“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great, creative people.” –Leo Burnett
Words by: Tamisha Ford
And it’s that curiosity that starts us down the path of discovery. In all aspects.
In Part 1 of this series, I addressed the first 5 needs of creative expression as: inquiry, stopping belief of negative thoughts, cultivating new thoughts and thus, new creative space, stopping the judging cycle of our creative space, and the need for a healthy level of self-doubt & fear.
These first 5 really focused on the foundations of cultivating new space for new thinking, the opening up of seeing things in a new way – the setting a new platform.
These last 5 take the strong, new foundation you and I have set for our work and creative projects and give them depth.
As we start something new – a radio show, a blog, an art piece, a business – these are the things that are going to pop up and essentially try to cause us misery.
I want to address them and show you why they’re necessary and why we MUST pay them attention, not ignore them.
5 More Things Self-Expression Needs From You
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Self-Expression needs humility.
First and foremost, I want us to get that there’s a big difference between humility and self-depracation – defined as the act of reprimanding oneself by belittling, undervaluing, or disparaging oneself, or being excessively modest. Humility, on the other hand, is genuine appreciation for the work you are or will bring into the world – being so connected to the process you went through and valuing yourself, but not needing to flaunt or wave it in front of others for only the recognition. Just an internal knowing and servitude is good here.
Humility is the appreciation and humble knowing what your work costs, how it serves others, and being okay expressing that. You don’t have to divert people’s “thank you’s”, you can just say a genuine, “thank you” back – knowing you do deserve it and you’re deeply appreciative.
In an article on Brain Pickings, I found THE most gorgeous quote by author Cheryl Strayed, where she gives an account of humility and what that looked like to her – when she was a twenty-something writer, plagued by a fear that she was “lazy and lame.”
She gives a heartfelt, strong account of how she finally reached a point where not writing her book and thinking of that was much more awful than possibly writing one that sucked.
Listen to her heart:
Self-Expression needs resistance.
In the words of one of my favorite authors, Steven Pressfield, “any act that rejects immediate gratification, in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity”, or “any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower” are the things that will elicit resistance.
- The pursuit of any calling. Writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
- The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or not for profit.
- Any diet or health regimen
- Any spiritual program or advancement/growth
- Any course or program helping us overcome addiction, habit or unwholesome act
- Education of any kind
- Any act of political, moral or ethical courage, including changing patterns of thought or conduct
- The undertaking of any enterprise that helps others
- Any act that entails a heart commitment. Getting married, having a baby, working out a tough relationship
- Standing against any type of adversity
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.” –Steven Pressfield
To put this in context as it relates to our self-expression, we’re pretty much always expressing ourselves. Getting dressed in the morning is an expression of our style. How we talk on the phone is an expression of our mood. How we handle situations and make decisions is an expression of our values.
However, when resistance is present, that’s when we need to pay the most attention. Because resistance is an indicator. It actually tells us what we need to pay attention to and/or DO.
Self-Expression needs self-awareness in spades.
You’ve heard me say it a million times now – first the self, THEN the expression. Has to be. No other way. Otherwise, we are living someone else’s life, making their decisions, people-pleasing. Only “expressing” what will bring external validation and from a place of outward motivation.
Without self-awareness, self-expression is just expression.
Self-Expression needs self-validation with support.
My friend Susan, who does awe-inspiring and simply exquisite work in the personal growth arena (that’s on a level I’ve never seen in that realm), recently brought to light a new conversation I’d like to integrate here in this community as well. Her premise is this:
It’s about understanding your individuality enough that you can really discern your talent AS it relates to others. And it’s about understanding how to master your talent through the talents of others.
Interestingly enough, I had already drafted this post with its necessary headlines before I read this from Susan on Google Plus this past weekend, but when I opened this post to write it today, I realized this is exactly what I wanted to say here in this section. I appreciate her for giving me the language.
What this really means is there’s a key point of tension (and paradox) found in being totally comfortable in our individuality and personal work/art, etc. and also understanding how that individualism fits into the whole. “The whole” being the communities we’re in, the families we’re a part of, the environments we wish to socialize within, the circles we run in, the friendships we cultivate, and the cultures we embed ourselves into.
Individualism is necessary. Self-validation is needed. Understanding your “only-ness” is paramount (VIDEO). But we always need these in the context of community. Others. Their talents. Their art. Their worldviews. Their experiences too.
As introverted as you might be (ahem, like me), as “set apart” as we might need to be to create, we can never operate totally in a vacuum to be effective. Why create anything you can’t share?
Yes, there are personal creation projects that should remain as such, but I’m talking about the things you know you need to be including others in or putting out into the world.
Our expressions needs self-validation, insight & understanding, yes. But they also need support.
Self-Expression needs pragmatism, not perfection.
In 2014, I read a series of books that really helped me think more about my own personal creative process.
In that book (which reads much like a curated collection of blog posts) – there’s a section on pragmatism vs. perfectionism as an approach that’s compelling. Basically, the premise is that perfectionism is not the best approach and it never works as it relates to productivity, output, or quality. Perfectionistic approaches need not apply. Don’t call us – we’ll call you. IF we need you.
But we won’t because pragmatism is preferred.
The basic difference lies in the direction of energy. Perfectionism usually centers its energy around emotional angst, while pragmatism is centered around emotional support. The pragmatist takes responsibility but doesn’t beat herself up. She understands the beauty of the mess and actually enjoys the journey and the process. If you’re familiar with the work of Carol S. Dweck, this can be likened to her paradigm that studies the “growth” mindset vs. the “fixed” mindset.
Which one of these are hardest for you to think about or carry out? I’d love for you to share.
Thank you for being here & reading – it means a lot.
PS – Here’s Part 1 of this series if you missed it up top!