Your Creativity is Born of Your Vulnerability

You’re at a cocktail party or talking to a new acquaintance. The response that person makes when they learn you are a creative, is someday I’m going to (insert your type of creativity) too. Most people never get around to it. Why? Because they are afraid to be vulnerable. But your creativity is born of your vulnerability. With apologies to Brené Brown, the only way to be creative is to go through your vulnerability.

Yellow flower growing in dry cracked soil is like your creativity born of your vulnerability

What is Vulnerability?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines vulnerability as “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.” In this case, you need to go deeper. To be vulnerable is to expose yourself to physical or emotional wounds from your past or present or future. And it means to expose yourself to failure and fear and shame.

Vulnerability Sounds Scary

It is scary. It’s the thing many of you avoid as much as you can. You numb yourselves so you won’t feel the fear, the pain, or the shame of not being enough.

Some people numb themselves with drugs or alcohol or even food. Other people numb themselves with being too busy to be vulnerable. Some tell themselves that being vulnerable is weak, so they construct psychological and physical walls to appear strong. They are certain that they are right and everyone and everything that differs from that is wrong.

Our fear stops us from being great.

Chrissy Levett
image of a woman sitting against the wall covering her face, scared to be creative or vulnerable

We’re scared someone will see that we’re not enough. Not good enough. Not talented enough. Or not brave enough. Not rich enough. Not worthy enough.

Honestly, it’s not about any of those things.

What Vulnerability Really Is

Vulnerability is not about winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up, even when you can’t control the outcome.

Brené Brown

Vulnerability is courage. You try, you fail. You get up and try again. And fail again. But you get up and try… again. That’s courage.

You admit you used the wrong word in that email because you’re dyslexic. That’s courage.

A friend is saying or doing things you believe to be inauthentic or harmful to others or even dangerous. You have a nonjudgmental, honest, and caring conversation. That’s courage.

Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.

Unknown (often incorrectly attributed to Sigmund Freud)

Vulnerability is authentic. It’s being whole and imperfect. And believing that your imperfections are what make you beautiful and worthy. Vulnerability allows connections. Connections with yourself first, then other people. And vulnerabilty gives birth to creativity.

How to Be Vulnerable

Face What You Fear. You cannot be vulnerable until you face yourself with all your imperfections, your past shame, and your pain. Appreciate your past and your imperfections. Know you are worthy.

It isn’t easy. But you can do it.

Let Yourself Be Seen. Yes, your imperfections and all. Again, it is difficult. You might show yourself, then hide again. That’s okay. As long as you keep working to know you are enough, you’ll find your courage.

Older woman in authentic costume of her land smiling because she's allowing herself to be seen as she really is wrinkles and all

The moment that you feel that just possibly you’re walking down the street naked exposing too much of yourself… that’s the moment you might be starting to get it right.

Neil Gaiman

Genuinely love yourself and others. Love when it’s difficult. Love when there’s no guarantee. For when you love yourself and others, you will be kinder and more gentle with yourself and others.

Practice gratitude. Every day. For the small and the big things. For the “good” and the “bad.” Help or repay others.

Practice joy. You’ll find it in the corners, in the people, in the environment, and in yourself.

Learn More About Vulnerability

It is with deep gratitude I acknowledge the influences of Brené Brown on this post. She speaks and writes from years of research into shame and vulnerability. And she walks the walk.

Watch Brené’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability. Her best-selling audiobook, The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage is available on Amazon. As for it from your favorite book seller.

Your Creativity is Born of Your Vulnerability

Have you numbed yourself? Are there pains and emotions you pretend don’t exist? No wonder you don’t feel creative.

Numbing isn’t something you can isolate. When you numb yourself to the bad or scary feelings, you’ve numbed yourself to the positive ones. And when you’re numb, you cannot be vulnerable.

Your creativity is born of your vulnerability—of your pain, your suffering, your joy, and your courage. If you aren’t vulnerable, your creativity isn’t as authentic as it could be. So, find your courage. Face your fear. You are creative. So be vulnerable. Be creative.

Creativity and You Don’t Have to be Perfect

Are you paralyzed by the idea of using your creativity? At some point, everyone is…the blank page, the first stroke of the brush, the first cut of the paper, the first taste…afraid. Maybe you’re afraid to start. Could be you’re afraid to finish. Take a deep breath and remember, creativity, and you don’t have to be perfect. It’s about more than creating a perfect product, to paraphrase a Miley Cyrus song, it’s about the ride.

Image of a large sculpture of a face and neck with lots of cracks-because creativity and you don't have to be perfect

Perfectionism Leads to Poor Self-Esteem

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

Brene Brown

Fear drives a perfectionist by the fear of shame and judgment and blame. Yet, it’s a self-fulling destiny. Perfect is unattainable. So when you cannot reach perfection, you berate yourself before someone else can.

cartoon of a woman yelling. Creativity and you don't have to be perfect

Shaming yourself is easy.

