Career.Move. (10) Painting Over the Ugly Parts

July 26, 2013 By Marisa Rijpkema 0 Comments

This month Marisa reflects on how easy it is to focus on the negative aspects of life, and makes the decision to readjust and become more positive - both at work and at home.

I have a colleague who is always smiling, no matter what is going on in her life. When she is happy, stressed, frustrated, low on motivation, whatever, she is always smiling. It is so professional it’s downright impressive.

By comparison, I am anything but stoic about my challenges and I pretty much suck at hiding my emotions. That’s true for me wherever I am and whomever I’m dealing with, but I find that it is especially a problem at work. When I’m happy and energized, my colleagues see it. And when I’m unhappy or unmotivated, my colleagues see that too. ALL of my colleagues – including upper management – and that’s not good. Perhaps related and perhaps not, my colleague is also a very talented painter. She takes old and ugly pieces of art that she finds in thrift stores (she likes them because they have frames), and paints over them, to create colorful and modern pieces of art that she resells. It’s beautiful, sustainable and in some ways, it’s a good lesson in professionalism. She has mastered the art of painting over the ugly parts.

There is no doubt that I would really do well to try and emulate her skills. I need to learn how to paint over the ugly parts at work too. (Please let me emphasize that I’m talking about work specifically. I’m not suggesting that it’s good to hide feelings at home or with friends, etc.) It’s not a bad idea to paint some large and colorful brushstrokes over the challenges at work, so that I can take what I’ve got and turn it into a better looking and more sustainable situation.

The first thing I’m going to do is to stop complaining. Dutchie recently told me that lately I have spent too much time being negative about things that I can’t change – for example, the hours of interrupted sleep I get (as a result of nightmares and teething) or the distance between Amsterdam and The Hague – and that I should stop focusing on them.

He’s absolutely right. Instead, I’m going to make a real effort to be more positive, not just for myself but for my little people as well. It’s important to me that they learn how to work through their challenges and be appreciative for the things that they have. But to get them to that point, I need to set a positive example (pun intended).

I’m also going to spend more time counting my blessings. All in all, I’m grateful to have a job and when things are said and done, it’s not a bad job to have either. That, plus the fact that I’m happily married (most of the time) and the mother of two healthy, thriving children: I should be waking up every morning with a big smile on my face. I want to be realistic. I know that it’s not possible to wake up every morning feeling blissful. Life, exhaustion, and stress do get in the way, more than I’d like. But from now, when it doesn’t come naturally, I’m going to make a sincere effort to paint a smile on, just like my colleague and her beautiful paintings. I believe that it is a great trick for sustainability, raising kids and professionalism.


Marisa is a 'third culture kid,' and while she doesn't remember ever crossing into adulthood, she now finds herself trying to integrate into Dutch life, while mastering the delicate art of being a mother, and figuring out her career as she goes.


Art by Olya Golubova. Olya can be reached through her new venture, Rustic Tastefulness.

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