A few months ago, I went home to New Orleans feeling a little broken down and a lot disconnected.
I started a creative business in order to help others on their empowerment journeys and to feel a sense of freedom for myself, but somewhere in the running of the business, the purpose behind it got lost. I was digging deep for the motivation to keep going, and it just wasn’t there.
I decided to meet up with a few girlfriends, pulling out the wine and tarot decks, and what emerged was one of those deep conversations you can only have with fellow seekers—the kind that makes you realize that even if things aren’t perfect, you’re not alone.
Encouraged by the wine, a friend opened up. “I’m glad other people have these thoughts,” she said. “Deep down, I know I have something to share, something valuable beyond measure, something the world needs to hear. I want to crack my heart open and share it, but I’m afraid I’m just not creative enough to make that happen.”
We gaped at her. Of all of us, she was the most creative! She was an endless fountain of beautiful words, and she was even in a “creative” career, getting paid to share her passion with the world. If she felt insecure and stuck, what did that mean for the rest of us?
On the plane ride home to Los Angeles, I began reflecting on what her words really meant. They confirmed something I had suspected for a while: that a huge part of creative expression is mindset.
As a coach, I help creative women start businesses and find careers where they can use their passions to make a difference, and in working with these incredible minds, I often see them get stuck in lies about their worthiness to embody a creative identity.
Creative people—myself included—lie to ourselves about what the word “creative” means. We doubt our ability to use our creativity in a marketplace that doesn’t seem to value us, and we wonder whether or not our creativity counts as a “real” job.
I started watching clients’ body language in our sessions to look for that fateful moment when they shifted from passionate and excited to fearful and stuck. In doing so, I was able to identify three of the biggest lies they told themselves. The lies had simple solutions, but left unchecked, they would become fatal to creativity and forward movement.
Lie #1: I’m not a creative.
“I’m not actually a creative. I mean…I may have some creative tendencies, but I’m not one of those special creative people. I could never do that.”
There is no such thing as a “Capital C” creative. There are no magical, special, visionary unicorns that possess powers you don’t. If you’re a human being, you possess an innate creativity that is your birthright, and you don’t need to do anything special to prove that you belong in the creative club.
This lie is particularly insidious for creatives with day jobs—they often feel like they’re living a double life: accountant by day and artist by night, and never the twain shall meet.
But what would happen if you injected a bit of your creativity into your day job? Or just outed yourself as being creative at work? The only difference between personal creativity and professional creativity is that professional creatives get paid.
If this creativity killer is holding you back, ask yourself, “This idea that I’m not qualified to call myself a creative…where did it come from? Is this something I learned?”
Then, choose to unlearn it. If you can trace the idea backward to see where it started, maybe you can simply start a new idea about yourself.
Lie #2: I don’t know what to do with my creativity.
“I’m creative in too many directions. I don’t know where to focus or what to choose.”
I’ve never coached anyone who truly had no clue what they loved or what direction would light them up. Most of the time, when people say, “I don’t know what to choose,” what they really mean is, “I know what I want, but I don’t know how to make it work.” Or: “I’m scared it won’t work,” or even, “I’m afraid if I choose this direction, I’ll miss out on something else.”
This lie kept me stuck for a long time. I thought, “I’d love to use my creativity to empower women, but what would that even look like?” Since I didn’t have a clear vision, I didn’t even try.
To move past this lie, start owning the bits of clarity you do have. Instead of focusing on the pieces you’re missing, turn your attention toward how to make your creative desires a reality. Ask yourself:
>> If it were guaranteed to work, would I want to pursue this idea or project?
>> How can I go about making it a reality?
>> How might I fold all of my creative pursuits together? What’s the common thread?
>> What support and information do I need in order to get the ball rolling here?
Give yourself credit for what clarity you have.
Lie #3: You can’t make money doing something you love.
“What I’m passionate about making doesn’t make money. Choosing the creative path means being a starving artist, and there’s nothing I can do about that.”
This is the moment where creative people kill ideas before they have a chance to grow. This is the cultural narrative that creativity isn’t valuable. This is the inner drill sergeant yelling, “Get a real job.”
And it’s usually just an excuse to stay small.
So let’s break down where this lie comes from. If you’re reading this, you probably live in an industrialized society with many privileges, but also many rules about who you’re allowed to be.
In my case, I was brought up to believe that upon finishing school, I should get a job, buy a house, get married, have children, and stay at my company until retirement age. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that way of living, it’s a plan based on stability, not creativity, adventure, impact, and fun.
Because so many of us have been prescribed this stability-focused life plan, we tend to feel guilty for wanting more and fearful of what might happen if we choose to operate outside the cultural norm.
Whenever this lie threatens to shut me down, I consider, “Who is profiting off of me staying stuck in the status quo? What is the advantage of rocking the boat a little bit?”
The truth is that it’s completely possible to experience creativity and pay the bills. The truth is that there are people out there living your greatest creative fantasies and getting paid for it…they just had the courage to start.
While I’ll never advocate throwing stability out the window completely, I also believe that money and creativity aren’t mutually exclusive.
To challenge this lie, find a role model who seems to have both money and creative passion. It could be a person on the internet or even someone you know in real life. Study their path. Gather clues about their journey, the lessons they learned, and how they achieved their goals. If you’re brave, ask them.
Whatever you do, don’t shut your creativity down based on a money problem that might not even exist.
Why is nurturing your innate creative power so important?
Because it’s the foundation for everything else in your life. What you believe about yourself, the world, and what’s possible directly influences what you pursue, how you think about yourself and society, and what you choose to make of your time here on the planet.
So, what are you creating—right now, this minute?
The question can feel both exciting and overwhelming, but if you’re a creative type, it’s all up to you.
Author: Amy Everhart
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Yoli Ramazzina