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Self-portrait

Unlike the men in my family who can draw and sculpt and make replicas of batman masks out of construction paper, I am not artistically-inclined.  I can’t even draw a straight line.  Or a round circle.  I knit, but you just have to follow a pattern.  And I make jewelry, but for some reason I don’t think that counts, either.  And I was an English major and love to write, but I don’t think I’m creative enough to write a novel, so I just write about myself. 
 
This past weekend I went to an eating disorders conference because that’s what I specialize in.  This year I decided to do all the touchy-feely workshops rather than the research ones.  My favorite workshop was the one on art therapy.  We had to do 6 different drawings of a bunch of doodles.  Then we had to pick the 2 that we felt the most strongly about.  Then we had to tear out the shape of our body for the #1 pick and glue it to the #2 pick.  This was supposed to tell us something about ourselves.
 
I’m all about symbolic expression, but I was a little skeptical that this exercise could reveal anything meaningful about me.  But then she showed us examples of self-portraits from eating disordered patients, and it was remarkable how much they revealed their struggles with their bodies, food, and emotions.  Then she asked for volunteers to show their art work.
 
Ordinarily I would be too self-conscious to show my work, even if it is just a bunch of doodles.  But Ibo really wanted to get some feedback about my self-portrait.  I thought that it might have something to do with being stressed out, since there was so much going on outside of me in the picture–almost like colorful asteroids knocking me over.  And I had just gotten the rejection email minutes before the workshop, so I figured that must have played a role, but I wasn’t sure how.
 
After the workshop I asked her for some feedback, and then I spent some time looking at my self-portrait.  I can’t explain how I came to this conclusion, but the drawing made me realize that I needed to stop doing the freelance writing job–which really fascinates me.
 
Maybe creativity is like athleticism:  we think it’s some innate ability that we either have or we don’t, but maybe it’s possible to get better at it.  She recommended that we take time out every day to play by doodling pictures, and I thought that was a great idea. I have been doing it every night before I go to bed. If there’s any chance that it can help me get my blog turned into a book by enhancing my creativity, then I’m all for it!  I have no idea whether it’s working, but it does make me feel like a kid again.
 
I am so proud of my self-portrait that I’ve shown it to a few friends, and one of them said that it’s multicolored/multifaceted, like me.  I really love that interpretation!  I am open to other interpretations, too, if you have one.
 
 

 

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

One response »

  1. Dear Christy,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience from my workshop: “The Emaciated Imagination: Disordered Eating and Symbolic Expression” at The Renfrew Center Foundation Conference this year. It is always great to hear how work with images and art is so profound and meaningful to others. I hope you will continue to engage your images and let them speak to you about the direction of your writing and aspirations. Perhaps you will join us at The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC for a future workshop.

    The art directive you described, I developed back in the mid-90's and have utilized with hundreds of patients and professionals. It is such a wonderful surprise to most, even the most skeptical of art makers. I thought you may be interested to know that this art directive is published in a chapter that I wrote and was recently released: Dean, M. L. (2013). Cultural Considerations of Eating Disorders Through Art Therapy. In Howie, Prasad and Kristel (Eds), Using Art Therapies with Diverse Populations: Crossing Cultures and Abilities. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and best wishes to you and with your writing.

    With Kind Regards,

    Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP
    Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC
    Berwyn & Lansdowne, PA
    psychearts.org
    michelle@psychearts.org

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