  • See, I knew I couldn’t do it. 
  • I knew it; I don’t deserve this.
  • Look at how bad that looks. Why did I ever think I could do this? I can’t do anything.
  • Self-shaming is contagious. Once we start, we find fault in everything we do. 
  • So and so did it perfectly, I can never measure up. Might as well not try.

Shaming is so easy you can shame others, too. Laughing at or pointing out the other’s mistakes makes you feel better for a moment. Because you’re not the one experiencing the pain.

Protect Yourself from Perfect

A child draws and tells stories and makes with abandon.  We look at their imperfect creation and praise them for the beautiful thing they did. Why do we do that? Are we lying? No, we are praising them for trying. Encouraging them to keep trying.

You need praise, too. You are courageous for trying. Tell yourself, look at what you did! Good job! Look at you go!

Remind yourself that perfect only comes after a lot of work. Yes, on rare occasions, a singer or artist or chef comes along with nearly perfect abilities from the get-go. But you know what? They question themselves, too.

If friends or family devalue your work, remind yourself that you did a courageous thing. You tried. And that you’re courageous enough, you’ll try again.

You can break the perfectionist habit. Psychcentral offers ten ways to break perfectionism, celebrating your mistake is one of them. That’s right. Celebrate. Thank yourself for having the courage to learn from your mistakes. You are wiser now that you were. 

A mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker. A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end.

Anonymous


Tell Your Inner Critic Off

If you’ve got a strong inner critic, tell her off. Who the heck is your inner critic to tell you you can’t do anything? Tell her I’m going to make this first attempt as crudely as I can and you can’t stop me anymore. Yeah, it’s bad, but I learned how to do it better. Inner critic, all you know how to do is say how bad something is—that’s not perfect. You’re not protecting me, you’re hurting me. Go away.

Journal. Take a walk and yell at your inner critic. Record what you want to say to your inner critic. 

Take a picture of your progress. And when your inner critic is making fun of you, pull out your early work and show that critic how brave you are and how far you’ve come.

Being Yourself is Perfect

Image of a road disappearing in the distance with Quote from Julia Cameron "Progress, not perfection,  is what we should be asking of ourselves."

There is no one else exactly like you, not even if you have identical siblings. Your creative process will enrich you. That’s the best reason in the world to try and fail. If you try and succeed, even the tiniest bit, then you enrich yourself and someone else. Maybe lots of others.

Creativity is about more than what you produce. It’s about the process. The process allows you to explore your feelings, your thoughts, your imagination. It allows you to connect with your inner person. The process makes your inner creative sing or dance or soar. It fills you with a sense of wonder and joy and completeness.

It’s the Ride

Striving for excellence is not the same as perfectionism. When you are reaching for excellence, you take pleasure in working toward high standards. If you make a mistake, it’s okay. Excellence is a way of leveling up, perpetually. It’s saying you want to master this level of skill. If you don’t master it, it’s okay. You’ll work some more. Because it’s the striving toward the goal. It’s the process of learning and improving that gives you a sense of satisfaction and pleasure. It’s the ride.

When you’re having a bad day, when the world is in flames and going down, give yourself the gift of imperfect creativity. You Don’t Have to be an Artist. Creativity and you don’t have to be perfect. Connect and the process will take you on a journey. It’s not about the creation, it’s the ride. In the comments below, let me know how you give yourself permission to enjoy the ride. 

The Survival Skill You Need is Creativity

If ever we need survival skills, we need them now. The one survival skill you may not have considered is creativity. Yes. The survival skill you need is creativity. 

the survival skill you need is creativity--this boy playing in box may not need it for survival today, but it will help him live longer
Chinese Child in a Box, boy by epSos.de. CC

When we are children playing with toys, our imaginations soar. We see rocket ships in sticks and oceans in mud puddles. How is it that as we get older, we stop seeing those things?

Our society doesn’t value creativity like it once was.

How Creativity Lost Points

Modern society shoulders much of the blame. The realities of working for a living often mean we need to learn linearly. To enable our children to put food on the table and a roof over their heads, we send them to schools that teach devalue creativity and require linear thinking. For reasons. And yes, there are some classes that encourage and allow creativity. But most of them…not so much.

And then there is technology. Technology permeates our culture and our workplaces. Therefore, one must learn to use technology. And some of those gadgets and devices are both necessary and addictive. We work and play on them.

There are studies that say younger people (20s) don’t memorize things . They prefer to use gadgets and technology to do that. And their brain reverts the process of memorization to a more primitive form.

Younger people also prefer to read on a device. But text read by scrolling has a much lower retention or memorization rate.

