When You Choose Change, You Choose Growth

Here we go again. Our world is changing, in big and little ways. It’s the end of the school year, a new season approaches, and new technologies and troubles are surrounding us. Whether you are a kindergartener or graduate, a leader or a worker, a mom or dad, a singleton, newly coupled, or a long-term pair, change is part of life. Sometimes change comes to you unbidden. You may choose simple changes or hard ones. Sometimes you choose to become your true self.

photograph of a stick with four green pupae and one brown one. Change is coming.

If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.

Dolly Parton

Change is Hard

Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.  

Mandy Hale

Bet you knew that already. Yet most of us hold some level of dread about change. Change is hard.


The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.

Amelia Earhart

The Challenge of Change

You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.

Marianne Williamson

No matter who you are, how you identify, where you live, how old you are—you will face change. You can try to ignore it. You can try to hold on to your old ways of being. Painfully, change will still happen and you will have missed an opportunity.

We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” 

Oprah Winfrey

You can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them.”

Shonda Rhimes

How hurtful it can be to deny one’s true self and live a life of lies just to appease others.

June Ahern

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.

Gail Sheehy

Keep an Open-mind 

If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.

Geena Davis

If you embrace change as an opportunity, you allow yourself to receive blessings and challenges with grace and strength.

When in doubt, choose change. 

Lily Leung

Each moment is perfect and heaven-sent, in that each moment holds the seeds for growth.” 

Suzan-Lori Parks

Get Support

Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.” 

Gail Sheehy

Yes, change can be scary. It can hold difficulties and feel overwhelming. If it feels too big, too much, too everything—get help. Help comes in many forms. It can mean journaling, talking to a trusted partner or friend or mentor. Or reading a post like this.

Sometimes, you may need professional help.

If you simply need someone to talk to, click here or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The changes we dread most may contain our salvation. 

Barbara Kingsolver

We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”

May Sarton

Change Takes Time

Dreams are the seeds of change. Nothing ever grows without a seed, and nothing ever changes without a dream.” 

Debby Boone

Change is like a seed. A seed must receive nourishment and time to grow into a seedling, then unfurl leaves, and finally to grow into its full potential. Even adjusting to the change in weather or wardrobe or a new home, change takes time. Give yourself grace. Allow yourself the time you need.

Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.

Julia Margaret 

Appreciate Where You Are

Each step of your journey through change brings you new joys and fears. Appreciate your flexibility and your strength and the growth that brought you to this new level.

When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you…never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Believe in Yourself

Photograph of a red and brown butterfly with bright blue "eyes"

Change will challenge you, maybe shake your belief in yourself. So remember the words of these mentors.

No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself. 

Madonna

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

Harriet Tubman

Sometimes in life, we take a leap of faith. Remember, the leap is not about getting from one side to the other. It’s simply about taking the leap…and trusting the air, the universal breath, will support your wings so that you may soar.

Kristi Bowman

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. 

Mother Teresa

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” 

Margaret Mead

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.

Ella Fitzgerald

Please take a moment to congratulate yourself for a change you’ve made in the comments below. 


Image Credits

Top image by Hans from Pixabay 

Last image by Frauke Riether from Pixabay

Twelve Ways to Spark Your Creativity in the Mundane Moments

Image of white line drawings of light bulbs  on multiple squares of blue paper in random orientations.

The repetition common in everyday lives, housework, and jobs can make us feel uncreative. Yet, humans have an inborn survival instinct to expect and solve problems. This makes each and everyone of us creative. We lose touch with our creativity when we “go through the motions.” But you can reconnect with your creativity. Here are twelve ways to spark your creativity.

1. Embrace the Mess

When you think your life is a mess (confession, that’s most the time for me) sit in the mess. Embrace the moment. Sifting through your things or thoughts can help you see things differently. Be open to a different way of thinking or a change in where you place things. 

2. Reconnect to Your Body

Often when we’re stuck, we become physically stuck, too. Our body tenses. We take more shallow breaths. Reconnecting with our body will not only relax your body, but it relaxes your mind, too.

Breathe

Take a breath in through your nose for the count of three. Exhale for a count of three. Repeat 5-10 times.

Relax

Tighten and relax muscle groups one at a time. For example, curl your toes. Hold the curl for the count of three, then relax them. Next, tighten your calf muscles for the count of three. Then relax your calves. Continue with your thighs, your buttocks, your stomach, and so on.

Connect with Feel

Feel the fabric of your clothes. Notice the smoothness or roughness. How do your fingertips feel? Compare that sensation to the feel of the surface upon which you are sitting or standing.

Notice the weight of your body, the temperature of the air.

Connect with Taste

Photo of a bunch of white flowers and a bunch of pink flowers with three bottles of perfume standing behind the flowers.

Taste something sweet or something sour. Taste something new. What happens in your mouth, your stomach, your brain?

Connect with Scent

Sniff favorite scents. Try spices or fruits or perfumes. Does that smell remind you of something? How does it make you feel?

These exercises may feel awkward at first. That’s okay. It may take a while to reconnect with your body if you aren’t normally. Notice what’s happening. Where do you feel the awkwardness?

Remember, there’s no right or wrong in doing these exercises. As long as you connect with some or all of your body, you’re doing fine.

3. Stay Curious 

Marvel at the world around you. If you don’t know the answer to a question, look it up. Follow the rabbit hole you find most fascinating. Ask more questions. Why does this one interest you? How could you use this in your daily life? How do you wish you could use it?

4. Change Your Perspective

One of the best ways to spark creativity in mundane moments is to change your perspective. Instead of seeing the task at hand as boring, try to approach it with a fresh perspective. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” or “How can I do this differently?” This shift in perspective can help you see things in a new light.

Examples

Stuck in traffic? Instead of getting frustrated, look at it as an opportunity. Pay attention to the people, buildings, and scenery around you. Perhaps you mix this with the color walk idea further down in this post. Or you look for absurdities. 

Or take a different path, literally. If you always drive (or walk) home via the same route, take a different one. What do you see that is different? What do you want to see more of? Or not see? What would surprise you the most surprised?

5. Notice Color

Take a color walk (inside or out). Choose a color to notice. Even if you choose something that will be everywhere, notice the shades of green or blue on your walk. How many unique objects can you find that color — shoes, cars, houses, flowers, fences, scarves, etc. What would you think would never be that color? Can you find it? Focusing on color allows your subconscious to work on your problem. Sometimes, color sparks ideas that will excite you.

6. Daydream

Repetition and mindless but necessary task can be boring. View those moments as opportunities to daydream. Let your mind wander. (Remember to stay safe while daydreaming!)

Allow your thoughts to meander. Let your subconscious make connections. Sometimes the break from “worrying” allows you to see a creative solution.

Or you could choose to “direct” your daydreams. Explore absurd or expensive or impossible solutions. Follow those ideas to the extreme. The creative solutions that pop into your head might surprise you.

7. Listen to Music

If you follow this blog, you know I listen to instrumental music as I work. Music is a powerful tool for sparking creativity. It can help you relax, focus, and get into the zone. Choose music that inspires you, energizes you, sets the mood, or otherwise gets your creative juices flowing.

If you are doing a repetitive task like folding laundry, put on some music that you can’t help but sing along. Or you can put on music and allow your mind to daydream about a scene to fit the music. Music can help make your mundane tasks more enjoyable and also spark your creativity.

8. Get up and Move

Take a walk outside. Your mother was right. You need fresh air and sunshine. Even once around the block will give you a break. 

If the weather isn’t favorable, try a brisk walk around the house, on the treadmill, or up and down the stairs. Turn on your favorite dance music and move. Moving often is critical for maintaining good health. 

The air, the weather, and the act of moving all act to lower your blood pressure and relax you. That may be all your creativity needs as a (maybe literal) jump start.

9. Create a Ritual

Photo of a woman standing in a wooded area with her eyes closed while drumming on a hand-held drum.

A ritual is a habitual observance or action(s) that is repeated. A ritual done every day, or every time you wish to be creative, helps signal your brain that this is the time to be creative. It elevates creativity as something important to you. After a time, you may find you don’t need the ritual any longer. Or you may choose to continue your ritual as a way of easing from your mundane world to your creative one.

Your ritual can be as simple as listening to the same music on a loop or lighting the same candle each time you sit down to create. 

