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


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.


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 

Use Your Kind Voice When You Need One

Are you at the point where all you see around you is thanklessness, faultfinding, and anger? A lot of us are. Perhaps it’s time to take a deep breath and check in on ourselves. So many stressors in the world, in the news, in our daily lives, many of us have forgotten to be compassionate to ourselves. Do you use your kind voice when you need one?

Image of a stylized brown tree with curly branches. On each branch is a fruit labeled joy, generosity, patience, love, gentleness, kindness, self-control, faithfulness, peace. Across the base of the tree is the phrase This fruit is always in season. Do you use your kind voice when you need one?

Stop Black & White Thinking

Many of us look at our day, our less-than-perfect accomplishments, our didn’t get it done list, and our emotions in black and white terms. We pronounce ourselves and our accomplishments as good or bad, positive or negative, and as a success or a failure. If we experience sadness, disappointment, or other so-called negative emotions, we berate ourselves for not being more positive. Or worse, for being a bad person. We judge ourselves and find ourselves imperfect.

Don’t judge, get curious. Don’t ignore or deny your feelings. Look at the moment, at what those uncomfortable emotions you’re experiencing. Realize they are normal. Consider what those emotions are trying to tell you.

Only dead people never get stressed, never get broken hearts, never experience the disappointment that comes with failure.

Susan David

Ms David says when you stop judging yourself and your emotions, you’re fifty percent of the way to being self-compassionate. Watch this Ted Talk by psychologist Susan David.

Be Kind to Yourself

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

When you look at your flaws, find gratitude for what you do have rather than what you don’t like. Don’t think—ugh, I am tone deaf. Be grateful that you can hear the music. When you think, I am so stupid—be grateful you’re able to see, grateful that you can learn to do better.

Stop doing harmful things because that’s a way to be kind to yourself. If you over indulged, don’t judge yourself. Be clear that it wasn’t helpful or kind and you’d like to be kinder to yourself in the future.

Take care of yourself as an act of kindness.

Buy yourself flowers. Take yourself out on a date.

Indulge in a bubble bath or an hour of reading. Color in a coloring book.

Forgive yourself over and over and over. You are imperfect. You will mess up again and again. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and remind yourself that messing up is part of the human condition. Apologize to others if needed, but apologize to yourself. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. A kinder you will try again until you succeed.

LifeHack recommends that you create a brag bucket. Drop a note into the bucket each time you are kind to yourself. Add a note when you accomplish something. LifeHack also says to look at your notes at the end of the year. Yes, that would be wonderful. But look at your notes at the end of the week. See how much better you feel when you focus on using your kind voice. 

Try a Little Kindness

Loving yourself is healing the world!

Jaymie Gerard

If you need more help with finding your kind voice, try using some of the same steps discussed in 5 Steps to Your More Joyful Life. With all the stress and problems in the world and daily life, you deserve a little kindness.

Try a Little Kindness” is an older song by Glen Campbell. It’s about being kind to others. Be sure to listen for how being kind to others can also be ways to be kind to yourself.

You’re doing the best you can. If you didn’t accomplish as much as you wanted, if you weren’t as kind as you wished you’d been, you will do better from now on. You will do better when you use your kind voice when you need one.

6 Ways to Find Your Calm in the Middle of the Storm

It’s a topsy-turvy world we’re living in right now. Even an introvert like me, used to sitting alone at the computer all day, can get caught up in the craziness. It’s essential, now more than ever, that you find your calm in the middle of the storm. Ack! How do you do that when everyone around you is losing their minds?


image of a golden retriever smiling to help you find your calm in the middle of the storm

First, smile. Fake it if you must. Look in the mirror and smile. Make faces. Be goofy. 

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.

—Thich Nhat Hanh

There’s science behind this. And I’ve written a series of blog posts about stress and how you can manage it.

The act of smiling activates those neurotransmitters that make you feel good. It relaxes your body, slows your heart, and lowers your blood pressure. Not only that, it makes you more attractive. And it’s contagious.


You’ve got to change your life for your health and the health of everyone around you. So take this time and re-evaluate your priorities. Figure out what means the most to you. What brings you the most happiness and joy? Is it your family? Music? Reading? Writing? Creating something? 

If you’re the parent of school-aged children who now have a lot of time on your hands, help them find the things that bring them joy. Make sure each of you spends at least 15 minutes sparking your joy every day.


The reality of being home all the time means some chores of daily living have increased exponentially. Have a family meeting where you spell out what needs to be done every day. Teach your children (or spouse) how to do the laundry, how to fix their lunch, or mop the floor. Don’t expect them to do it perfectly. Whether you have children at home, or a spouse, let them help plan the day. Set ground rules such as ‘the schedule must include 4 hours of learning, 1 hour of movement, 1 hour of entertainment, 1 hour of chores and 1 hour free time.


image of basketball hoop in a driveway

Have a family exercise time. If exercise is a drag, make it fun with things like a Chinese Fire Drill. When Mom or Dad (or older children) call out “Fire Drill.” Everyone has to run laps around the house or around the yard. In bad weather you can run laps around the dining room table.

Or you can play balance games. How long can you stand on one leg? Can you walk across the room balancing a book on your head? There are plenty of sites online that can suggest more indoor and outdoor activities. Check out Today’s Parent.

Quiet Time

While it’s important to keep active physically and mentally, your quiet time is also important. Spend at least 15 minutes in mindfulness. Step away from all electronic devices. No, this isn’t nap time. Mindfulness is simply the act of noticing the moment.

Notice how it feels to breathe, to sit, to smell, to taste. If you have children, you may have to teach them how to do this. tells you why and how to do this. 

If that sounds to woo-woo for you, take 15 minutes to connect with yourself or your spiritual beliefs. Reflect on how you feel at the moment. If it’s not how you want to feel, practice releasing that feeling and recovering the you you want to be.

