The self-doubting creative soul… sound familiar?
Recently I’ve been thinking about creativity, passions, dreams, and also about fear, self-doubt, and a lack of confidence and courage. I’m probably not alone here.
What am I afraid of? Failing. Making a mistake. But I’m human, we all make mistakes. Fear shouldn’t stand in the way of our dreams. I know I can learn from the experience, and improve, so where does this fear come from?
Is it in our nature? Is it nurture? Is it because I’m a woman? Or perhaps because I care about the consequences of my actions? Do I try too hard to be perfect?
It could be genetic; my mum is a bit of a perfectionist too, and would often say “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”. There was never any pressure from my parents for me to succeed. I loved learning, and was diligent. I suppose I earned a reputation for being a good student, so it became expected that I would do well. But whose expectations where these? Probably mine alone. I was motivated to get high results at Secondary School so I could study Architecture at University. Although I was a confident teenager, I still remember being in shock when my VCE results came through and I was one of the top students at my school – I had seriously doubted myself.
“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong” and
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do” (both gems from Eleanor Roosevelt)
I then went from being a big fish in a small pond, to being a teeny-tiny fish in a massive University ocean. I felt pressured to do well – I had a fear of failure. The subject of “Design” was so different to my high school studies. It was so subjective. There was no correct mathematical answer to get right. I was always nervous to make that first tentative line on the page that would begin the creation… what if it didn’t turn out the way it should? (There is a also whole other story here about how “Design” was ‘taught’, with many tutors giving very little in the way of helpful encouragement and guidance, but plenty of criticism which rocked the confidence of many impressionable students).
When my eldest son was just 2 years old, I noticed that when we sat down with crayons and paper, he too seemed to lack the confidence to draw. He’d ask me to draw things for him. He knew that his ability could not match what it was that he wished to see on the page, and it frustrated him enough to give up. I came across a fabulous book at the time called “The Dot”. It is described as being “for anyone who has been afraid to express themselves – from a child in art class to an adult whose fear has shut down a long-held dream, Peter H. Reynolds’ book “The Dot” is there to remind us all to “Make your mark, and see where it takes you.”
My son has since become very creative with his drawings. He was just going through a phase, like we all do. He just need some time, and some gentle encouragement so he felt supported which boosted his confidence. We all need encouragement, motivation, and reminders to help us on our way, and I guess we need to learn to rely less on others to provide this guidance, and try to find it from within so we don’t forget how courageous we really are.
“Creativity takes courage” Henri Matisse
I believe that by staying interested in the world around us, finding beauty in nature, being inspired by the creativity of others, nurturing ourselves and connecting with loved ones, all help keep that positive inner sparkle alive. Taking risks makes you feel alive too! Especially when you do succeed, what an enormous confidence-boost that is! We have to be prepared for the inevitable failures too, but know that they will only make us stronger. A wise woman recently told me to “fail while daring greatly“. So that’s what I plan to do! And another of my mum’s favourite sayings was “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Thanks mum, that’s good advice.
I have taken a few risks recently, and it felt good! It felt right. Things started falling into place. We packed up our family and moved from Melbourne to Ballarat for a “tree-change”, and to be closer to family. I’ve started my own Architectural Practice, no longer an employee, but having to take full responsibility. These were both big scary things, but I followed my intuition, and everything seems to be falling into place.
Joseph Campbell said it this way: “…if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
I’m looking forward to seeing what’s behind the next door…
Tell me, have you been courageous lately? If not, why? Go on, just do it! I’d love to hear your thoughts.