The following can be components of your ritual. Try to include the first three at a minimum. The rest you can use or not. Do what makes it feel like a powerful ritual to you.

Choose an Environment 

What space will work best with your ritual? Your office? Garage? Kitchen? Studio? Be certain the space reflects the energy level you seek. Avoid distractions.

Set an Intention

How do you want to show up? What is the tone you’re trying to create? Example: For an energetic tone, you might choose to play music that makes you want to move. For wisdom or thoughtful tone, you might choose to burn a scented candle representing wisdom (sage or aged cedar or whatever represents wisdom to you).

Be Present

Most of the day, we are only partly present. Doing dishes (and most other mundane tasks) our thoughts wander. Focus on your intent and your desired outcome of this ritual. Perhaps you chant something like, “I am open to new and creative ideas.” 

Be Appreciative 

We often take things for granted. Take this moment, this ritual time, to appreciate life, the world, others, and yourself.

Contemplation

Make space for thinking about why this ritual is important to you. What is it you aspire to? What about this makes you afraid? What does the success of this ritual look like to you at this moment? 

Connection

Ritual is a way to connect to your aspirations. Who do you want to be? How do you want to serve others with this aspiration? What shift in yourself will help you do this?

Lift to Sacredness

Can you see this ritual as something sacred? Sacred doesn’t have to mean religious or holy. It means to consecrate or dedicate. It’s something that you are giving power. 

Close in Gratitude

Give thanks for what the ritual gives you. Express gratitude for all the parts, for you showing up to do the ritual, to those in your life willing to make space for you, and to the world.

10. Sleep & Dream

Get more sleep. Before you go to sleep, ask your dream self to solve a problem or answer your question. When you wake, jot down everything and anything you remember from your dreams. Or write a paragraph about your problem or question immediately after rising, before you do anything else. Sometimes our subconscious works better when we aren’t thinking about the problem.

Have you used any of these methods to spark creativity? Please share a method that works for you.

11. Collaborate with Others

You’ve probably seen a post on social media where someone asks “the hive mind” a question. You can do that too. Ask for creative solutions to the problem you’re facing. Or if you are stuck on a project at work, reach out to a colleague and see if they can help you brainstorm some ideas. It might be a single conversation or many conversations.

Or you may choose to work on your project as a team. Working with others can help you come up with a solution that you might not have thought of on your own. Or again, it can trigger an idea of yours that you would not have thought of without the clue from someone else.

12. Embrace Imperfection

Photo of a white table with red, blue, green, and yellow paint splashes everywhere

Perfectionism can kill creativity. Allow yourself to take risks and make mistakes. You never know when a mistake or a risk will free up your creativity.

Try setting a timer for ten minutes and allow yourself to create without judgment. Don’t worry about making mistakes or getting it perfect. Just create and see what comes out.

All It Takes is a Spark

You don’t have to try all these methods. But you don’t have to feel stuck or uncreative, either. Try one method at a time until you find what works for you.

What do you do to spark your creativity?


Image Credits

Top image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Second image photo by petr sidorov on Unsplash

Last image photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash

References:

Definition of Mundane

5 Ways to Boost Your Creativity with Color Walks

Definition of Ritual

The Art of Creating a Ritual for What Matters Most

Five Mundane Ways to Explode Your Creativity

Ten Ways to Find Creativity in Your Normal Routine

Build Your Self-Compassion Toolbox

Image of a cupped pair of hands holding a candle whose flame creates a heart--your self compassion toolbox can heal your heart

Humans are compassionate beings. We see someone or something suffer and we want to help them feel better. This is especially true when the sufferer is a family member or close friend. When what we do doesn’t measure up to our hopes and expectations, disappointment can morph into debilitating self-criticism. If we don’t treat ourselves with grace, with self-compassion, our negative thoughts may spiral into depression or other mental health issues. Build your self-compassion toolbox and use it. You’ll not only feel better and perform better—you’ll be more resilient the next time you don’t do as well as you’d hoped.

How Compassion and Self-Compassion Differ

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Dalai Lama

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, compassion is a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress, together with a desire to alleviate it. 

Compassion is not an automatic response, though it may feel that way for some. It requires awareness, concern, and empathy. It requires you recognize a serious, unjust and relatable situation.

We give hugs, kiss a skinned knee to make it feel better, and offer advice. We sympathize with the other person’s pain, whether it is physical or emotional. 

In psychology, self-compassion is self-kindness without judgment. It is understanding common humanity versus isolation and practicing mindfulness rather than over identification. You forgive and nurture yourself as you would your child, parent, or significant other when they struggle. 

Benefits of Self-Compassion

Compassion is vitally important to life. Without self-compassion, you may see your faults and inadequacies in such a negative light that it erodes your confidence, self-esteem, and your happiness. 

Forgiving and nurturing yourself can result in lower levels of anxiety and depression as well as improve your health, relationships, and your general sense of well-being. For a list of twenty benefits of compassion, read “The Power of Self-Compassion.”

Practicing self-compassion is like putting on your own oxygen mask in an airplane so you will be able to put an oxygen mask on your child. The good news is that you can learn compassion, even self-compassion. 

Build Your Self-compassion Toolbox

Accept Reality.

You are juggling a lot. You may have a full-time job, a family, friends, pets, and living spaces to maintain. It’s hard to balance all your obligations of choice and responsibility. Accept that you will never be perfect. Acknowledge that you will drop the ball sometimes. 

Don’t be perfect, be human.

Understand that being human means mistakes are part of life. Include a note in your toolbox that to be human is to be imperfect. Stop judging and punishing yourself. Be kind to yourself. Reframe your mistakes and imperfections as opportunities or strengths. Thomas Edison… you learned a way that doesn’t work and can move on to another way that might work better.

Evaluate your expectations.

We creatives often have unrealistic expectations. Completing that novel or painting this year may not be possible if you have to pack up the house and move. Look at all your life’s roles and set realistic goals. Give yourself permission to not do everything. Give yourself permission to fail and learn.

Give yourself grace.

image of a ball with a sorrowful smiley face and the scrabble letters spelling out Sorry.

I believe that grace is very much a tool. And not only a tool that we try to offer others, but also one that we offer ourselves.

Maria Shriver

You’ve been beating yourself up for mistakes for how many years? Learning to forgive yourself for your past, move forward with extra kindness toward yourself will take time and lots of repetition. Give yourself the grace to change, to grow.

Make grace your personal mantra until you believe it. 

  • I am worthy of forgiveness. 
  • I am worth the commitment it takes to give myself grace.
  • I am worth the time to step away from everything to recharge.
  • My feelings and needs have value.
  • I will not explain or apologize over and over why I take this time or make this effort. I deserve it. 
  • Being my best self will trickle down so I can be my best for the people that matter most to me.

Practice Gratitude.

Gratitude is restorative kindness. You’re human. Practice being grateful for the body that keeps you alive. Be grateful for the strengths that you have and the weaknesses that give you room to grow.

You’re a creative. There’s at least one skill, probably many more, that you do well. Recognize that. Be grateful for that. Take a few minutes every day to be grateful for one of those skills. If you can’t do that, be grateful for the hands or eyes, legs or senses that allow you to practice your craft. 

Give Yourself Permission to Start Over

Recognize that you are human. Don’t fear failure, embrace it. It’s inevitable. When you feel you’ve failed, forgive yourself and keep moving forward. Realize that you’ll never be perfect, but because you’re constantly in the mindset of forgiving yourself, you don’t get stuck in the resilience-killing rut of self-contempt.”

Resilienceguide.org

Life is a series of moments. Those moments march forward, whether you are beating yourself up about how you messed up or you are staying in the moment. Give yourself permission to live moment to moment. Give yourself permission to start over, and over, and over.

When you make a mistake, when something goes wrong, recognize that it happened. Give yourself permission to start over. Take a deep breath and if your action or reaction hurt someone else, ask for forgiveness. If your action or reaction hurt you, forgive yourself. 

Acknowledge Your Successes.

When you’re in a pattern of never giving yourself grace, you ignore your successes. Make it a habit to look at and see your successes. Make a success scrapbook. Display your most successful moments or products on your walls or shelves. Pat yourself on the back. You did that. You deserve praise. 

Keep Your Tool(s) Handy

image of wooden tool carrier with hammer, saw, pliers, level and other tools in it, like it a self-compassion toolbox carries many tools.

