I can’t draw…

My grandmother was an artist. She painted in watercolors, which, to me, is a challenging task.

In my late teens, I gifted Nana a couple of pieces of my artwork. At the time my work didn’t hold a candle to hers; however, I wanted to give some to her as a gift and for her feedback and instruction.

When I gave her the pieces I’d created, she asked: “What kind of paint did you use?” “Acrylic,” I answered. She was quiet for some time and then softly said “Hmm. Craft paint.”

It was a diminishing piece of feedback, but I didn’t give up. I knew I had talent. I liked working in acrylics – they forgive mistakes and are much easier to work with (in my opinion) than watercolors.

I didn’t stop painting; I still paint and love doing it. Despite my (usually sweet) Nana’s negative reaction to my chosen media, I persisted because I believed in my artistic abilities.

When I first start working with a client usually an internal battle over negative self-talk that we have to slay, and during this period I find myself repeating the same thing:

If you say you can’t, you’re absolutely right.

The opposite is true as well, by the way. If you say you can, you’re absolutely right. The impressions you give yourself regarding your abilities – what you are and what you are not capable of accomplishing – define your limitations.

I didn’t allow my Nana’s limiting beliefs about “craft paint” to kill the budding artist inside me; however, many people do allow this type of feedback to shape their opinion which then turns into a pattern of self-talk that boxes them into a very limiting space.

During a session recently with a client who was finishing his coaching program (graduating with honors, flying colors, and a bright, prosperous future ahead) was giving himself a much-deserved pat on the back, and in the same swift motion, uncovered a new self-limiting belief:

“I’ve realized this is where I shine,” he said, “and I’m not wasting my time trying to do things outside of my abilities.”

“What is something you find outside of your abilities now?”

“Example: I can’t draw.”

“You can’t draw?” I responded.

“No. There’s not an artistic bone in my body.”

“I disagree.”


“I disagree. Everyone can draw.”

“No… I can’t. I can’t draw, and I can’t paint.”

“I promise if I put a brush in your hand with paint on the bristles and had you put the bristles down on a canvas, you could spread the paint on the canvas, therefore – you can paint,” I playfully argued.

“No… what I mean is I don’t know anything about art. I can go into a museum and look at paintings, but I don’t know what makes them great, and I don’t know why I like them.”

“If you stand in front of a painting, do you know whether you like it or not?”


“If you stand in front of a painting you like, what about it do you find likable?”

“Sometimes there are nice color combinations, or I like the way the paint has been put on the canvas together… an interesting texture or something like that.”

“So you know art. You know what you like, and you know what you don’t like. Clearly, you do not have a degree in art appreciation or anything like that, but you know art that speaks to you. You just haven’t spent time translating the feelings. So, you can paint, and you can appreciate art.”

He was a little frustrated with me at this point, but we were keeping things light…

“Maybe what I mean is my art will never be in a museum.”

“Do you aspire to have art in a museum?”


“Then you’re likely correct that you will never have art in a museum.”

“That’s not why… it’s because I can’t create anything worth putting in a museum,” he concluded.

“If you say so…”

That stumped him. Small disclaimer here: I really like this person. He’s an optimistic pessimist. He’s an extroverted introvert. This particular person and I worked together one-on-one for the last seven months and were wrapping up his initial program that was aimed at his attaining a place in upper management (which we achieved).

“What are you getting at, doc?” he asked.

“The only difference between you and people whose art is shown or sold in galleries and featured in museums is the belief that what you’ve produced is art. If you put a brush in your hand and make a streak on a canvas and call it art, then it’s art. If you do that and say it’s rubbage, then it’s rubbage.”

“I guess… if you say so,” he unconvincingly conceded.

“It’s the same thing with you and your journey to getting a promotion into upper management. You were only eligible for the promotion after seeing yourself as a member of upper management.”

“Circled back there quite nicely, coach. I see what you did there!” he laughed.

This relates directly to you. And me.

If you think you can’t do something, you’re right.

If you think you can, you’re right.

Most people who need coaching don’t realize they need it. It’s why there are so many people out there who are not living to their full potential and are not achieving the incredible things they are capable of producing.

You know those folks who are always standing in their own way – the ones you want to tell to get out of their way, but you won’t… because it’s not your role. I will… if they let me… because it is my role.

How are your self-limiting beliefs holding you back?

In what areas do you have the most significant opportunity for change and success?

I really want you to learn this about yourself, so I’m giving you something that will help.

Find out your most significant opportunity for growth with GILD’s Satisfaction & Fulfillment Evaluation. It’s free as well as quick & painless.

At the end of it, if you wish, you’ll get a one-on-one session to break down some immediate action steps to increase your joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction in critical areas of your life where you have the biggest room for growth.

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