Why we struggle to express our talents

When we are growing up, we often get told what to do by other people. Consequently, using our skills can easily become just a response, rather than an inner drive to express ourselves.

What happens when you remove the external prompt?

During lockdown, some people really did discover their inner passions and talents. They became bakers and gardeners and DIY enthusiasts and book lovers again. Freed from the constraints of the office and deadlines, they invented, created and explored. What was it, other than time, that allowed this talent to flourish? It seems that some of the cognitive chains that bind and the beliefs that block were eased. Let’s explore these a bit more.

What is talent?

I think of talent as our bundle of authentic gifts, our own inner seed, our creative offering. As talent is gift, it is something that we bring to the world. It is a part of us, but it is not us. Yet, it can be hard to bring this forth and we can feel very frustrated and sad when we are blocked in expressing our talent.

What blocks talent?

In shamanic thinking, we can lose, give up on, over use and deplete, and prevent from showing, any part of our selves because we believe that it is better, safer, easier to keep it away. For example, we may stop using our talent because it wasn’t ‘helpful for a job’, no one ‘would be interested in it’, my parents ‘never liked me to sing’, and so on. These are all powerful inhibitors, not least because they usually come into play when we are still forming and so very open to influence.

Linked to the above, were you ever told to nurture and protect your talents by anyone as you grew up? To dedicate time and love to them? If you did, you are very lucky, as there is still not a strong cultural norm of supporting children’s emerging talent. When there does seem to be, in the form of tv shows, they often pit young people, chefs for example, against each other. The shows are about competition and winning, rather than developing new skills, fostering confidence and inspiring others to want to do the same.

Where have you seen talent?

It is hard to value talent when you have not seen it valued in the world. Role models and people who believe in the value of our talent really matter. This is an area when men’s and women’s experiences can differ.

Men have traditionally had role models and respected routes such as apprenticeships to lend them strength and credibility. It is hard to think of trade bodies, rich patrons, or guilds that were welcoming of women’s talents. This makes it harder to bring talent to the world.

What did your ancestors do?

Within our own families, we can all find examples of women and men who were not able to express their talents, perhaps because of financial limitations or class constraints. My own dad wanted to study architecture, but there was no money for that. He ran a business instead and never really found an alternative outlet for his talents.

Ancestry gives us the guide ropes by which we live our lives. Ancestry imparts definition, whether we like it or not. I believe it is worthwhile to embrace the lessons and longings from our histories as they offer clues and healing opportunities to help us move beyond those internal blocks that we can struggle to shift on our own.

Taken together, our ancestry, gender, culture, and family influences all contribute to the ease with which we can express our talent. Expressing talent doesn’t have to mean showing to others. Making private space and being visible only to ourselves are equally valid.

When we become aware of the influences that shape our ability to express talent, we can begin to navigate our way through these inner obstacles and outer challenges.

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