Starting out, giving yourself compassion or grace may feel awkward. But revel in being unstuck for the moment you give yourself that forgiveness and permission to move forward. In time, this process will get easier and easier. In time, you’ll feel better, stronger. You may only need to pull out your self-compassion toolbox in times of high stress. If you’re not there now, work toward it. 

Like this post? You may also like “Create Your Joy Toolbox.”

What is in your self-compassion toolbox?

More than One Kind of Courage

Everyone admires courage. Everyone wants to be courageous. Usually the courage we talk about, the courage we think about and yearn for, is movie courage. Courage in the face of extreme danger. It is an important type of courage, but there’s more than one kind of courage.

What is Courage? 

Fear and courage are brothers.”

A Proverb

We can all agree that courage is about bravery and a certain amount of risk taking. But how do we define courage? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courage is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. 

By that definition, there can be many types of courage. Here we will discuss ten types of courage: physical, every day, moral, spiritual, social, emotional, empathetic, disciplined, intellectual, and creative. 

Physical Courage 

Physical courage is bravery at the risk of bodily harm or death. We romanticize this type of courage in superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s also the courage soldiers have at war. There have been many, many people in our world who have shown extraordinary physical courage. I’ll name Witold Pilecki and Malala Yousafzai as two with physical courage. It’s likely you know some who have never made the history books or news.

photo of Malala Yousafzai one example of a person with physical courage, in fact she stands for more than one kind of courage

Everyday Courage 

Everyday courage is about the grit and determination necessary to make tough calls about one’s self, life, and loved ones.

tepsa.org

Examples include Stormé DeLaverie who dared to be herself no matter what. It also is a farmer working his field through rain and drought, the person who decides every day to get up and go through their day no matter what, and the child who, despite their fears, walks into a new classroom or situation. It also includes the tougher choices like end-of-life choices, or to walk away from a toxic relationship. 

Moral Courage 

Moral courage means acting on one’s values in the face of potential or actual opposition and negative consequences.”

psychologytoday.com

We are fortunate to live in a world of people with moral courage like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi and many others.

Spiritual Courage

This is the type of courage that allows us “to grapple with questions about faith, purpose, and meaning in a religious or nonreligious framework.” We have spiritual courage when we share our spirituality publicly, or when we answer a child’s question about life after death, or when we seek to understand an unfamiliar belief system. 

Social Courage

This expression of courage involves the risk of social embarrassment or exclusion, unpopularity or rejection. It also involves leadership.

Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks had the social and physical courage to challenge segregation. The Native Americans (and others) protesting at Standing Rock expressed social courage. Every person who comes out as LGBQT has social courage. Often introverts flex their social courage muscles in order to appear in public.

Emotional Courage 

It takes a special courage, emotional courage, to be open to feeling the full spectrum of emotional experience, both positive and negative.

lionswhiskers.com

We could classify this as an everyday courage. All of us should be emotionally courageous. But some of us hide behind one emotion and don’t have the courage to face more difficult emotions. It is also an extraordinary courage for people who struggle with or overcome mental health issues.

Empathetic Courage

Acknowledging personal bias and intentionally moving away from them in order to vicariously experience the trials and triumphs of others is empathetic courage.

In my humble opinion, this should be an everyday courage, but it clearly isn’t a courage everyone shares. Facing one’s flawed way of thinking about another person isn’t for the faint of heart.

Disciplined Courage

Remaining steadfast, strategic and deliberate in the face of inevitable setbacks and failures is disciplined courage.

This is an everyday courage. Every. Single. Day. So many people choose to use this type of courage. I do. You do. Every. Single. Person.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”

Thomas Edison

Intellectual Courage

According to tepsa.org, intellectual courage is challenging old assumptions and acting to make changes based on new learnings, understandings, and insights gleaned from experience and/or educational research.

This is often the pursuit of truth. One of the most famous types of intellectual courage was Edward R. Murrow’s report exposing Joseph McCarthy as a racist.

Creative Courage

You have creative courage when you are doing creative work despite your doubts and fears. It’s opening your mind to fresh approaches, new ideas, and acting on them. Anyone who is a creative who has grown in their talent or skills has used creative courage to get there. Creatives use creative courage every time you face a new project, every time you show someone your work. 

