Friday, July 05, 2013

Valuing Our Work

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?



  1. Great post Lorrie. I think we should all be very proud of our work it is made by hand and with love. Nothing annoys me more when people show me their work then start picking it to bits. Show your work proudly it is unique. Love your Monarch they look different to ours.

  2. Wonderful thoughts. We all have those inner voices of self-doubt. I know that I do because I am afflicted with demanding perfection from myself and I always fall short.

  3. I've never thought of anything I've done as being very great except for my children who are, of course, my finest work. Pretty normal for most to be self-deprecating, I suppose. I like the advice your mother gave you!

  4. I've always been the average type, never excelled at anything and I'm happy just the way I am. Like Vee, my greatest achievement in life are our two daughters.

  5. Thank you Lorrie, thank you for your honesty and transparency. This post was very timely for me...very timely.

  6. I think we can all find something of ourselves in what you say - I know I do. Like Lavender Cottage I have always found myself to be average - a Jack of all trades but master of none perhaps - and am always comparing my creativity with that of others more talented than I. I think anyone who creates anything finds it difficult to see that creation as others might see it and thus perhaps finds it lacking in some way - let's all vote for our own work for a change as your mother said!

  7. Your mother was a wise woman. Mine was too, but she was raised to mistrust anything at all that hinted at pride, and that's how I was raised. To this day I have a hard time taking credit for what's mine. I think it must be much healthier to be able to value what you've done - or on the other side, to accept and honest critique.

  8. I was taught when I was younger to always be an individual, trust my own judgments and follow my own dreams. Sometimes I'd come across a strong individual who would take me down another path and, that is when I find, I am not myself and begin to feel uncomfortable fitting in with something I don't believe in. What do I do? I appease them, blame myself and then I feel bad. I think this is why I write on my blog, I experiment with the photos I have taken and I re-affirm what I as an individual want to do. This is my little area of 'me', my thoughts, my loves, just me. Could I be called selfish in this act? I do hope not. As a wife, mother, full time worker, there are times that I have to be true to myself and just take a snippet of time to say 'This is me, just me'. Sorry, I'm rambling on. Wonderful post Lorrie and thought provoking. Chel x

  9. I appreciate this post - it always amazes and pleases me when someone can articulate something so important, in such a thoughtful way.

    I am a quilter, photographer, crafter and I am exceptionally good at what I do. That could be for several reasons, because I enjoy what I do, because I have inborn talent that I can practice and use or because I try very hard to be very good at what I do. Like you, I've been shown by society that we don't brag - but then I think, if I don't, who will? There is bragging that is mean and spiteful, and I want no part of that - but saying that I am exceptionally good is the truth, and it is something I'm proud of. I'm also very proud of what others have accomplished and don't like to see or hear them denouncing their work because it isn't like mine.

    Mine is not a standard for anyone, except for me. I value creativity in anyone, young or old, and learn a lot from their concepts and their efforts. That is another way that I got exceptionally good at what I do - I watched others and learned to appreciate their attempts and their results - giving me confidence to try something new.

    And another thing - I've learned that to give compliments to others in their work makes them appreciate your work - and their work much more. I've seen people give "harsh advice for their own good" to someone and I've seen it break the spirit of the artist. There is no reason whatsoever to tear down someone else's work - if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all - and there is always something good you can come up with. A doctor friend of our family was often presented with babies to admire by his friends and patients - and not wanting to play favorites or make parents feel that their baby was not the finest ever seen - he would say "Now that's a baby!", bringing smiles and cheers to everyone.

    Ok - I'm done now.

  10. This was wonderful food for thought, Lorrie. I was a shy child and never thought I could compete with the girls around me who I thought were prettier, had nicer homes and more friends, etc. As a young adult I felt better about myself as I accomplished some hard earned goals while everyone I knew was just starting out. Then as a parent I saw a lot of competition between parents as to whose child was smarter, whose husband made more money, etc, etc. I never wanted to compete, so I basically just kept a few good friends all my life who I felt very comfortable with. I learned early on in blogging that I could never accomplish the things so many other bloggers were able to do, but I felt comfortable that I was doing this as more of a journal, and to learn new things, so I didn't feel competitive at all. Now that I'm living in a new state and have to make friends again I am hoping to find at least a few that I feel comfortable with. It's not been easy as yet...hopefully, soon!

  11. Good food for thought, Lorrie. So true...that comparison with others often leaves us feeling 'less than'. And yet...I know that it is in seeing what others have done that I often find inspiration to copy/create/do a similar work of my own. That is one of the great things about blogging...being able to copy the great ideas that are shared by others.

  12. Your sentiments are spot on! Comparison is the thief of joy. Each and every one of us is valuable.

  13. What a great post and so important too! It's hard to be objective about our own work so this is a great reminder.

  14. I have so much I could say about this! But, I'm not feeling particularly verbose nor focused right now, so suffice it to say that I pray about this often. I usually have peace about it then. I love the saying "If I try to be like her, who will be like me?" And, have put it on some of my photos.

  15. This is the kind of post that hits me straight in the heart. I have the hardest problem with this. I'm way to prone to see myself and everything I do as just not quite good enough. I've struggled with this for years. In recent years, I have learned that there are a few things that I really CAN do and can do them to the glory of God. (teaching Bible studies and narrating, to be specific.) I've learned to accept the acknowledgement of those gifts and give the credit where the credit due. My favorite elderly saint will say, "Let God see you use his gift in a mighty way." I like that.

  16. Very well said. I don't compare myself to others. We are all different, unique and special in our own way. Sometimes I wish I had just a bit more of a creative gene ... seems to come so naturally to some. No matter, I still create and have fun in the process. Best wishes, Tammy

  17. What a great photo.


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