Creativity is a Survival Skill

Image of a pair of hands tying a string around a craft stick holding a chicken--this craft may not extend your life but creativity is a survival skill

If you are in a survival situation and you lack food, clothing, or shelter. Your ability to solve your problem creatively becomes a survival skill.

“Many people tend to associate creativity with freedom and moving laterally across a field of possibilities; in fact, creativity is frequently a response to limits and it usually demands a vertical, deeper incursion into the material.”

Enrique Martínez Celaya, contemporary artist, usejournal.com

Creativity requires a cognitive flexibility and an openness to new ideas. And that, according to Scientific American, helps you live longer.

Creativity reduces stress. Creative people “tend not to get as easily flustered when faced with an emotional or physical hurdle.” (It certainly helps me!)

Creativity is also a way to exercise the brain. And yes, exercising your brain is as important as exercising your body.

Build Your Creative Skills

a photo looking down onto open jars of rosemary, nutmeg, bay leaves etc sitting on an old wood table--the survival skill you need is creativity--relearn being creative

If you think of yourself as not creative, think again. You are creative. And you don’t have to be an artist to be creative. You’ve unlearned how to be creative. 

Want to exercise your creativity? I’m borrowing and adapting an exercise I learned from artist, Elizabeth Leggett.

Get something to write on. Go to your kitchen. Get one or two spices out of your cabinet.Take a big sniff of one of those spices.

Does that aroma remind you of anything? A place, a holiday, a food, or perhaps an event or day from your past.

Now take three minutes and jot down a few notes about what you thought of or felt immediately after smelling that spice.

That’s all. There’s no failure. Not even if the spice didn’t remind you of anything. The exercise is simply waking up your creativity.

More to Come

Stay tuned to this website every Monday. We’ll explore what creativity is, how to wake it up, and how to grow your skills. It’s important to exercise your brain. Remember, the survival skill you need is creativity.

You are Creative

Do you struggle with the idea that you are creative? Creativity isn’t about a single, brilliant, completely original idea. You are a human being, therefore you have the capacity to be creative. What is Creativity? Creative folk have a lot to say about that.

Image of a light bulb that is on--like that light bulb you can turn on your creativity

What is Creativity

If you doubt whether you are creative, you may need to be reminded what creativity is. These folks, from many walks of life, share their thoughts.


Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.

Steve Jobs

Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.

Austin Kleon

You are creative--even if you do technical drawings or solve problems in fields other than the arts.

Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.

William Plomer

Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas.

Donatella Versace

Image of a clown aerialist on a  hoop. Make your creativity fun.

Creativity is intelligence having fun.

Albert Einstein

Creativity is a continual surprise.

Ray Bradbury

Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.

Osho

Creativity is bound up in our ability to find new ways around old problems.

Martin Seligman

Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.

Rita Mae Brown

Creativity is not talent but attitude.

Jenova Chen

Rather have a definition? You can find many definitions of creativity. Many of them limit their definition to involving the arts. One of the best definitions can found on California State University, Northridge’s site. Cited as being from Human Motivation, 3rd ed., by Robert E. Franken: “Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”


You Are Creative

silhouette of girl on swing hanging from a tree and another girl pushing her so she goes higher--remember how creative you were as a child

Sometimes life gets us down. This is especially true during stressful times. We can feel as if we don’t have a creative bone in our bodies. During those stressful times, those times when you can barely move–give yourself a break. But in less stressful times, don’t allow that negative thinking to continue.

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

Pablo Picasso

No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.

Oscar Wilde

Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for business people looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.

Twyla Tharp

Don’t Fear Being Creative

The most talented, thought-provoking, game-changing people are never normal.

Richard Branson

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.

Salvador Dali

Creativity is a mansion. If you’re empty in one room, all you have to do is go out into the hallway and enter another room that’s full.

F. Gary Gray

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.

Brené Brown

Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage.

Julia Cameron

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. 

Maya Angelou

Creativity isn’t a Gift

a package creatively wrapped in brown paper with curley q's in blue on the paper and with a paper flower and purple and blue curly ribbon

Creativity isn’t only about art or writing or music. While there are some folk who hit the genetic jackpot with extra creativity, everyone has the ability to be creative. After all, every time you solve a problem in your life—you are using creativity.

You have the capactity. Therefore, change your thinking. Change your definition. Above all , remember what F. Gary Gray said above–if there’s one room (area) where you aren’t creative, find a room that’s full of creativity. Whatever you do, don’t allow that room of creativity to wither. Think of it like a muscle. Exercise your creativity every day.

Still don’t think you’re creative? Challenge these nine myths and reclaim your creativity.

You are creative. 

Challenge These Nine Myths and Reclaim Your Creativity

Do you confuse creativity with being artistic? Or perhaps you believe only a tiny fraction of the population is born with creativity. If you do, you have bought into a myth. Challenge these nine myths and reclaim your creativity.

