This week has been a little different to usual.
Through the stables, I got the chance to do a First Aid course at the beginning of the week. Obviously a valuable skill to have, whether for volunteering with children, at work, or just in everyday life. Then yesterday we held a day of dressage tests. It’s half-term, so the stables always tries to put on dressage or jumping days, as an extra bit of fun for the kids and ponies.
It poured down all day. Standard. Glorious sunshine either side, but Wednesday itself was freezing and soggy. I was taking photographs, so the weather wasn’t ideal! Overcast. My ISO had to be through the roof, but hopefully the pictures will be good enough.
As a result, today I would probably rather be curled up on a toasty warm boat than at work catching up on emails and cashflow… But today is made more fun by teaching current intern Sasha bits and bobs about corset construction. Seams and what-have-you. And yesterday I was talking to a new horsey friend about self-employment, and how lessons from selling products might apply to selling your time, and vice versa. We established that we’re both pretty bad at valuing our time/skills and taking people’s money, haha. And that’s part of the problem, even the phrase “taking people’s money” implies a lack of confidence in the fact that you deserve to be paid.
Skilled and knowledgeable people do this all the time. I was talking to my musician boyfriend just this morning about it. We work hard and reach a certain level at which we’re pretty knowledgable and comfortable in our chosen profession. Then, because we’re people who rely on constant progression, we devalue what we’ve already learned. We’ve done it, it’s nothing special, it’s possibly even boring, it’s easy. Someone asks you, “how do I do X?” and you rattle off an answer that takes 30 seconds. You think nothing of it, it’s not difficult, you’re happy to help, and you want the new people to your craft to feel encouraged. You forget that it took years and years to get to that point. You forget that you’re saving the person you’ve just helped from having to spend those same years and years studying and spending money!
Whether an artist or designer (and I’m including the horsey example in this too, since as far as I can tell the feel and bodily skill that people develop in becoming very good at riding is not unlike the feel and skill that dancers develop), it has probably taken you your whole life to reach the point you’re at. Even if you weren’t actively studying the particular thing you’re focussing on now, you’ve spent years learning how to see, how to observe. My brother is a builder/carpenter, but the skills that let him be great at those jobs are largely transferable. He looks, he visualises, he understands how things are put together. He dismantled numerous bikes and cars as a youth, it teaches you how things work. It’s the same in corsetry, it’s the same in playing the drums, it’s the same in using your body to ride well.
When you watch the people who are really good there is an effortless subtlety there. The skills have become internalised. Whatever skill you’re pursuing, just be aware that this will happen eventually. And when it does, please try to remind yourself that it wasn’t always so. We have a tendency to overvalue the apparently difficult things we see other people doing. To put their work on a pedestal and assume there’s something magical about their abilities. And then to undervalue those same things once we can do them ourselves. Which leads, almost always, to your undervaluing your work and thus struggling to make a living. Just be aware that it’s a common trap.