5 Lessons We Can All Learn from Frida Kahlo
I have to admit - I am a total bandwagon Frida Kahlo fan. I started learning a lot about her when I moved in with one of my best friends, Alicia, who was beyond obsessed with Frida. I actually had to beg her to not hang Frida tapestries in our house because it didn't match the rest of our decor. My curiosity and love for Frida grew after Alicia passed away - I wanted to know why Alicia called her one of her heroes. I wish I could share my newfound love for Frida with Alicia now, but since I can't I will share it with the world whenever I can.
Kahlo is arguably Mexico’s most famous and influential artist. Born just a few years before the Mexican revolution in Coyoacan (a neighborhood in Mexico City), she lived a passionate and super colorful life alongside painters, poets, and revolutionaries.
Though she died long before I was born, I feel as though I know her…at least in part. And though she never called herself a teacher, there’s so much we can learn from her.
Here are 5 lessons we can learn from Frida Kahlo:
Embrace what makes you different, even if the world sees it as odd
Frida was one hairy lady and she's notorious for that signature unibrow (and hairy upper lip). She was described as a woman who was not “conventionally attractive.” Regardless, Frida never made an effort to change herself for the benefit of others. Frida painted her thick brow into her own self-portraits, with the understanding that it was part of what made her her. She found power in radical self-acceptance, telling the world it shouldn’t dare try to change her.
Life is tough, but darling, so are you.
Frida was no stranger to pain. She lived a pretty difficult life shaped by crippling pain. She suffered from polio as a young girl, leaving one of her legs withered and stunted.
Then, at 18, Frida was in a horrific trolley accident that forced her to wear a corset to support her spine for the rest of her life. After that, not one day of her life was free from pain.
Yet Frida loved to live. For years of her life she was completely bedridden, the view of her home’s courtyard (which she watched from a mirror hung on the wall above her bed) her only real contact with the outside world—and still she did not surrender to pain or to sorrow. “I am not sick. I am broken,” she wrote in her diary. “But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.”
My absolute favorite thing Frida ever has said is, “at the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” Frida teaches us that no matter how painful, is definitely worth living.
Embrace and Love Your Roots
Frida was born to a German father and a Mexican mother who was of mostly indigenous descent. Her love of these mix of cultures is evident in every aspect of Frida’s life, from her art to her sense of style to the way she decorated her home. Frida proudly dressed in traditional Mexican styles, and her home was teeming with Mexican folk art and pre-hispanic artifacts.
Frida loved color. Her house, which she shared with famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, was a striking royal blue. Reds, oranges, yellows, and greens are found even in the unhappiest of her art. More than that, she dressed in brightly colored clothing and cut flowers fresh from her garden to wear in her hair. Frida’s life, no matter how painful, was vibrant and full of laughter and brightness. We can all learn from the way she chose beauty over sadness and color over pain.
Feel Your Feelings (And Don't Apologize For It)
Frida famously (or perhaps infamously) said, “I was born a bitch. I was born a painter.” This woman was a boss. She endured so much more than I could possibly imagine and yet she still came out swinging.
She was not silent, she was not coy, she did not worry that her strength or power or success might be intimidating to others. Frida never apologized for her strength, her art, her politics, or her sexuality…and she didn’t need to. She simply was who she was.
Frida taught me to love fearlessly. She taught me that pain is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to control me. She taught me to stay passionate, to keep stoking the fire that keeps life worth living.
And for these lessons, I’ll never be able to repay her (or Alicia for introducing me to the wonder and strength of Ms. Kahlo).