I like the word “prodigy”, because we all have an inner prodigy – the young person with exceptional talents and abilities that represents our earlier, unselfconscious curiosity and imagination. That child-like creative being resides within us all and when you stop to think about it and look at that inner prodigy dispassionately, you have to agree that it’s a remarkable creature. It continually surprises us with the things it finds it can do. Its range of interests, discoveries, enquiries and accomplishments is astounding, no matter which way you evaluate it. We’re all very lucky that a spirit like that chooses to reside in our body and mind, along with our more prosaic selves.
Our inner prodigy is a gentle soul. It’s content to read, or paint, or write, or sing, or dance. It just wants to express its innate creativity, naturally and effortlessly, like breathing. There is no choice for the inner prodigy. There is no other way to be. It just wants to make things – beautiful things.
Why, then, do we treat it so harshly and cruelly?
Most people, me included, are stern critics of their inner prodigy. We are frequently tempted to scold it, to tell it that it isn’t enough and to scorn its efforts to please. We deny it love. We’re impatient with it. We have unrealistic expectations of what it should do for us, even though no creature could possibly do what we demand.
To be honest, we’re downright abusive to our inner prodigies. We never cut them some slack or give them a break. Our demands are incessant; our satisfaction, sparing. We don’t even stop for long enough to be grateful for it, to appreciate it or to show it some love. If you were a gentle child, how would you respond to the brute that keeps yelling at you, putting you down and treating you with callous coldness? You’d withdraw, wouldn’t you?
The taste for self-flagellation is partly cultural and partly due to fear. The irrational rationalisation is that if you mug your inner prodigy first, then you’ll get your kicking in before the rest of the world does. Harden up, kiddo! That’s supposed to offer some kind of sick protection to your psyche, isn’t it? Except that it doesn’t. It just inflicts more injury. Who says the world will ever beat up on your inner prodigy as savagely as we all do, in anticipation of the same from the rest of the world, anyway?
When we characterise ourselves as serial failures we predestine our efforts at improvement, so that they have no chance of turning out any other way. If we’re emotional eaters, we work on fixing the eating part, but seldom on the emotions. We think that if we just endure a little bit more self-inflicted hardship, sacrifice and suffering, then we will become worthy of success and it will magically happen. Unfortunately, martyrdom doesn’t equate to accomplishment.
It’s probably going to be better for all if you treat your inner prodigy with kindness, mercy, compassion and a sense of gratitude. Marvel at it and love it. Praise it and encourage it. It might need some gentle coaxing to trust you again, because of the beatings you have given it, but it’s a forgiving soul. Be nice to it and it will do all in its power to please you and to impress you. It loves you.
When you next feel tempted to mug your inner prodigy (again), try to be mindful of the feeling and stop yourself. Your creative essence deserves better treatment than you give it. The more nurturing and comforting you are to it, the better it will thrive. The world is a harsh enough place. You don’t need to add to the cruelty your creative self already endures.
Be kind to your inner prodigy.