We often have preconceived notions of what we are and what we can or can’t do. We are raised a certain way, make mistakes, put ourselves down. We pat ourself on the back for a success sometimes, knowing we have the innate skills or abilities to accomplish something, or tell ourself we cannot reach a goal. A family member recently reminded me of this when we were looking at his late grandfather’s dog tags from World War II and reflected on the life his grandfather led. He remembered his grandfather as a man who was strong and tough, and that remembrance made him consider how we can be strong in our lives as well. He also reminded me that some things that weren’t meant to be valuable, like those tags, can be very valuable to someone else, as they are to him. Those dog tags represented something more than just metal pieces with names and numbers on them, tethered together with a chain. They saw the horrors of war along with a man who was, after all, only human—a man who had to be tough before, during and after a war that took so many and ruined so much. The tags represent a human who persevered, survived and can inspire his descendants to be strong and do the best they can.
Other times we consider the notion of what others think we should be that is not true to who we are. I know an artist who has a very distinct style and she proudly shows it in her paintings. I can always walk into the gallery and pick out her work, standing out from the others. She told me that her personal art style is more important to her than whether people like her work or not. She is sticking to what she does and isn’t trying to create something that isn’t “hers.” Maybe someone will see her work as a masterpiece or not nearly such. She feels blessed if a viewer likes her art enough to buy it, but if her style doesn’t suit someone else, that’s fine, too. She isn’t afraid to be the artist she is. Vincent van Gogh tried different styles of painting in his early years, dark paintings of peasants, before he painted the rich, colorful masterpieces that we know as his own style developed. If he hadn’t persevered to keep trying, even though he suffered and knew failure, and his sister-in-law saved his letters and works, would we have these incredible works today?
We all suffer wounds in our life. Nobody comes out unscathed. I recently read about psychoanalyst Jung’s theory that we may suffer an awful experience, a “wound,” but that from that experience we may find our unique gift or ability, or path that we are meant to follow. Our experiences can shape us, but they don’t have to be the end of us. They can give us pain, but they can also give us the courage to find what makes us special.