If you’ve ever read The Little Prince by Santoine de Saint Exupery (which I’m sure you all have!), you are familiar with the pictures the narrator presents at the beginning of the book. These are shown as his reasons why he was unable to become an artist. The first picture is of what most people would deem a hat, which in fact is a boa constrictor who has swallowed an elephant. Now, the “grown-ups” discouraged the narrator from being an artist because they could not see beyond the simplicity of the drawing to the true creativity that lived (or perhaps, more accurately, no longer lived!) inside. Ah, the grown-ups…
We let them turn our elephant eating boa constrictors into hats all the time. We do something we are proud of, we have a dream, we work hard on an idea that is close to our hearts, and then show it to the “grown-ups.” The grown-ups have no vision. They have no sense of adventure. Their emotional compass continuously points to “wet rag.” We know this, yet we put ourselves out there anyway, sharing our dreams and blood/sweat/tear-stained projects only to be met with disappointment when the grown-ups “don’t get” our boa-constrictor with an elephant inside. Now, it’s not the grown-ups’ fault. They are who they are and aren’t likely to change. The creative spark began in us. We cultivated it. Loved it. Grew it into something wonderful. And then let it die. With the first hint of, “Well, I don’t know, it’s never been done before” or “You know it just doesn’t look like what I expected” we say, “Yeah, it’s just a hat” and hang it on the hat rack or wear it around when it is meant to be a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant.
Or, instead of swallowing a big helping of confidence and continuing on anyway, WE swallow the elephant. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried, but swallowing an elephant is hard stuff. They’re big, tough, and a little dirty! And once you’ve swallowed an elephant, you can’t think about much else for a while! The discomfort kind of sticks with you. That grand idea or project gets put aside, no matter how great it actually was, because all you can think about is the effects of swallowing the elephant.
You know what? The grown-ups just shouldn’t have that much power. This is a lesson I’m continually learning, one I’m learning even as I type. My elephant eating boa constrictor was called a very plain hat today. The elephant I swallowed stuck around all day, and is just now beginning to dissipate. Even though I knew my boa constrictor was a masterpiece, I let someone put a hat on my head and shove an elephant down my throat. Instead of sharing my “drawing” with others who would celebrate my accomplishment, I took heaping servings of depressing elephant pie. It completely squashed my joy, creativity, and dream, and I let it.
Advice #1: Don’t let ANYONE turn your boa constrictor swallowing an elephant into a hat.
Advice #2: Don’t swallow the elephant. Let the boa constrictor do that!
No matter how big or small your dream is, go after it. No matter how big the objection you hear, ignore it. And never, ever take in the negative criticism you hear. Learn to be a duck in a rain storm. The rain drops just roll off their backs. Let the negativity of the grown-ups do the same. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I gave my consent today, I’m hoping you won’t do the same!
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