As the story goes, Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when a fan approaches the artist and asks that he make a quick sketch on a paper napkin. Picasso, being a generally pretty cool dude, draws a little dove and promptly hands it back to his admirer along with a request for a rather large sum of money.
The fan is flummoxed. “How can you ask for so much? It took you just a minute to draw this.” To which Picasso replies, “No, it took me 40 years.”
It’s a good (though likely apocryphal) story, and a reminder that the thing we are immediately producing in this moment is a function of all our history. When we put our eyes on the success someone has and try to simply mimic what they’re doing, we miss out on all of the background, education, training, hard work, and everything else that it took for them to get to this point, right now, in front of us.
This story is a favourite of many coaches (myself included), and so there’s not a lot for me to add along the lines of seeing how this pertains to your value. It is worth noting that standing for your value in this way requires more than re-telling a story about Picasso — it requires that you actually be willing to relate to yourself from this same place, and stand for other people to do the same.
But here’s the part that I think gets stepped over:
We treat our survival mechanisms and disempowering strategies with the same degree of irreverence that Picasso’s fan did for his doodle.
We open up the internet, looking for a silver bullet in the form of ten strategies to help us stop eating the way we do, change the way our body looks, stop ourselves procrastinating, or open up to more intimacy.
We convince ourselves that we can handle this on our own, and can undo forty years of training armed only with a few tips from Cosmopolitan and our will-power.
And then we get frustrated when things don’t change in six weeks.
We sit down and ask something of ourselves like “Well, just start talking to more people. I’ll just practice being more social”, and then when we discover that we can’t seem to get over the hump of our fear, we berate ourselves. We end up frustrated by the fact that we don’t see able to simply choose a new approach to showing up in lives.
We suck at holding reverence for our light, but what I see get in your way just as often is an unwillingness to hold reverence for your shadows — for the parts of you created long ago to get by in a world that wasn’t always kind or compassionate.
Before we can truly set something down, we first have to be willing to hold it. Your patterns weren’t created overnight — they were forty years in the making.
It doesn’t need to take forty years to dismantle them, but that process begins with you honouring them, rather than debasing them.