Who are you most drawn to when you watch a film or read a novel? And what can that tell you about yourself?
For me, it is the bohemians, the rebels with or without a cause, the rule breakers who live their lives in a quest for beauty and authenticity, the eccentrics and the underdogs.
As a teenager, my room was adorned with a huge poster of James Dean, the ultimate beautiful rebel, cigarette dangling, shoulders hunched against petty authority as he inspired generations of young people looking for a sense of meaning. Later it was Nancy Spungeon, the doomed girlfriend of Sid Vicious. Her mother’s biography of her feisty, lost, artistic daughter stayed introduced me to a poem by e e cummings that has become a sort of mantra of authenticity to me: “To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”
I’ve adored many more anti-establishment but tragic heroes since then, from Sylvia Plath, to musicians Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse, to sweet nerd Lisa Simpson. And then there are the eccentrics, the creatives and the triers: I have great affection for Eddie the Eagle, and Andy Murray, who has overcome so much and never gives up in pursuit of his passion, despite the flak he regularly gets from public and press.
And I’m not the only one – many of us are drawn to these outliers in society, the sensitive, artistic souls who don’t quite fit in, determinedly ploughing their own furrow even when they’re not entirely sure who they are or what they want, but determined to live life on their terms.
Why are we drawn to these characters, real or imagined? When, very often, the traits we admire in them or feel great empathy for, are absent from our own lives. Or at least on the surface of our lives. Because while I am always drawn to the rebels, those who suffer for their art, and stick two fingers up at authority, or who follow their dream no matter what obstacles arise, I am the opposite: a good girl who has spent most of her life following the rules, seeking approval, aspiring to perfection to avoid criticism, blushing to the roots if I’m ticked off by a teacher or boss, and generally being as far from a rebel as can be. Perhaps my admiration for the rebels reflects the person I would like to be but haven’t, yet, found the courage to become.
This was brought home to me recently, watching the marvellous Grayson Perry’s Art Club on Channel 4. Over six weeks the genial Grayson – along with his wife, the psychotherapist Philippa Perry, and a host of wonderfully eccentric guests and amateur artists – lifted my lockdown blues with their creativity, unapologetic authenticity, and joyful sharing of their artistic endeavours. It got me thinking – as a youngster I joyfully splashed paint around, as a teenager I would lose myself in the flow of creating art, and recently I’ve rediscovered the joys of making jewellery and pottery. But all too often, I have found my creativity and imagination limited by the need to ‘get it right’ and rather than simply enjoying the process of creativity have given up rather than suffer an imperfect outcome. No more following my curiosity to happy disasters and discoveries, but following a tried and tested recipe to an assured outcome. It’s a widespread problem: I have seen the students I work with procrastinate over their assignments because they want to know the exact formula for getting it ‘right’ and are haunted by the prospect of trying something new and ‘failing’.
However, one of the many things I have learned, as an Ollie coach, is that ‘there is no failure, only feedback’. These have to be amongst the most empowering, liberating five words I’ve encountered in many years. When we re-frame what we perceive as failure as a valuable opportunity to learn, we give ourselves a precious gift: permission to play, as children do, and to follow our natural human curiosity. When we let go of the fear of being judged for our weaknesses and Imperfections, we become free to make discoveries about the world and ourselves. Free to splash paint on a canvas for no other reason than the joy of creating something unique, to write ‘bad’ poetry, or dance with two left feet and not give two figs about how it looks because it feels like damn good fun! Free to listen to our bodies and inner wisdom that tell us to have a go and learn from what happens, rather than the limiting beliefs that tell us we have to be perfect before we can even start. Free to rebel – because often the authority we really need to rebel against is our own perfectionism and rigid standards.
Because – here’s the thing – while I’ve been busy seeking approval and telling myself I’ll start that business when I’m perfectly prepared and sure it will be a success, or go wild swimming when I’ve lost a stone and have a bikini body, the rebels and outsiders, the creatives and eccentrics, are already living their lives full on: messily, imperfectly, sometimes in discomfort, or tragedy, sometime joyfully and successfully. But always with authenticity and courage, always curious and living in the present moment, absorbed by what they’re experiencing right now, rather than focused on an outcome or on the fear of it all going wrong.
Which characters, real or fictional, do you find yourself drawn to?
What is it about them that you admire? Is it their personality traits, skills, the job they do, their lifestyle or family situation?
Which of those elements do you feel you share? And which do you lack?
If you were to emulate them in any way, how might your life be improved? Pick one or two small things you could try today, right now, and journal about how it makes you feel.
Claire Robertson, Ollie Coach
Claire Robertson is an Ollie Coach and NLP practitioner with a degree in psychology. She runs a private practice in the West Midlands, in the heart of Shropshire, working with children, young people and adults. Claire is also a university lecturer specialising in business, marketing and supporting students, has two children, and enjoys reading, crafts and walking.
To get in contact with Claire, email Claire.email@example.com
To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to https://www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com/pages/about-us