A Story For Artists About Letting Go of Approval
by Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
I was feeling stressed, insecure and slightly deranged last week.
So I went down to the beach as the sun was rising. I was hoping to have the ocean to myself for a few minutes.
But when I came up over the last dune before the waterline, I saw something odd.
A smiling woman in her sixties with blue eyeshadow and lots of fabulous turquoise jewelry had beaten me down there.
That’s not the odd part. (No matter how early you get up someone is always up earlier.)
The odd part was this:
This gal’s red, white and blue tie-dyed dress reached her shins in front. But the back half of that dress was definitely balled up into her high-waisted, white underwear.
She was happy as a clam, sauntering along exposing her hindquarters to the gulls.
Should I tell her?
‘Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you if you were only wearing the front half of your dress Thea?’ I asked myself.
“Hi,” I said.
“Umm, this is awkward but I just thought I should let you know your dress is up in the back?”
She did not blush.
Nor did she stammer.
She definitely did not thank me.
In fact, she did not even take her eyes off the sand she was eyeballing for shells.
What did she do?
She nonchalantly pulled the back of her dress out of her underwear and said:
“So what. Happens all the time.”
The Wisdom of the Woman Whose Dress Was Stuck in Her Underpants
Then she looked up at me, smiled and added in a carefree, chipper way:
“Finding lots of sea glass and sand dollars today here. You?”
She seemed to have felt no shame or need to explain anything.
Just a tug out and a check-in on the shell count.
I was lost in admiration.
It was as if she said to me:
“What, who doesn’t have underwear, or a rump for that matter?”
Or as if she said, “Accidentally exposing your butt once in a while is just part of life on earth girly. Get over it.”
After the power of speech returned to me, my new tie-dyed dress friend and I had a serious talk about sand dollars.
Which progressed to a hysterical talk about the abundance of men in her life.
I headed south and she north.
I doubt I’ll see her again.
But as I was washing the sand off my feet at the spigot my thoughts stayed with her.
I was thinking about the propensity to be “audacious” or slightly “loony” that comes to many women with age.
The encounter reminded me of journalist Jenny Joseph‘s short poem “Warning.”
Written by Joseph in her twenties, “Warning” is still the most popular poem in all of England today. She reads it here:
An Ode To Those Who Are Letting Go of Approval
But I wonder, was it audaciousness/looniness that allowed tie-dyed woman to travel the world relatively shame-free?
Or was it that rare something you hardly see in women under 70?
And the grace and humor that comes with it.
Tie-dyed woman was so excited to get down to the beach that she had a wardrobe malfunction.
So what? She still liked herself just fine.
“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
— Caroline Caldwell
The Freedom Gained From Letting Go of Approval
Turns out my beachcomber pal was a retired special ed teacher,and now a full-time artist.
I bet her ability to not buy into shame comes in handy at work.
Less time apologizing = more time for painting.
I brushed the last bits of sand from toes and asked myself:
‘Jesus, how much more time would I have devoted to art in my life if I hadn’t been spending so much of it worrying about people metaphorically (or literally) seeing my underwear?’
How about you?
I’m not asking you to run around with your underwear hanging out on purpose today.
But I am asking you to spend less time worrying if they are.
(For more on the benefits of letting go of approval for artists read Frida Kahlo for Artists and Writers: 7 Tips from the Life of a Mexican Maverick.)
Let’s Conclude This Story About Letting Go of Approval With a Quick “Cosmo” Quiz:
Question: What does your personal underwear style say about you as an artist?
Wait — what was that you answered?
Did I hear you say: “I wear the waist-high kind. They are currently storing the back half of my dress— and I don’t care”?
Ding, Ding, Ding, You Win!!
In my eyes, you have the best underwear a creative can buy.
What are your thoughts?
Has letting go of approval been something you have done that’s freed you? Tell me in the comments, please. I’d love to hear from you.
One situation that requires letting go of approval is when you’ve been trolled. If you need help with that or know a friend who might, head over to The Charmed Studio post, Transcending a Troll: O’Keeffe Shows Us a Way Out.
Or you may like:
Diane Arbus: 4 Surprising Things Arbus Knew That Can Help You Take Your Art from Okay – to Incredible