I am not worthy.
Limerick Museum, 4th – 28th February 2020.
A collection of paintings depicting aspects of childhood viewed through an adult’s reflection. Through the process of reflection, I became aware of the power of words and suggestions when I was a child. It is said that children are like sponges, they absorb their environment and those in it. The child always listening, captivated by every word, influenced by the power of suggestion.” I am not worthy” struck a particular chord with me, when I heard the mantra coming from my lips, after years of repetition. But one day I really heard the words that I had repeated without question.
This body of work is not about questioning anyone religion or beliefs, but more to do with how powerful words can be. I did not like to be told I was not worthy, what if as children we are empowered by words that prompt us to love ourselves, believe in ourselves, be kind to ourselves.
I aim to capture the vulnerability and the strength that children have in abundance. This is achieved through exploring the fragility of the child’s mind and the power mantras have on them. These mantras passed on in most part, innocently from parents, school, church. We hear it, we believe it, we don’t but question it.
For me, I felt at an early age reciting prayers in school to be somewhat uncomfortable. I heard each line I was saying but some words felt very uncomfortable to get off the end of my tongue. “I am not worthy” was not an easy one.
It was not that I was brimming with confidence, it just didn’t sit with me, perhaps I was fearful that it might be true. Maybe I felt unworthy, who knows. All the more reason not to have a mantra that crushes you every time. I am not saying everybody felt the same, but I suppose I was never asked. Instead in church, I would lower my head and mumble a sound, believing that I could not lie I had to be in my truth.
It took me into my adulthood to realise that the power of the word on us at an early age can be damaging. In my work, the portraits depict this vulnerability that separates us from the crowd, that quietens our spirit, but only for a short time if we are lucky. We can tap into our strength, our feisty childish warrior to question these mantras that don’t fit with us. That our gut feeling is telling us that this does not feel right, to trust this gut.
The advantage of being an expert in childhood means we can remember what it means to be funny, carefree. This is how we developed our resilience by climbing trees and falling. How we fell down, dusted ourselves off and tried again. There were no failures just “That didn’t work this time, what can I do differently next time”. As adults we tend to be in our “adult” head, afraid to fail. Not trying, maybe because we believe we’re not good enough.
For the day that’s in it, Happy Valentine’s day. Be kind to yourself first and foremost, listen to the mantra you are telling yourself, does it fit?