I went to Stake Enrichment (a church meeting for the women in our area) last week, and they focused a lot on talents. Developing and using our talents--mainly to build up our families, others around us, and the Church. Loved it...and it got me thinking a lot about talents.
I don't deny that I have been blessed with many talents that are readily apparent. I have always participated and been good in the performing arts and visual arts. Singing, most notably. Yes, I sing very well (and I'm not trying to be prideful here at all), I have a degree in vocal performance, I teach others to sing, and I love to sing. I love to share this talent with others.
It has bothered me in my life, though, that many times people just equate that talent with the whole me. I'm not sure how to explain it, but in trying to be complimentary, many people actually make me feel worse because I am made to feel like my entire self-worth should be wrapped up in how well I sing. It often bugs me that that is the first thing people notice about me when I move into a new ward. It drives me nuts when I am introduced as "Lara the singer" or "This is Lara, you should hear her sing, she has such a beautiful voice." Now, again, don't get me wrong, because I understand that people are being kind and complimentary. I do realize I am very blessed to have this talent and I have worked very hard in my life to develop it...which actually brings me to my next point.
I also don't like when people say "I wish I were as talented as you are. I wish I could sing like you (or play the piano, or whatever)." There are two reasons why this rubs me the wrong way a little bit:
1) You are as talented as I am. Just because I have talents that are "obvious" does not make you any less talented. You have many talents that I don't have and often wish I do. You are talented, too.
2) If you really want to sing like I do, you can. It will take a lot of commitment and work. You will have to practice a lot. You will have to put a lot of time into developing this talent in yourself. But if you really want to do it, you can. I wanted it, and I did put in thousands of hours of practice and study to develop this talent I have. Maybe some of us have a bit more "raw" talent than others, but we can all work to develop it. Talent is not cultivated by "wishing," only by hard work and determination.
I think too many people equate "talent" with things that are obvious: Dancing, singing, playing an instrument, painting, knitting, quilting, etc. But there are many more talents that aren't so obvious, and are probably a little bit more essential to our eternal salvation than being able to sing beautifully is. (Again, don't get me wrong. I feel I can use my talents in music to help others feel the Spirit, but I also don't feel like if I weren't a singer I would be less of a person.) One of the talks at Stake Enrichment kind of addressed this issue. The sister speaking said she felt like she had failed in developing talents most of her life. She never had an opportunity to take piano lessons, and her children quit after not much effort. But then she taught a Primary lesson on the parable of the talents, and the manual said to write out strips of paper with different talents on them. The talents the manual mentioned were things like the talent for leadership, a talent for making others happy, a talent for hard work. These are the talents that we need to seek out and develop. These are the talents that are essential for our eternal salvation.
Her talk reminded me of an experience I had while on my mission. It was actually my last night in the mission home before I was to go home. All of the missionaries who were leaving met together for a testimony meeting with the mission President, his wife and the APs. At some point during the meeting, President Orton asked the APs to talk about each of us who were completing our missions.
I will never forget what Elder Jones said about me. He was a month ahead of me in the MTC, and he said he remembered my first day there. He stood next to me as we sang a hymn. He said he thought, "Wow. This is a very talented sister." But, as he served his mission and had opportunity to be in districts with me out in the field, and to be my zone leader and finally the AP, he learned that my talent wasn't in music at all. He listed several other talents that he had noticed in me, and then concluded by saying he had been right that first day--I was a very talented sister, but not just in the way he first thought.
That meant more to me than I can even say. After years of being "Lara the singer," someone besides my mom had noticed other talents in me. And you know what? It made me want to develop them further, because I don't know that--until that moment--I even realized I had other talents.
Bottom line? If you think you aren't talented, you are wrong. Look deeper. Find something--anything--that you are good at and focus on it. Develop that. Use it to bless the lives of those around you. Then find a new talent to work on. You are more talented than you know.