More than One Kind of Courage

I hope this brief review of these ten different kinds of courage has helped you see how you and everyone around you use courage. Some are grand, exciting, acts on the world stage. Most acts of courage are quiet. We often label them as “small” because they are quiet. Now that you know there’s more than one kind of courage, don’t compare acts of courage. Honor your courage and the courage of others. 

What type of courage have you used today?

Image Credits

Top image by erwin nowak from Pixabay 

Second photo by DFID – UK Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons.

Third photo by slowking4 via Wikimedia Commons.

Self-Validation Tools For Creatives

Responses to last week’s post “Stop Labeling Yourself an Imposter” showed me I wasn’t alone. Many creatives are caught in that self-destructive loop. It revealed that many of us don’t know how to self-validate. We need a set of self-validation tools for creatives.

Image of a woman sitting cross-legged on a red couch against a red wall and above her head is a neon sign that reads feelings--a lead in to an article on self-validating tools for creatives

Why?

Creatives often look for validation from creators we respect or from the consumers of our creations. That is not healthy for our arts or for us as individuals. The list of self-validation for creatives is the same as for any human, but many creatives spend their free time developing tools for their creativity while neglecting themselves. 

Neglecting yourself either physically or emotionally will ultimately affect your ability to accomplish what you want to accomplish. You know the physical toll your art takes on you. You know how you can counteract that. Do you know the toll your emotional side takes?

You are your most important asset. Invest in knowing yourself and recognizing unhelpful thought distortions.

Thought Distortions

Silhouette of a man sitting on a chair slumped forward and holding his head. The background shows negative thoughts- he needs self-validating tools for creatives

Our brains protect us from danger. We survive because our brain is always on alert for signs of danger. It makes connections so that hearing a roaring dinosaur or saber-toothed tiger means danger and signals us to fight or run in an instant. When we live in environments where we are often in immediate physical danger, this ability is vital to our survival.

Unfortunately, our brain still works this way when we don’t live in such physical danger. It continues to make connections between thoughts, ideas, actions, and consequences, whether or not there are actual connections. You come to believe certain things are true when they are irrational or distorted or false. You act on those ideas without thinking about them any further. Psychologists call those kinds of thought, thought distortions.

Thought distortions are when your brain lies to you. What? You say that doesn’t happen to you? Consider these common thought distortions:

  • I cannot do this thing all other creatives can do, so I am not creative. (All-or-nothing thinking)
  • You miscount your stitches for a dozen rows and give up on that project you’re knitting because you just aren’t good enough. (Overgeneralization)
  • Several of your beta readers don’t get their comments back to you, which must mean that they hated your book. (Mind Reading)

There are many other types of thought distortion. Positive Psychology’s article, “Cognitive Distortions: When Your Brain Lies to You,” lists sixteen types.

10 Self-Validation Tools

1. Increase Your Self-Awareness

The more aware you are of your feelings and how other people and your environment affect your feelings, the more likely you will stop thought distortions. How do you increase your self-awareness? 

There are many online self-assessment tests to help you learn about yourself. Look for ones by psychologist or mental health specialists. Tests like Myers Briggs personality test may help. Take them, but don’t accept their analysis 100%. Use the results to explore what they mean to you. If you have a strong emotional response to a result, don’t blow it off. Stop and analyze why you respond that way.

Be present. Meditate or do yoga. Practice mindfulness.

Keep a thought journal. Remember, a journal doesn’t have to be a diary, it can be a collage of images, it can be colors—use the ways you best express yourself. Document not only how you feel but what or who affected your emotions.

Read. There are thousands and thousands of self-help books. Find one that appeals to you, one that will help you become more self-aware. Give yourself time to read and think about what it says and how that relates to you.

2. Don’t Over Identify with Your Feelings

There is a difference between saying, I am angry, and saying, I feel angry. Your feelings are not who you are. You may feel angry many times, but you are not anger. Notice how it’s much more likely you will over identify with a negative emotion like anger or fear than a more positive emotion like love. I am love can be just as harmful as I am angry.

Emotional responses are normal. But remember that you are more than one thing. You are many things. You have many feelings. Recognize all your feelings.

