Since we’ve been talking so much about grace lately, let’s talk about the ultimate act of giving ourselves grace as creatives - taking up space! It’s a longer one today, but try to stay with me.
In today’s world of social media it can seem like it’s easier to connect and get out there, but do we really feel that way? I know that when I thought about taking the plunge to launch Creating Confidently on Instagram I was terrified. Who wanted to see what I was doing? Would anyone connect with what I had to say? What right did I have to take up space on such a saturated platform? Would I fail?
But then I asked - fail at what? All I was going to do was talk about my own journey, my perspective on creativity, I was inviting discussion, disagreement, and discourse. I was scared of failing at being me. When I realized that the only way to fail at being me was to repress my creativity and deny myself the opportunity to take a chance and try something new, I felt a surge of bolstered confidence, enough to take on the world of social media. However, the feeling of fear and inadequacy continued when I decided to launch the blog; would anyone join, would they interact, was I being ridiculous by thinking I had anything of value to say?
All I wanted to do was share my journey, be seen - and it made me feel foolish and insignificant, until I stopped and realized that our basic human need is to connect and be seen. We spend all our lives trying to connect with others - afraid that we may never belong. As creatives I think we have this innate drive to connect on a broader spectrum than with only our families and communities. We have this feeling that we have a perspective to the left of center of the rest of society.
My experience growing up was an active imagination, a love for dance and daydreaming. I would bring a writing journal to school and spend recess sitting by the building writing my daydreams. Whenever we had creative time I was writing a story or reading another fantasy novel. To this day, everywhere I go, I carry a novel with me, and a notebook. Needless to say I had a close circle of friends, but by no means a large number of them. I kept to myself and my own little worlds and found company with myself to be the best kind around.
It is natural then for someone more at home on their own and with their small community of people to be mildly terrified of opening up to the larger world. On one hand we feel silly and embarrassed and selfish for wanting to take up space, on the other insignificant, afraid that we won’t be seen. I know I was, and often still am, struggling with this push and pull - the need to create and share and do, and the very real desire to hide and protect myself from the words and scrutiny of others.
One of my first steps to taking up space in the world, although I didn’t recognise it at the time, was my tattoo journey. I began telling my story through art on my body, something I can’t hide, something anyone interacting with me can see and comment on and engage with. I didn’t identify it at the time as a means of creative expression for myself because it was someone else's art, but it was a representation of my story, of who I am. Both strangers and friends engaged with me about the art on my body - some to share in the beauty of it, some to criticise my need to place tattoos on my body, which lead to some frustrating conversations, but also some educational ones.
My parents were never a block to my creative ambitions - to this day they support my endeavours. They gave me the best tools in the world to cope with the criticism and opinions of others - self confidence and the knowledge of my own self power. No one had power over me - their opinions only mattered if I gave them the power to matter - my personal power was my own and that extended to the creative extensions of myself.
At eighteen I completely forgot my pointe solo on stage at the last competition of the season to the point that my director and choreographer asked me what had happened on stage and all I did was laugh and shrug and declare, “I don’t know, but it’s done.” This isn’t to say that I removed myself from responsibility for the performance as earlier that year I fell on stage at competition and when the judge gave me a special award for getting up and continuing despite the slipperiness of the stage my response to family and teachers was, “A poor workman blames his tools. Some people fell, some didn’t, I should have had more control on that turn.” However, I didn't pity or blame myself either, sometimes things happen and we can’t go back and change these things, we have to move past them and let them help us to grow.
I could have stopped dancing, afraid of forgetting again, of being embarrassed on stage, of failing at an art I had been training in for fifteen years. But I didn’t. I continued to dance, I transitioned to teaching and choreographing. I embraced the love I had for the art form.
Fast-forward to the current day and my current creative endeavours - some days I am excited to post and write and share while on others I feel failure when a post doesn't get the engagement or feedback I thought it would.
Feedback is the key here - at competition we have almost instant feedback in the form of a score, and afterwards with the judges commentary. Sometimes with social media sharing and even blog posting feedback is not a guarantee - you never know if what you’re doing is working, connecting or falling flat - especially on Instagram as one can like a picture without reading through the caption with ease.
Because we don’t know how we’re doing, and even sometimes when we do get that feedback it can be daunting to untangle the signals or lack thereof. Both options are scary - jumping into the unknown with pieces of our souls we may never get back. Our joy must conquer the fear. To allow ourselves to embrace our creativity and wear the badge proudly is the antidote to that fear. If we admit our creativity to ourselves, we offer our creativity to the world by simply being present in our lives as authentically as possible.
Learning to embrace who we are as creatives is the bravest thing we can do, because by embracing our creativity we admit our fear of exposure and embrace all the parts of ourselves wholly and unreservedly.
The choice to create is ours alone. Our choice to embrace our creativity is an important one. To open ourselves up to the vulnerability of being who we are is the most sincere expression of trust and belonging we can execute. It is a gift that creatives have the unique talent of unwrapping every single day, and that ability is a beautiful blessing.