To live a creative life you have to STOP being afraid of failing, of doing it wrong, and of being judged!
If there were such a thing as a creativity expert, that would be my title! Thirty years ago I wrote the book, 365 Days of Creative Play (which is still in print and now in eight languages).It began as a binder where I kept activities for babysitters to do when I wasn’t home. I didn’t want my girls watching television and as a new mom, I had to be in control of every aspect of their lives, even when I wasn’t there! I added to the binder constantly as I came up with new activities to do with my kids.
One day a friend was over, she was paging through the binder and said, “I couldn’t do that, I can’t even draw.” I have undergraduate degrees in psychology and religion, so I have a deep interest in how people think and feel, so I turned to the next activity and asked, “What about this one?”
“No, I can’t dance!” She laughed and said, “but it’s so great you can, they look like fun.” The activity she was looking at was called mirror dancing. I pulled her into my living room, took both her hands until she was facing me and then told her to copy the movements I made. She was reluctant at first. “Just copy me, I lift my arm, you lift yours, I shake my head you shake yours, I turn in a circle, you turn.” We mirror danced for a few minutes, then I told her to take the lead. She laughed, and I copied her sound and her movements, she made the sound of a siren and swung her arms wide, and I followed.
“It appears you can dance!” I kidded her. She started crying.
This one experience changed the direction of my life.
You see, I was gifted with a creative mother. When she would sew, she would give me the scraps and tell me to make an outfit for my doll. No direction, no criticism, no telling me how it should look, she just handed me the material and let me create what I wanted. I also lived in a forest, at a time when kids were allowed to play outside by themselves, and I would spend hours bouncing up and down on a dead piece of wood I imagined was a horse. Her name was Pegs—since of course she was like Pegasus and could fly. I would come in and tell my mom all about my horse, and she treated Pegs as if she were real. I don’t remember a time in my childhood when I was told I had to be good at something in order to do it. So I kept my childhood ability to try new things, and not be critical of myself. I didn’t believe, as my mirror dancing friend had, that I had to be a trained artist before I could try painting or be a professional dancer before claiming I could dance.
That day I met my friend's bossy, know-it-all inner critic. An evil villain who was stealing her life!
I wondered, how much of life do we miss because of our inner critics?
When did your inner critic introduce herself? Was she loud and convincing? Did she step all over your precious creations, slamming them with judgments? Did she tell you that you weren't a real artist or writer or musician, not worthy, unaccomplished? Can you remember a time in your life BEFORE your inner critic entered? At what point did you hand over the keys to your life, to a driver who's headed for the forest of doom and doubt? Are you ready to kick that hijacker out of the car, turn your car around and get the hell out of there!
You can banish your inner critic. Here's why you should.
Your ability to create defines you. Everything you do and think begins with a creative spark, from the simplest flicker of what to wear or eat, to the more complicated how and what to communicate or do on the job. Left to its own devises one’s creativity is expansive, limitless, intuitive and original. Nobody else has lived your life in exactly the same way, so nobody can see or interpret the world the way you do. It’s the combination of so many things; your family, where you live, nature, hobbies, sports, historical events, religion, music, food, art—all of these are processed through your body from the moment you enter the world.
Judging a person does not define who they are . . . it defines who you are
So, I can say with absolute and total confidence that you are unique and one of a kind. Whatever expression (words, art, music, dance, ideas, thoughts, food choices, projects, beliefs, and all preferences) that come out of you will be uniquely yours. Think about that for a minute. There is nobody in the world that will see the world and express themselves or act the way you do. Because they can’t—they have not lived your life.
Why is that important? Because if you could banish your inner critic, kick her out of the car driving your life, then you could expand into the powerful creative force that you already are!
Here's what it will take to banish your inner critic.
Stop judging others. The eyes are a window to the soul, and if what you see in others causes you to judge them, then you become the critic. Judgement, jealousy, gossip, they all feed your inner critic. If you are quick to judge others, then you are also quick to judge yourself. Allowing an attitude of judgement free reign in your life damages you personally. YOU grow your own inner critic by feeding her negative, jealous critical thoughts. It’s possible that growing up you were criticized and the seed for the inner critic within you was planted, but now that you are an adult, you are the one who waters the seed. It’s now your responsibility to free your mind and uproot that seed.
Catch your inner critic in action and banish her! You might need a banishing ritual, something you do EVERY time your inner critic pops up. Maybe you make up a chant, I am, I can, I do. Or you snap your fingers, basically anything that stops the critic for a moment. It’s going to be hard at first because an inner critic can be convincing, like it is you, but it isn’t. How do you know when the critic ha appeared? Words or thoughts like; I can’t do this, this is terrible, I’m not going to try, are signals that she’s there. Being stuck or quitting a creative project—writing, art, cooking, decorating, designing, gardening—because you judge it not good enough, not perfect—that’s a sign your inner critic is there. Banishing your critic takes practice. Pick any creative project you don't think you're good at. As you do the creative project, notice when the critic appears, what does your inner critic say to you? Listen, and then say something back to defend yourself, “actually I’m enjoying this and I don’t care how it turns out.” Then keep going, and each time the critic speaks out, do your ritual, defend yourself, step around your inner critic and keep going.
Try to remember the person you were BEFORE your inner critic took hold. Make a list of everything you loved to do as a child. What was fun? What made you happy? Pick one thing off that list and do it. If you loved playing dress up, open your closet and look with new eyes, and then dress up. If you loved playing in the creek or climbing trees—go out and do it. Did you love to paint, or dance, or collect insects. The point is to remember what it feels like to trust yourself. What was it like when your creative soul had free reign?
I could promise you that your life would be changed if you can banish your inner critic, but no words are powerful enough. However, once you do it, you will never look back. It will change you. Never again will you say, I can’t do that! Like my mirror dancing friend, you will discover exactly the steps to take and sounds to make to free your creative soul.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand. Albert Einstein