In last month’s article, we saw 4 down to earth steps to get started on a new project: Learn, Invest, Network, and Plan. This month’s article will continue from there, assuming that you already have a project set up.
If sometimes technical aspects and means are difficult to overcome (for instance: having enough money to open a business) there is another type of obstacle less obvious but still very much existent: mental blocks. Those can take several forms: what we would usually call self-doubt, fear, self-sabotage, or imposter syndrome. They are rather common and understanding them can help you to overcome them.
Working out of passion can bring the difficulty to feel legitimate
As far as I remember, I always have been a creative person. I always liked to “do things with my hand” and constantly had ideas to make things, for no other reason than making them. I went to art school as a kid and later on, mostly because of my hobbies and funny looking clothes, people considered me as a “creative person”. For me, it was just a matter of actively trying to execute the ideas that pop to my head. I don’t think there is a “creative” or “not creative” type of person: I can only think of people doing, or not doing, what they have in mind.
When I started to turn my dreadlock hobby into a moneymaker, I felt a bit like a fraud, and when it became my full-time job those thoughts gave me a hard time. I can explain: since my younger age, “work“ (a job) always seemed to be about something difficult, that was bringing money but not something that should be enjoyable. Listening to my parents but also adults in general, gave me the feeling that a job wasn’t supposed to be a pleasant thing to do.
I read once that a lot of people don’t perceive artistic careers as real work because as a general perception, art, culture, music, dance, are enjoyable activities. So apparently “being enjoyable” wouldn’t be a criteria for a real job. That’s why loving my artistic career made me feel guilty.
People working out of passion can feel illegitimate and not have the feeling that they earn their money fairly: after all, they love what they do so “they could do it for free”. If you feel this way, it’s important to understand that liking what you do doesn’t lower its value and doesn’t mean that you should do something for free, especially if you are good at it. On the other side, people should realize that not everyone considers a job as a painful amount of chores to be done every day in exchange for a financial reward. So, if you consider yourself as a creative person and feel guilty about enjoying what you do and making money from it: don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you need people’s validation.
How to stop asking for permission?
Asking people for permission or validation is a common and sometimes unintentional way of self-sabotage. For instance, do you have a person in your life that you need to run any decision by before moving forward? Do you expect advice from this person or actual permission?
It took me a little while to realize that what I was expecting from some people was not their opinion on a matter but an actual authorization. For instance, if I had a big decision to make and was determined to go ahead, I would still ask a couple of people to validate my choices. I realized one day that this process was not only time-consuming but also contributing to self-doubt. Facing my fear of making choices by myself, I decided to stop asking for permission: this made me own my decisions and stop relying others.
Take the time to think: are you sometimes waiting for people to validate your choices or approve them? Are you having doubts about your way of balancing the pros and cons? A good exercise is to look back at the decisions you took in the past. They might have been fully yours but did you had to wait on someone’s approval to make them happen?
Social media and creativity: a double-blade tool
Moving to the digital people in our lives: our social media peers can be helpful to create a network and find inspiration, although they can also bring us down for many reasons. We know all the negative aspects of Facebook or Instagram regarding our self-image and life but there are deeper effects when we talk about creativity.
First of all, our need to compare ourselves with others is something we constantly do and this gets worse when we make the mistake of comparing what we produce. When we create something, we usually want to turn one of our own ideas into reality. By comparing already existing work to our conceptual idea, it’s unlikely that it will help us to move forward. It has more chances to make us feel awful thinking that “it’s already been done anyways” or that “I can’t do better than that”. There is a fine line between looking for inspiration and leading ourselves to self-deprecation.
Another issue of social media regarding creativity is the search for attention. Don’t we all want more likes and more views? Where does that lead us? Are we focusing on producing better products and ideas or better content for social media? Are we putting our attention on what we love to do or what people will like to see? Did creativity become a product itself? Is being productive and creative a possibility without loosing anything in the process?
Social media bring us many new questions to answer and to self-reflect on. Has your work been impacted positively or negatively by the pressure social media have on us? Do you think comparing your work to others has a positive effect or negative on yours? Does your craving for attention stimulate or decrease your productivity?
Once you’ve started to tame your mind and understand a little more what ties you down, you will untie yourself from mental blocks. I only mention a few here but maybe you have experienced other mental blocks? As usual, I’ll be happy to read about your projects, plans, and progress: you can tell me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you never know, this might just be the theme of a future podcast episode on the ByeByeBoss podcast.
To go further:
About comparing ourselves to others: The Happiness Lab #2: The Unhappy Millionaire
Don’t ask for permission by Maisy Bentley (TEDxYouth@Thorndon)
How craving attention makes you less creative by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (TED talk)
ByeByeBoss is a monthly column whose purpose is to share inspiring stories and initiate change for those who always dreamt of being self-employed. If you want to be a part of it, send an email to email@example.com
If you didn’t get the change to read the previous post from this series: