Art can teach us a valuable life lesson, says Susie
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