3. Practice Acceptance

Notice your feelings without judgment. I feel angry. Sit with your feelings. Allow yourself to be angry or sad, or even happy. Give yourself the time and space to feel that way. Accept your feelings. Comfort yourself the way a kind parent would. It is normal to feel angry in this circumstance. You won’t feel this way forever. It is a feeling. You can feel it and not act on it. It’s okay. You’re okay.

An image of a brain labeled Practice presence with all kinds of positive thoughts within the brain--this brain is practicing self-validating tools for creatives

4. Ask Yourself What Do You Need

If you are not used to knowing what you need, this will take practice. Ask yourself, do I need time alone? Often, your first answer isn’t a genuine need. Dig deeper. Do I need to speak kindly to myself? Do I need a hug? Do I need some physical exercise or sunshine and fresh air? Try to recognize your needs without using food, unless you are genuinely hungry. Many of us use food to stuff or not feel our feelings.

5. Turn Shame Into Praise

I didn’t do it perfect, I’m such a loser is hurtful. Why do that to yourself? If you can’t be kind to yourself, you can’t accept anyone else’s kindness. Turn the unkindness, the shame, into praise. Honey, no one gets it perfect the first time. Look at you, you’re learning a new skill. Pretty good for a first try. Look at what you did! You did so much better than your last attempt. You are good enough exactly as you are. With practice sessions like that, you’ll be great in no time.

6. Practice Positive Self-talk

Similar to turning shame into praise, you need to practice positive self-talk. Negative self-talk, like calling yourself names or telling yourself you shouldn’t even try or you’ll never fit in, is more hurtful than someone else saying that to you.

Practice positive self-talk at least once a day. Write three things that empower yourself. Then say those things aloud to yourself at least once a day. Every day. For at least eight weeks, give yourself a dose of positive thoughts every morning. Ideally, you’ll do it every evening, too. Even, or maybe especially, when you don’t feel it. How much better you feel at the end of that eight weeks and how much easier it is to say those things will amaze you. Rinse and repeat with a set of different positive things to say about yourself.

7. Know Your Strengths

Sometimes, it is difficult to know what our strengths are. It may take a lot of self-examination and even then, we rarely see ourselves objectively. Ask a trusted friend to name the strengths they see in you. If this friend is kind and trusted, ask them to name one weakness they see in you. 

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you perform better. Can help you focus on areas of improvement. Sometimes the best improvements you can make are to your strengths. 

8. Celebrate Your Victories

Congratulate yourself for every victory, even the small ones. Find (non-food related) ways to reward yourself for the larger victories. Allow yourself time to watch a new movie or to play a game or walk in your favorite park. Make your celebrations proportional, but give it enough time to sink in.

9. Read Inspirational Things

Inspirational quotes and memes are helpful, but sometimes you need more inspiration. It isn’t always easy to find inspiration. The news rarely reports positive things. You’ll have to look for them. What inspires me and inspires you may be opposite things. That’s okay. Find articles and books (physical, electronic, or audio) that are inspirational to you.

10. Be with Inspirational People

Illustration of three women of different skin tones and different imperfections and the label reads Perfectly Imperfect, they used self-validating tools for creatives
Perfectly imperfect afro women with freckles and vitiligo characters vector illustration

Yes, even in the age of COVID, this is possible. You can practice social distancing and wear a mask at conventions or conferences. Of course, there are many online options like Zoom and Skype. Even reading the biography or the works of inspirational people can count.

NOTE

If you have clinical depression, are under mental health care treatments, please consult your mental health professional about how these things will work for you. If you are not currently under the care of a mental health professional, please get help. We need you and your unique talents in the world.

Self-Validation Tools for Creatives

There are dozens of more self-validation tools easily available on the internet. Here are links to some of my source material to get you started. 

Sharon Martin wrote a helpful article titled Validate Yourself.

Psych Central lists 4 ways to validate yourself.

Thought Catalog also has an article about validating yourself.

You are Not Alone

Everyone suffers from some negative self-talk. Certainly, many creatives need to learn ways to self-validate. Even people who think themselves non-creative suffer from thought distortion. But look at you, awareness is half the battle. 

Now that you’re aware, what will be your next step to self-validate?

Image Credits:

First Photo by Brock Wegner on Unsplash

Positive brain Images both by John Hain from Pixabay