Don’t waste your time listening to naysayers. If anyone tells you you’re not good enough to do or to be something, especially when you haven’t been given the opportunity to try, don’t believe them. You should be the one to decide if you’re good at a task, an activity, or a profession. If you listen to those who say you can’t or say you shouldn’t, you may be faced with regrets later.

We all have enough of our own self-doubts without listening to the doubts of others. And that’s all it is — other people voicing their own doubts and fears. Most of the time, it has nothing to do with us.

My Naysayer Story

It took place in a 4th grade art class. I was nine years old.

We were working on a project that would teach us how to see and understand the correct placement of facial features. We were instructed to find a picture of a human face in a magazine and cut it in half the long way (one eye, half nose, half mouth). We then taped the photo onto a larger piece of paper, leaving enough room to draw the missing half of the face. Hopefully, by the time we were done the drawn portion would resemble the piece that had been cut away.

Until that day, I had shied away from drawing faces. I loved drawing mountains, flowers, cacti, but avoided drawing eyes and noses.

But this was a project for a grade and I gave it my best shot. Surprisingly, I liked what I had done. It wasn’t perfect and based on what some of my classmates had created, I knew I had a lot to learn.

Not a problem! It was my first try.

I remember the teacher walking around the room helping each student, showing them how to improve their artwork. I waited patiently for it to be my turn to receive some direction.

I knew the nose wasn’t quite right. The eye wasn’t right either. And the hair — we won’t even talk about the hair. But I was really proud of what I had done and was looking forward to making it better.

Finally, it was my turn. The teacher was standing behind me and I looked up at her, excited and anxious, waiting for her to give me a pointer or two. Instead, she shook her head and said, “You’ll never be an artist,” and walked away.

I was crushed. I was nine years old and I was crushed.

After that day, I gave up drawing.

I never told my parents what the teacher had said to me. I never told anyone. I was too humiliated.

Off to College

Years later when I went off to college, I enrolled in an engineering program. Since I loved math, it seemed like a logical choice. I was doing pretty well until I discovered a freehand drawing course was a requirement.

I spent the next few days trying to decide what to do. The only way to avoid taking the class was to change my major. That seemed a bit extreme. It was just one class. Besides, a little humiliation wasn’t going to kill me.

It would just feel that way.

The first session of freehand drawing brought equal amounts of elation and frustration.

Elation arrived when the instructor told us she believed she could teach anyone to draw. The only requirement was a desire to learn.

I had the desire but I also had my doubts. Hadn’t I already been told I would never be an artist?

Frustration came when we were tasked with drawing four items — a chair, a table, a computer, and the face of one of our classmates.

No! Not a face!

I completed the assignment but wasn’t impressed with the results. Each one looked like it had been drawn by a child.

A nine-year-old to be exact, since that’s how old I was when I gave up drawing.

The good news is, I ended up loving the class. I enjoyed how the instructor taught us how to ‘see’ in a different way. Instead of simply seeing a building, I was noticing the lines, contours, and negative space; drawing each element until, like magic, the building appeared. It was amazing! I spent hours drawing everyday objects that were now anything but ordinary. For me, it was better than meditating.

The End of Class

The final day of class, we were tasked with drawing the same four items we had completed on day one. The instructor had kept the original illustrations with the intent of mailing them to us, along with the drawings from the final night so we could compare them and see for ourselves how we had grown as artists.

A couple of weeks later, I received a large manila envelope in the mail.

My drawings.

I opened it carefully, not sure I wanted to see them, afraid I hadn’t learned as much as I had hoped. In that oversized envelope was proof, one way or the other.

After comparing the two sets of drawings, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe the difference. I couldn’t believe how my skills had advanced in such a short period of time.

Here’s the most surprising part — I dropped out of the engineering program.

After successfully completing the freehand drawing course, I changed my major to Visual Communications. I took classes in Typography, Illustration, Photostyling, and Graphic Design. I hung out with artists and graduated with a 4.06 GPA.

And yet, I could still hear that 4th grade art teacher telling me I would never be an artist.

Years Later

After several years as a Graphic Designer, I found myself in the role of single parent. In order to make more money, I went back to school and earned a degree in Technical Management. A project management certification followed soon after.

I don’t regret making this decision, but I do regret abandoning my artistic pursuits. I should have found time to draw, at least as a hobby, but I was still hearing that voice saying I didn’t possess the talent.

Today, my son is in college – taking art classes. I told him a long time ago not to listen to anyone who says he’s not an artist. He is very talented, and to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever said he isn’t.  

A few days ago, we made a trip to the art supply store, one of our favorite outings. While surrounded by pencils, markers, pastels, and every type of drawing paper imaginable, I was inspired to give drawing another try.

This time, I’m not going to listen to the voice that says I can’t do it. I have wasted too many years listening to, and worrying about, the opinions of others.

I’m finally done listening to naysayers.