why you should embrace your limitations


Last week I happened upon a great TED talk by Phil Hansen, a talented artist I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of before watching the video on YouTube. I don’t want to give the whole speech away, but Hansen basically talks about a tough point in his life when his hand developed a neurological shake and threatened his art career. Instead of “overcoming” (I hate that word for so many reasons, but that’s a completely different topic) his disability, though, he “embraced the shake” and made the bold claim that personal limitations are actually what drive creativity. Seriously, watch the full video. This guy is rad:

Inspired by Hansen’s talk, I thought about my own limitations and how they can be beneficial to me in some way. I grew up in a very artsy/literary family, so I like to think I’m a creative type myself. And I think having a disability, specifically my limb difference, has been an asset for me in that sense. When you have a physical difference, you have to search for new ways to perform ordinary tasks most people take for granted. I don’t tie my shoes the way two-handed people do. And the same goes for playing guitar, pulling up my hair, opening a bag of chips, typing on a keyboard, and a million other things that probably wouldn’t even occur to you. It’s as if I was forced to be creative from the second I was born.


Bruce Lee by Phil Hansen, painted using only karate chops

I’m not an artist like Phil Hansen, at least not in the same capacity, but I do use my creativity in many aspects of my life. I put a lot of my ideas and channel my different ways of thinking into writing fiction, which I love to do as a hobby. And I’ll admit that my quick thinking has helped in various situations and experiences.


Virgin Mary by Phil Hansen, created using peanut butter and jelly sandwich slices

Ultimately, I think the beauty of Hansen’s statement lies in the fact that it doesn’t just apply to people with disabilities. We’re all a part of the human experience and are all therefore limited in some way (most likely in many ways). So if there’s one thing I’ll take with me from this brilliant talk, it’s this, which Phil Hansen puts perfectly:

“Learning to be creative within the confines of our limitations is the best hope we have to transform ourselves and collectively transform our world.”

Embrace the shake,
Caitlin Michelle

 (artwork images from Phil Hansen’s website)
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