This week I want to look at the impacts our frame of mind can have on our creativity and how framing our thoughts can help us gain confidence.
The Inner Critic - Demon or Mischievous Goblin?
The demon all creatives deal with is the inner critic. We all have one, and they tend to come up at the worst possible moments, giving us crippling self doubt, quickly followed by huge imposter syndrome. When we let our inner critic have so much power, we allow the worst version of ourselves to undermine our confidence.
The inner critic often sounds like - “You can’t create”, “How can you call yourself a creative?”, “Your art is terrible”, “You’re not a real creator” and any other iteration you’ve had running around your head. Listening to the inner critic isn’t the problem, giving it power, believing in that voice that only serves to tear you down, is where the damage is done.
The inner critic is dangerous because it pretends to be doing us a favour - to be looking out for us, to help us get better at the craft, but it stifles our creativity and often reprimands the child in us that wants to play and delight in creativity - to try new things and make mess. It makes us stay small as a creative. It brings out shame and guilt, which we already work so hard to battle our way through. We work so hard to be vulnerable and open and find our truth through our creativity, and in an instant those weeks, or months, or years of hard work can be undone by a single thoughtless comment - stinging all the more because it comes from ourselves, our insecurities.
We often try to drown it out with positive attitudes - but it doesn’t banish it from our minds. What we need to do is listen to it, allow it to express itself and be gentle to ourselves when it acts up. We need to remember that we are a work in progress, even when we arrive at a level of mastery of the craft, we are always evolving as makers, artists, innovators and creatives. The growth curve doesn’t slow down, and that inner critic will always be hanging over your shoulder, tearing you down little by little until you realize you’ve stopped creating altogether, until you find yourself believing in it, rather than in you. However, we can combat it, and re-train ourselves to follow those critics with positive self talk - train ourselves to change the soundtrack we have running through our heads all day long. Maybe it sounds like - I may not be perfect, but I’m improving each day, or I am a creative, a maker, what is before me wasn’t here until I made it.
Self Talk - The Power of Change
It is understood that the inner critic is a soundtrack we allow to play in our heads, whether words from friends or family, teachers, or societal views at large, the detrimental attitudes we can encounter when engaging with our creativity can very easily become ingrained in us, despite our best efforts to ignore them and push them away. Re-writing our narratives, changing the soundtracks in our heads can be done, but we must do the work ourselves to do so.
Self talk is a strategy, a coping mechanism we can all use in times of doubt - specifically, positive self talk. This variant denotes replacing those negative and detrimental beliefs or lines of dialogue we rehearse over and over again into its opposite sentiment - empowering and uplifting. I want to be clear that this is not about being toxic with positivity - you are allowed to feel scared and insecure, unsure and frustrated. This frame of mind is all about feeling those emotions, giving them space to happen and then reworking them to find the silver lining and the lesson in a positive light, rather than a negative message. For example - instead of saying “don’t fall” pr “you’ll never walk in these heels”, think “Walk forward, shoulders back, head up, find balance”. We hope to move from “I can’t call myself a creative” to “I am on a journey of growth and claim the title of creative”. The more you believe in yourself, the more you tell yourself you believe something, the more true it becomes for you. Obviously the power of belief has its limits, but in the realm of being a creative, you do not need to be picked by the institutions, you do not need to be perfect, you do not need to suffer for your art - you can pick yourself, you can create at any level and should create without fear of perfectionism, you should have abundance in your creative life.
When you change your mindset and re-frame your outlook on your creativity, you can increase joy, productivity and confidence. It takes consistency, but making small changes to that soundtrack each day, acknowledging the inner critic and being gentle to yourself in those moments can benefit your creative process immensely.
Reframing How To:
Start out with daily affirmations - I know, how cliché, and coming from a motivational interviewing background in relation to physical activity and behaviour modification - this model is one I didn’t really believe in until I began practicing it - and if it can work for physical activity why not creativity?
Daily affirmations are a specific formula for self talk. First thing in the morning, or at the start of your creative practice begin by speaking to yourself outloud - preferably in a mirror - declaring your positive attributes, or qualities you want to emulate as though you already do; “I am strong”, “I am courageous”, “I am inspired”, “I am open to the creative process”. “I will” statements also work wonders, but it is important that you are not hesitant or wishing to be. Of course, we conceptually understand that we are human, we are imperfect and all we can do is try, but by affirming that we are and we will do these things and be these things, we are holding faith for growth.
Remember, self talk is a conversation between your past and present self to forge the you of the future. Being in tune with where you are and where you want to go is imperative to the process. Start small, and slowly reframe those inner critic comments to a consistent soundtrack of belief and reassurance that you choose your path each and every day, and today you will walk in the sunshine of joy and self confidence.