Friday, March 4, 2011

Learning to Live with Non-Affirming People

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein

I tend to see the miraculous in everything and look at the world with childlike eyes. The task that I find daunting is having to deal with other people who look at life the opposite way from me.

I'll have to admit that I'm pretty fragile around certain people whose opinions mean too much to me. I would like to let their opinions just roll off my back, but I usually get depressed. Then it takes several days for me to recover. Then I may harbor bitterness for not being affirmed in something I'm passionate about. I don't want to be like that.

Here's an example: A family member said this about both of the above photos, "Yeah, they're pretty but too common. You can find tons of pictures just like those anywhere." Well, that may be true, but they're still special to me, because I remember the way I felt when I saw both buds opening up in the sun of a new day; how the dew looked and how the chilly air felt in the early morning.

For him/her to say that, I feel, is insensitive and unloving. Am I being too hard on them?

I've determined before not to show this person any of my photos again, but I always get excited about a good photo I've taken and show them anyway. I really think I'm going to try and stick with that resolve. I'm tired of having my feelings dragged through the mud and stomped on. And the amount of affirmation I do receive from this person is so small in relation to the negativity, it's just not worth sharing anything. I'll be more selective with whom I choose to share my art.

How would you handle this type of person? What would you do in this situation? I want to be Christlike in my thoughts and actions, but sometimes I just don't know how to react to what I perceive to be negative comments.


M.K. said...

Hmm. I hope you don't mind if I talk a while. First: I read your post above, about kitchen painting, before reading this one about the photos. So, I clicked over and saw the gorgeous photo of the fruit blossoms, before I ever read this post about the photo itself.

I had an immediate visceral reaction to that photo. Perhaps it's because I've been going through MUCH trial lately, and my heart is very tender. But I found it overwhelmingly beautiful. I kept the tab open so I could go back to look at it again. I did a little blog post with a link to your blog, so other friends could see the photo too.

This didn't surprise me, b/c you're an artist. That's the kind of response I'd expect your photography to elicit from a viewer.

As for how to handle relationships with people who do no understand your heart: love them, be kind to them, but always live with the understanding that they are very unlike you. They do not see with your eyes. It's like asking a blind person how they like the color of your new dress. You don't expect them to give an informed answer. You may share your art with them, or not, but don't expect anything intelligent from them in reply. They aren't able. It's not a criticism of them -- it's just not their thing.

Just b/c your photos are of common things (flowers) does not make them common photos. Why is it beautiful? The contrasts: of the rough, woody stem with the smooth flowers, of the clear lines of the foreground with the blurry background, of the cool tones of the flowers with the warm tones of the sun, the transience & delicacy of the flower's life, with the eternal, heavy nature of the sun's rising and setting. It almost seems to say, "See! In the face of something as old and magnificent as the sun, a fragile flower of a day is still more beautiful!" The colors of the photo fill it. I even like the contrast of the photo with the text in your blog title.

Seek out others who will see the fullness of your art. Then, listen to their wisdom also when they may have criticism. But a person who's proved repeatedly that they have no evaluative skills in this area? You don't need to give credence to their evaluation. If you feel that their repeated criticism is more of a personal attack, then by all means avoid letting them see your art at all. No need to provide opportunities for their sin. (Just my opinion!!! I'm no artist, so I don't know how it feels!)

Graceful said...

Just for the record: I disagree. I love both those photographs, and I don't think either are unoriginal. In fact, that prickly looking one leaves me curious about what kind of plant that is.

As for how to respond, I say ignore and keep on doing. Are you happy? Do the pictures bring you joy? Does the subject matter when you take the picture bring you joy? That's all you need to know!

GretchenJoanna said...

I agree with your first commenters on both points. Your photos are not common. I took about 15 photos of my plum tree in blossom and they were all pretty boring, certainly compared to yours - but just the fact that I did that shows you that I also saw something in those branches in my back yard that other people didn't notice.
I am often tempted to feel sorry for myself when some people who are very dear to me have no interest in even looking at my blog, where I display my art, such as it is. You have to do it because you love it, and be glad if there are a few people who are kindred spirits. Thank God for Blog Land where we can connect with those people.
Don't take it personally when people are unappreciative. They are just different people and they aren't being purposely insensitive in order to hurt you. They just are not *sensing* the way you do.
Keep loving the world!

debbie bailey said...

Thanks, ladies, for your lovely comments. I feel better. The green flower bud in the photo is a sunflower bud.

Amanda said...

I know how you feel, I think. I am not nearly the artist you are, but I know how hard it is when those who love you don't understand something so essential to who you are. They really can't see what you see, and probably never will, because they weren't made that way. It hurts just the same. I think to myself, can't they TRY a little? But I must remember to do all things as unto the Lord, who made me the way He did...and be thankful for the earthly companions who do understand. And, I also LOVE your photos. I immediately thought the blossom photo was far above the usual!

Laura A said...

Heh, heh. I have some experience with this one.

This person sounds like they're repeating (perhaps without knowing it) the usual modernist (or postmodernist, I lose track) art mantra: Art is valuable for how unusual it is. You know, like Diane Arbus. Flowers are for old ladies, unless you make them look like Freudian symbolism, a la Georgia O'Keefe. I appreciate some of that kind of art, but I don't think it is the only valid type. Besides, unusual art is also very common ;-).

Anyway, I can't tell you how to answer this one, except that the response is more about that person and what they think they need to say about art, than it is about you. Do what you find aesthetically pleasing and don't mind them. Of course, it's true that they can't smell the morning, but even without that, I think the photos are very well done, as are many of the others on your site (I love the one of your grandson with the stuffed animal, and the foggy landscape, and the still life.). You're not going for edgy, but for reflecting God's calming beauty on the earth!

Anne said...

Debbie the best thing you could do is to teach yourself not be easily offended. Also, I like your advice to yourself not to share with this person again. You are not responsible for her/his comments and can't help what another person thinks or says.Apparently, it was not constructive criticism. Maybe this person will read your post and realize how she/he hurt you. The pictures are beautiful.(She/he is probably not a nature lover as you are either.) Anne

debbie bailey said...

Thanks for all the helpful comments, ladies. Anne, you're right. I do need to quit being so sensitive. Boy, is that hard! I'm working on it though.