12 reasons why self-esteem and creativity support each other

Imagine that inside you, there is a well. In that well, you tuck away all the nice things people say, the good things you feel about yourself, your strengths, your loves, your joy. Everything that makes life special for you lives in that well.

One day, you have an encounter with someone. Let's say that you wrote a report at work, and they flung it back at you and said it was the worst piece of writing they had ever seen. If your well is full, you are able to deal with the criticism, although perhaps momentarily stunned by the delivery. But you don't take it personally, because you know that the response is their issue, not yours.

Now, let's have that same engagement on a different day. Your partner makes a comment about your skirt being too tight as you leave the house. On the bus, you play that comment over and over and over again in your mind. By the time you get to work, you are convinced you need to call Jenny Craig in your lunch break, and spend a miserable morning watching colleagues eat donuts at the water cooler.

At lunchtime, you sit with the office witch and gleefully listen as she describes what's wrong with every female's figure in the Woman's Day magazine. She moves onto colleagues. You feel a little uncomfortable, but hey, you feel a bit better about your weight.

That afternoon, your boss flings the report at you. You close your office door, burst into tears and consider resigning. This is simply the worst day you have ever had.

What's happening here? Why can you cope one day, and not the next, and what on earth has creativity got to do with it?

Self-esteem. Creativity and the journey to embrace our creativity, has several foundations that build self-esteem.

The first, is personal power. When we know who we are, we also know who we are not. As I launched my first book, I wasn't 100% in that space. I felt I was 'good' at writing, design and photography, but there was a niggling doubt. I looked for others to fill my well. I relied on others responses, even though I had created the book from a place of personal power.

The second is self-love. I had begun back in 2011 to consciously choose acts of self-love. I began to nurture my soul, and let go of the guilt that accompanied it. Spending half an hour singing as I played my guitar is an example. It once felt like a guilty pleasure. Work, family - commitments that pull us away, need not have our attention 100% of the time. I see friends who are busy mums wrestle with this constantly. One tells me from time to time of a longing to simply run away, even though she adores her family to the moon and back. She is a creative spirit, and sometimes, doing the washing makes all of us want to run away! Never mind dealing with teachers, husbands and money issues!

When our soul-well isn't full, is we seek its content from others. We might become needy, asking for too much feedback. Or we might feel jealousy of others who appear to have what we want. Facebook is a shocker for that! Keep away if your well isn't full!

Now, I'm not going to say that it is right to tell someone their skirt is too tight. At times, it is just plain rude. But there is also a possibility that it was just a passing comment. Was your skirt feeling too tight? Have you been feeling unhealthy of late, knowing you need to nurture yourself a little more with good food and exercise? Did the comment strike a chord, because it had a hint of truth, and went hurling down your almost empty well? Was the comment made to help fill your partner's well, who might be feeling fat?

If your well was full, you may have stopped, and said, "Gee yes, I know! I threw the skirt in the wash and it shrank! Perhaps I should throw this one out!" Or, "Yes, I know, I have been planning on getting back on my fitness regime. You're right. This skirt is uncomfortable and probably doesn't look that professional anyway. I'll go change it."

So again, just how does creativity boost our self esteem, and why can it work in all areas of our life, not just those areas where we 'do' stuff?

I've touched on the foundations of self esteem. These are also the foundations of creativity. Julia Cameron breaks them into 12 areas:

  1. A sense of safety - protection from your worst enemy - you and your beliefs

  2. A strong sense of identity - protection from negative people who want to tear you down while smiling and holding your hand

  3. Personal power - knowing how to deal with criticism, and to move on, taking only those bits that serve you

  4. Having a full sense of ingrity - being honest about our feelings about ourselves. When you say you feel 'okay' what does that really mean? When we deny honesty about our feelings, it is very hard to have a full well.

  5. The joy of possibility. Creativity believes anything is possible. Life becomes an adventure. We become participants rather than victims of circumstance.

  6. We believe in abundance. This is a big one. When we believe in that, we are aware of when we feel lack. "I'll never be a best-seller, it's just too competitive." "How can I build a successful business? I don't have enough (fill in the blank)?" We begrudge others having what we don't have. The opposite of abundance can leave us feeling icky and not fully understand why.

  7. We are more connected - starting with ourself. Having a full well means we relate to others better. We listen more acutely. We have more empathy. We know that perfectionism is an ideal, and by being kinder to ourselves, are less critical of others.

  8. Strength is second nature. We no longer see ourself as survivors, but know that we have dealt with our past, and are firmly in the present. We are happy to expose ourselves to the rigours and demands of creativity, and accept its ebbs and flows.

  9. By far, we are more compassionate. We start with ourselves. When we see the angry manager flinging reports at us, we know that he is in a space we may once have been in. And we don't take it personally.

  10. We self-protect. It's a big world out there, and not everybody has a full well. They are energy thieves, idea barons, ready to smash every creative ounce out of you in order to build their own self-worth.

  11. We know who we are and accept who we are. We no longer need to focus on others, and what they aren't. Because we know who we are, others thrive around us. We may even begin to inspire others. We have a strong sense of autonomy. The buck stops with ourselves.

  12. Our faith is restored. We trust a lot more - of events, circumstances, others. That not only means our mind can relax more quickly, but we begin to radiate more calm.

Self-esteem is the upshot of being in charge of our creative soul. We have more vision. And we are kinder to ourselves on the journey. We don't expect it to transform over night. We know there will be moments of anxiety, but we aren't afraid to give feelings names, acknowledge them, and seek better thoughts and feelings.

When we are in a state of darkness, anxiety can be frightening. Guilt can cripple us. Jealousy can destroy us. Anger and hatred keep us awake at night. Slowly, we are dying, while shouting out to the world that we are living. We are living. But it's a lie.

When we honour our creative soul, we become more authentic, driven by our own purpose, not others. Creativity is not for the chosen few. I believe we are all creative, as we were naturally, when we were children.

What will you do to nurture your creative soul this week? Can you set a play-date with yourself, for yourself? Go buy some new water colours, choose a new journal or pen, tidy your creative space, sing a song, pull out your piano books.

Do something for you, by embracing you.

We can all develop self-esteem. And creativity is a sure-fired way to get there, because it puts us in control of our destiny. We take 100% responsibility for our lives.

And that's a mighty fine place to be!


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