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All Talent, No Confidence - A Sad Inspiration

What can you do when you're blessed with talent, and cursed with self doubt?

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Written by DeletedUser

I have a teenage cousin, Lily, who is a multi-medium artist, regionally ranked violist, and competitive swimmer/tennis player. Her room is wallpapered with drawings and scattered with trophies from various competition wins. Even her parents are surprised by her diverse talents - she's excelled at any artistic/athletic venture she's attempted.

But despite all her talent, Lily suffers from crippling self-doubt. She berates herself for not being smart enough to get better grades. She's concerned that she's not quite good enough to get an athletic scholarship and that she's just wasting her time - she's already quite swimming because of this. She's afraid that she wont be able to succeed in an artistic field.....she really wishes that she were smarter at something useful like math or science. And she worries, as most teenage girls do, about not being pretty or thin. She's become increasingly unhappy in the last few years.

To be honest, I don't quite know how to help her.


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Has she mentioned which area of the artistic field she is most interested in? Can you help her identify this (based on her creative style) and then help her talk to an active professional within this field?
Does she doubt of her technical skills or her imagination? They are two distinctive concepts.

I think she needs an external and experienced person to comment objectively on her creative artworks, and to give her confidence by telling their own story, how they also doubted at times in the past.

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Hello Old Friend (hah!). As an extremely NOT artistic person, I have a pinpointing her creative style or interest. To be honest, she seems to be doing all sorts of different things from sketching, oil painting, crafting, and fashion just to name a few. I agree that she should talk to an active professional in the field. Right now, I feel her her biggest worry is that the talents she has (in art, music, and athletics) are not transferable to a future profession. She's discouraged because her environment places a strong emphasis in traditional academics as opposed to more creative talents.

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Dear Jenna, I think I can relate to your cousin. Having talent is not the same as actually being able to feel good about yourself. And the worse thing is that nobody understands....I've been lacking confidence myself for years and only recently have come to feel more confident. I realize we are all different creatures in need of very different approaches, but maybe you can find some help in my story (my first mission here: Backpacking into the soul). Hope it helps!

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Hi Anabella, thanks for your words of encouragement. I think lack of confidence is difficulty faced by many creative people, but is not widely talked about (making it more difficult to combat). I wish you best of luck on your journey!

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Hi Jenna, thanks for sharing your cousin's story. It hurts my heart to hear that Lily is struggling like this. As we're seeing in this challenge, even the most talented among us can face serious and even paralyzing self-doubt and lack of confidence. It's a very tough situation to be in, and I wish you and your cousin the best. Maybe a good place to start is by beginning a conversation with her about this – why doesn't she feel confident about so many areas of her life? what does she think she could use in the way of support, role models, tools etc to help her grow into her confidence more? how could you support her to get there? It's just a small step in (hopefully) the right direction, but I bet it'll feel great for Lily to know that you care. Good luck.

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Hi Ashley, sorry for the late response. One of the things that I've been really focusing on the the last few months is to provide support and open conversation with Lily. It has been difficult because we live in different cities (we mostly communicate through text/phone calls). Right now, I'm trying to encourage her to be more open about her feelings to other friends and family members who are trying to help.

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Hi Jenna, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. You should be able to use the Update Entry button on the right of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. We know occasionally people have issues uploading images so let us know by hitting the Support tab on the left hand side of most pages of our site if you face any problems. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

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