Computer keyboard with a large red key labeled "be creative." Have you bought into a myth?Challenge these nine myths and reclaim your creativity.

Myth #1: Creativity is Artistic Expression

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, creativity is “the ability to create” and “the quality of being creative.” Not very helpful. But they define create as “to bring into existence” and “to bring about by a course of action or behavior.”

So if the dictionary doesn’t mention artistic in the definition of creativity or create, then why limit what is creative? Creativity is bringing something into existence by a course of action or behavior. 

There is a whole blog post on on this site about how You Don’t Have to be an Artist. Every day “ordinary people” are creative. If you think creativity is only artistic expression, broaden your definition. You’ll find examples of creativity during a walk around your house, your neighborhood, or city. 

Myth #2: Only A Minority is Creative

All humans are innately creative. Watch a bunch of young children play. A stick becomes a doll, gibberish becomes a special language, cardboard boxes become castles. They create new games, new toys, new languages out of nothing but their imaginations.

Unfortunately, our society systematically drives that creativity away. From grade school on, they label creative behaviors disruptive or unproductive. They label creativity as artistic, as genetic, as many things that exclude most people. 

You may not be the next Rembrandt or the next Madame Curie, but your creativity is a gift. And you can open it at any time.

Myth #3: People are Born Creative

newborn baby with artists supplies around him--challenge these nine myths and reclaim your creativity

There is no known gene for creativity. Some people call it a trait. Others say it’s a way of thinking. A way of rubbing two ideas together and getting something different, something new.

Recent evidence suggests that creativity involves a complex interplay between spontaneous and controlled thinking.

theconversation

Some people are more comfortable with this kind of mash-up thinking. Why?

Probably because from a young age their upbringing, their environment, and their level of curiosity encouraged them. Without that environment and support, it may be more difficult to learn to use creative thinking—but it’s not impossible.

Some People are Born Uncreative

How sad to think you are born uncreative. If you believe you are uncreative your belief blocks off a trait all humans share. 

Perhaps you believe you are uncreative because you don’t have big idea. Being less creative that Steve Jobs, or your favorite songwriter, doesn’t make you uncreative. And the first step to become more creative is to believe that you can. Does that sound like mumbo jumbo to you? Take the challenge. Believe that you are creative.

People are Creative (or not) Based on What They Do

Another sad myth. Creativity comes in all jobs, in all forms, in all kinds of ways. Seriously, anyone can be creative. Now, that being said, some employers do not reward creativity. Another very sad fact is that some employers punish creativity. 

If the environment you’re in doesn’t support creativity, consider finding a different job. And if that’s not possible (we’re all suffering from the economic fallout of 2020 and the pandemic), then find another outlet for your creativity. 

Creativity comes in a Flash of Insight

Image of a black man thinking with illustrations of gears above his head, each gear holds a symbol for an idea.

Eureka! That’s what the cartoon characters say when they have a creative insight, right? You’re not a cartoon character. Sometimes creativity can come in a flash of insight, but 99% of the time—it comes as a bit of an idea that you toy with for a while. And in toying with it, another idea or two comes to mind. Finally, they meld together and you have your “flash” of insight.

Creativity must be Original  

Are you catching on that this myth isn’t true either? 

History and empirical research show more evidence that new ideas are actually combinations of older ideas and that sharing those helps generate more innovation.

.https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229600

A variation of this myth is what some creatives call “the Imposter Syndrome.” The syndrome is a niggling doubt that says you can’t be or aren’t creative because what you did isn’t wholly original. But know this—as long as you aren’t plagiarizing the work (passing someone else’s work off as your own)—you can’t help but make your work original. No one else has your experience, your esthetics, or preferences. Your creation IS original and creative.

Lone Creator Myth

four outstretched arms with white cuffed shirts and four fists make a square. Challenge these nine myths and reclaim your creativity.

There are lone creators, but that’s not the only way creativity happens. Sometimes a pair is more creative than a single person. There are many examples in history. Think Marie and Pierre Curie, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, or Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The Manhattan Project was a team of scientists that created the atom bomb. The Three Stooges were a team that created their own brand of comedy. What teams of creators do you remember?

Creativity Can’t Be Developed

You can prove this myth wrong. There are hundreds of exercises you can do to develop or enhance your creativity. Try the three methods mentioned in this post. Or use any of the science-backed ways in this post on Entrepreneur.

Which of These Myths Are Limiting Your Creativity?

Myths are insidious. We learn them so early and so well that we believe them. Even when the evidence in front of us suggests differently, we hold on to the myth. Don’t let myths hold you back. Challenge these nine myths and reclaim your creativity. Don’t think one of these myths are holding you back? There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of variations. Which ones are holding you back?