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What is your genius?

Saturday, August 10, 2013 by Marianne Elliott

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This morning the comparison monster was getting the better of me. You know the one I mean? Comparing my creative work, my achievements, my ‘success’ with other people.

I tried to stay connected to the part of me that is genuinely, deeply happy that good people, who have done great work, are being recognised, rewarded and even feted.

I repeated my mantra: Stay on your own mat, Marianne.

But the wise part of me was being shouted down by the part of me that compares my path to theirs, that tells me I should have done more by now, should have achieved something that looks more like what someone else has done.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that this line of thinking is a fast track to creative paralysis and to the swampy lands of self-doubt and self-pity.

So I decided to go and sit in the garden. To let the sounds and smells and sensation of a beautiful summer day in Santa Fe bring me back to my own path. As I sat in the sun, I listened to Clarissa Pinkola Estes talk about the wisdom and power of ‘The Dangerous Old Woman‘.

The Story of the Legacy Necklace

She told story of a young woman who, in her naivety and in response to the jealousy of other young girls in her village, throws her legacy necklace into the lake. The only way for her to recover her legacy is through a willingness to follow her own sorrow deep into the forest where an old and wounded woman waits, and then to tend to the wounds of the old woman with tenderness and love. In return, the old woman throws her into the lake, where she is able to breath and to recover her necklace.

Each of the jealous girls then wants to get their own new and beautiful legacy necklace. They each – in turn – refuse to kiss the wounds of the old woman in the forest, and so – when they are thrown into the lake – they drown.

Jealousy, says Pinkola Estes, is a many armed monster that ranges over the earth looking for vulnerable people. And we are vulnerable when we forget that we don’t all have the same pathway. We are vulnerable when we want the treasure without being willing to pay the price.

What is the price for our legacy? It is the work of attending to our wounds.

Each of the jealous girls in the story has forgotten who she is, she has forgotten her unique genius – the gift that only she has to offer the world. She has forgotten her own legacy.

How do we remember our legacy?

We remember by brushing up against our own wounds – by drawing the medicine that comes from tending our own wounds. By doing the work every day. By making peace with ourselves and others. By practicing resistance to certain things. By having what Pinkola Estes calls a ‘muscular kind of hope’.

Then, once we have remembered, let’s not let ourselves be tricked into throwing away our legacy. Not in response to the jealousy of others nor by comparing our own necklace to that worn by somebody else.

The question we each must answer is not: How does my work/success compare to X’s?

The only question we need to answer is: Am I putting my gifts/wounds/legacy to good use?

Am I serving as only I can serve?




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One Response to "What is your genius?"

  1. […] You’ll find out how to combat jealously in What Is Your Genius? […]

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