In a recent group, we used Nikki Giovanni’s poem, In Praise of a Teacher, as our jumping off point. Her poem focused on the impact a teacher had on her life. Many individuals influence on our lives. Some of the influences are encouraging and help us grow. Other influences may cause us to doubt ourselves. Often we have to explore both to understand how past emotions might still be having an impact within our lives. Past experiences can affect our response to the present.
If you experienced negative comments whenever you tried something new or made a mistake, the fear of that kind of response might still be limiting you. Or if someone made you believe that you weren’t good at certain activities, then you might be avoiding certain roles in life. Yet, other people in our lives can help us feel good about ourselves. They can make us feel empowered.
In the group, the members wrote about individuals who had an impact on their lives. People wrote about teachers who encouraged creativity and a sister who offered inspiration because she had found her own way out of an eating disorder. We all have inspiring role models that can remind us about our talents and possibilities. We need to reconnect with them—praise them.
We also need to praise ourselves. It can feel harder, but we need to remind ourselves about our good qualities. We need to remember our passions--what excites and inspires us. By remembering our passions, we can continue our growth. Maybe we need to reconnect with parts of ourselves that we experienced before but have forgotten about recently. Maybe as a child you loved painting or clay. Rediscovering those past joys can allow you to create just to create without the expectation of producing something extraordinary. Reconnect with that playful spirit! To rediscover some of those past joys, you may have to write a Praise of Yourself as a child. What joys have you let go of? What qualities can you reconnect with to help you keep going?
- The first challenge? Write about someone who has had an impact on your life. Why did they influence you? What did they help you discover about yourself? How did they help inspire you? Can you find that inspiration again?
- Write “In Praise of Myself”…no not one about me, write about you. In the group, everyone had to write praising themselves. Within the description, you might find something important to hold onto. You may discover an aspect that you need to keep developing in your life. Part of my “In Praise of Myself….” included “I work to discover ways that words can change our lives.” Words can do that. Sometimes negative words hold us back. Use words to discover your uniqueness. What do you love? What can you praise about yourself? About nature? About life?
So, go, Write On! and discover who has had an impact on you. Write On! so you can impact your own life and the lives of others.
Martha Peaslee Levine, MD