Susie Fowler-Watt:

Art can teach us a valu­able life les­son, says Susie

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE -

It’s all a ques­tion of per­spec­tive, says Susie

Iwas - and still am - ut­terly use­less at art. My fam­ily joke that I even find draw­ing stick fig­ures a chal­lenge. There was only one part of art at school that I en­joyed and that was learn­ing about per­spec­tive.

It fas­ci­nated me how build­ings slanted away from you and how ob­jects got smaller the fur­ther away they were. Luck­ily, for any­one with any aes­thetic sen­si­tiv­ity, my art days are well and truly over.

But my in­ter­est in per­spec­tive is as strong as ever. In fact, when I give talks to stu­dents or mull over dif­fi­cul­ties with my teenage daugh­ter, it is the ad­vice I give out most: try to get per­spec­tive.

We know build­ings look a dif­fer­ent shape and size de­pend­ing on where you are stand­ing and the same rule ap­plies for prob­lems: they can look much less im­pos­ing if you view them from an­other po­si­tion. Just as ob­jects ap­pear smaller when they are fur­ther away, some­thing that feels like a cri­sis one day can feel quite triv­ial a week later.

I was fol­low­ing a col­league out of work re­cently and I could tell by the way she was walk­ing that she was down­cast. I caught up with her and asked what was wrong. She was on the verge of tears as she told me she’d made some mis­takes dur­ing our live pro­gramme that night and was re­ally up­set at her­self. She said she didn’t do that par­tic­u­lar job very of­ten and so hadn’t had much ex­pe­ri­ence and didn’t feel up to speed.

I gave her a hug and pointed out two things: first, that prob­a­bly very few peo­ple had no­ticed her mis­takes and she was more wor­ried about them than any­one else. And se­cond, what if we turned the worry on its head and asked “isn’t it amaz­ing you can do as well as you do when you have done the job so few times?” I saw her vis­i­bly re­lax when she thought about this. Her per­spec­tive had changed.

As some­one who dwells on my own ‘mis­takes’, I fre­quently have to use this tech­nique on my­self. The BBC pre­sen­ter Katty Kay has writ­ten and spo­ken a lot about con­fi­dence - espe­cially for women and girls.

She used to ru­mi­nate over the way she had asked a par­tic­u­lar ques­tion in an in­ter­view - of­ten for a long time af­ter­wards. I can be like that. Live TV can be fluid, in the mo­ment, seat-of-the-pants stuff and some­times you don’t phrase things ex­actly how you would have liked. It’s frus­trat­ing and can prey on your mind.

But Katty has this great bit of ad­vice: “You are not the star of ev­ery­one else’s head­line” – you may be think­ing that ev­ery­one is talk­ing about you and the slip you made, but they are not. Other peo­ple are far more in­ter­ested in their own lives!

For young peo­ple, per­spec­tive is ob­vi­ously harder as they have so lit­tle life ex­pe­ri­ence. I tell my 13-year-old that the things she is un­happy about now won’t mat­ter a jot when she is an adult, but I can feel I’m wast­ing my breath. She is in the mo­ment and isn’t look­ing at the build­ings slant­ing away down that long road ahead.

But with ev­ery dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ence, with ev­ery prob­lem re­solved, a use­ful les­son is learnt. Our chil­dren need to have dif­fi­cul­ties and over­come them. It gives them per­spec­tive.

Reg­u­lar read­ers may have clocked that I didn’t write my col­umn last month. Many apolo­gies. My par­ents have been se­ri­ously ill and I have spent a lot of time trav­el­ling be­tween Nor­folk and Sus­sex, where they live. When I’m at home, I’ve been wor­ry­ing about them, when I’m with them I’ve been wor­ry­ing about my chil­dren and my job. I’ve felt anx­ious and ex­hausted, think­ing there needs to be two of me.

But in calm mo­ments, when I can grab a cup of cof­fee and stop to breathe, I turn my worry on its head and con­cen­trate on how lucky I am: I still have both my par­ents, I have the enor­mous priv­i­lege of be­ing a mother my­self and my em­ployer is un­der­stand­ing and com­pas­sion­ate about those of us who need to care for oth­ers.

If I was to draw a stick fig­ure of my­self on this page, she might be fran­ti­cally run­ning about, with stick­ing out hair and wild eyes, but she would still be smil­ing!

Susie Fowler-Watt BBC TV Look East pre­sen­ter

ABOVE:Susie is still smil­ing

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