so, as if I had cheated.
Years later, when I mentioned the incident to my mother, she told me that it was completely fine to vote for myself. Don't politicians do the same thing?
I spoke recently with a talented young designer who told me that she thinks her work is just fine and is pleased with it - until she looks at others' work.
Valuing one's work is something that many of us find difficult. Comparison to others usually results in thinking less of myself -
- she writes better blog posts than I do and has way more comments
- she reads more intellectual books than I do
- she comes up with such unique ideas
- her house-garden-table-face-photograph is prettier than my house-garden-table-face-photograph
- and so on, ad nauseum
I've gained more confidence through the years, but unbelief in my abilities rises up fairly regularly. I don't want to proclaim to the world, "here, look at what I've done, isn't it beautiful?" Instead, I want to:
- affirm the diversity in the world
- acknowledge that I have God-given talents and abilities that can be used to help others and honour God
- realize that when I take time to set a pretty table, sew a dress, plant a garden, paint chairs, or a host of other activities, I am fulfilling a deep-seated inner need - the need to create.
- realize that no one is perfect, that no one has life completely together, that all humans struggle in various ways at various times
I wish that each of us would value the work we do and not denigrate it. By work I don't mean the job I do every day, although that's part of it. Rather the work I refer to is that which I produce, how I fill my days. Yes, improvements can be made and striving for excellence is good, but perfectionism is not.
I have no wish to be a Monarch Butterfly, like the one that joined us for dinner the other night on the patio and who obligingly waited for me to run in and get my camera. But I do think I can learn from her/him and do the things I'm meant to do without overthinking and comparison.
Am I alone here? I don't think so. Tell me how you value your work?