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I Watched an Artist Create Stained Glass and Learned an Important Lesson About Life

I Watched an Artist Create Stained Glass and Learned an Important Lesson About Life

Until recently, I had never been inside a stained glass studio. Next thing you know, without any planning at all, I found myself inside two different studios over the span of three days. Strange how life works.

I assumed that I would see some nicely colored windows or something similar, but that would be it. Little did I know, I was about to learn an important life lesson.

During a conversation with one of the artists, I was told about a strategy used to cut glass and immediately realized that this same idea applies to habits, self-improvement…and almost everything else.

Here’s what the artist told me.

Lessons Learned from Stained Glass

Stained glass artists create different designs by making cuts on the glass to “score” it and then breaking off the pattern or shape that they want to use in the finished product. (In other words, they make a notch in the glass and then break the pieces apart like you would with a Kit Kat bar.)

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The most difficult cut in stained glass is called an inside cut. Basically, it’s a curved line where you throw away the part inside of the curve. The problem with inside cuts is that the edges of the curve tend to chip when the pieces of scored glass are broken apart. The image below shows what I mean.

    As the artist talked about inside cuts, he said, “The glass will shatter if you try to cut too much off at once. The best way to do an inside cut is to slice off smaller curves piece-by-piece. In fact, it’s not just the best way to do it, it’s the only way to do it.”

    So, you start by slicing a shallow curve and breaking a small piece off. Then you cut a slightly deeper curve and break that off. And so on and so forth, until you have your full inside cut. The image below shows the strategy.

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    stained-glass-inside-cut-success

      By slowly cutting deeper and deeper curves, the artist prevents the glass from chipping and breaking as it changes shape.

      Inside Cuts in Everyday Life

      Changing your behavior, building new habits, and learning new skills is a lot like making an inside cut on a piece of glass.

      If you want, you can try to make a big change and cut the entire piece at once. We convince ourselves that we can do this all the time. We’ll commit to transforming our diet overnight, get inspired to launch a business in a weekend, or we finally get motivated to work out…and push ourselves to the brink of exhaustion.

      If our life is like the piece of glass, we try to change the entire shape of it all at once.

      Why? Because it’s so easy to focus on achievements instead of progress. We tend to get obsessed with our goals rather than focusing on our system.

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      I don’t know about you, but I’ve made this mistake tons of times myself. I’ll get excited and motivated and jump into a project or chase a goal with everything I have, but pretty soon the pieces begin to break and I have to start over.

      Approach Change Like a Stained Glass Artist

      The alternative is to approach your goals and dreams like a stained glass artist.

      You can choose to make slow, methodical gains. Start with a small, unimpressive cut — something you can easily handle — and do it well. Then, repeat with a slightly bigger step. And again. And again.

      This process is like starting with something that is so easy that you can’t say no. And then focusing on improving by one percent each time. And then committing to doing more repetitions.

      Of course, change isn’t easy — no matter how you do it. Slow gains are boring. Certainly not sexy. Nobody writes news stories about them. But moving forward in a slow and methodical manner doesn’t mean you lack ambition, drive, or vision. The stained glass artist has a very clear vision. He knows exactly what he is working toward.

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      You and I can do the same. If we keep making small improvements, then pretty soon we will end up with a beautiful masterpiece on our hands instead of a bunch of fragments.

      James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

      This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

      Featured photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via flickr.com

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      James Clear

      James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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      Last Updated on March 30, 2020

      What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

      What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

      Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

      You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

      This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

      What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

      According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

      Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

      There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

      How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

      When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

      Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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      1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

      One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

      The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

      Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

      2. Be Honest

      A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

      If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

      On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

      Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

      3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

      Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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      If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

      4. Succeed at Something

      When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

      Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

      5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

      Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

      Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

      If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

      If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

      Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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      6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

      Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

      You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

      On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

      You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

      7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

      Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

      Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

      Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

      When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

      Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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      In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

      Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

      It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

      Final Thoughts

      When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

      The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

      Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

      Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

      Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

      More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

      Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
      [2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
      [3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
      [4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
      [5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
      [6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
      [7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
      [8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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