Stay Connected

Man and child together finding their calm in the middle of the storm

Not to the internet. To each other. Spend time talking to each other. Reach out to others. Use text or Face Time or chat or simply telephone a friend or family member. Chat, complain, make each other laugh. Have a Google Hangout party.

Maybe you can’t be physically close, but you can stay connected.

If you, or a loved one, or a friend is overwhelmed, get help. Call the national suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-8255. They can provide resources even if you don’t feel suicidal.

Your Calm in the Middle of the Storm

It’s not always easy to be calm in the middle of the storm. And it’s not a one and done activity. Especially when loved ones inadvertently (or purposefully) bring fear and chaos to you. You can’t make others be calm. But you can find your calm in the middle of the storm. How do you find your calm in these turbulent times?

Does Stress Make You Reach For Chocolate?

Does stress make you reach for Chocolate? It does me. Oops. That’s bad. Or is it? There is no question but stress is hard on your body. The inflammation caused by stress challenges your heart, your metabolic, your emotional health, and much more. One way to counteract the effects of stress is to make a plan for healthy foods and exercise when you’re under stress. 

Image of foil wrapped chocolate--Does stress make you reach for chocolate like it does me?

Riiight. When I’m stressed out, I’m reaching out for what’s quick or easy or available. Most often I reach for comfort foods high in fat and sugar and starch. And exercise? Fuagetaboutit. I don’t have the time. I’m too stressed. You, too? 

This is the third in my series of posts on stress and what we can do about it. (see Recognize Your Stress Levels and To Stress or To Sleep.) In this post, I won’t tell you all the foods and exercise you should be doing. You probably already know. But I will tell you WHY you might want to make better choices.

What Stress Produces

Dopamine, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and cortisol are the most common stress hormones. These hormones stimulate the body for the “fight or flight” response. They affect basic body functions like blood flow, heart rate, and breathing. 

“Even minute changes in levels of these substances can significantly affect health.” For an in-depth discussion of these stress hormones read Stress: It’s Worse Than You Think.

The Calming Hormones

Our bodies produce several hormones that play a part in “calming” us. Various studies and reports say that DHEA, oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonin reduce stress hormones. So-called “health” sites promote supplements or certain dietary changes to saying that their hormone-containing product will help you overcome the bad effects of stress. In reality, studies of these hormones and the supplements have had mixed results. We need more research to know how these hormones work and if supplements can help.

If you take supplements, please use caution. These supplements can and will interact with other medications. They can cause side effects and other health problems. Always consult your physician or your pharmacist before adding a supplement to your regime. Always tell your health care professional which supplements you take. 

It’s Complex

The study of hormones is complex. Genetics, psychology, physiology, and chemistry all play a role in the processes and the effects of hormones. Interdisciplinary studies take time. But what’s a person to do until we know more?

Create a plan. A stress plan. You are in charge, create your personal stress plan.

Diet and Stress

Do you reach for chocolate when you’re stressed? I do. Chocolate is one of my “reward“ foods. It makes me feel good. 

Small amounts of dark chocolate can be good for you. But too much can cause health problems you want to avoid. 

There are studies that suggest that under stress, your reward signaling and reward sensitivity are significantly lower.  This leads to food choices that are higher in fat and sugar. Studies suggest that the more high-fat and high-sugar foods you eat, the more you need to eat to feel the same reward signal. 

Stress is the psychological equivalent of ragweed. Once the body becomes sensitized to pollen or ragweed, it takes only the slightest bloom in spring or fall to set off the biochemical alarm that results in runny noses, watery eyes, and the general misery of hay fever. But while only some of us are genetically programed to be plagued with hay fever, all of us have the capacity to become sensitized to stress.

Psychology Today

What does all this mean? It means that stress does make you reach for chocolate. Or for your favorite high-fat, high-sugar foods and drinks. And once you’re stressed, it’s difficult to not devolve into a poor diet that will only lead to more stress and more cravings.

So while we don’t understand why some foods make us feel better. It is important to be proactive and create healthy choices to combat stress BEFORE we are stressed. 

Healthy Choices

You’ve probably seen the USDA’s my plate campaign. image of the recommended portions of the five food groups.

Explore your favorite foods that fall into healthy choices and plan which ones will help you deal with stress. 

Some foods are rich in nutrients that can help with high blood pressure (potassium), or headaches (magnesium). Which foods are best for stress? It depends upon your body, your health, and your food preferences. One thought is that if you make healthier choices a routine, you’ll choose the less healthy options less often. Even under stress.

An occasional slip into the high-fat, high-sugar foods when stressed won’t cause harm. But if you don’t have a plan for healthier eating, you’ll end up making food choices that won’t help you feel better. 

Stressed? Reach for… Exercise

If stress makes you reach for chocolate-exercise. Image of man walking up stairs in forest

According to WebMD, “Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever.” The news and advertisements have long advised us that exercise releases endorphins. The runners’ high is real. But the endorphins don’t work alone. Serotonin and norphenylephrine are also released during exercise. 

Until recently, studies suggested that you needed at least thirty minutes of intense exercise to get an endorphin release. New evidence suggests that you can get a slower, less intense release of endorphins by exercising for fifteen minutes several times a week. And it still contributes to your well-being.

So don’t sweat it. Or—do. It’s your choice. 

In times of high stress, it is difficult to find the time or the energy to exercise. But again, try to make a plan for it. Look at your environment and situation. Can you take a five- or ten-minute fast walk around the hallways of the hospital every hour or two? That will help. 

According to  J. Kip Matthews, PhD, a sports psychologist, “The more sedentary we become—not getting regular exercise—the less efficient the body is at dealing with stressors that are being placed on it.”

Maybe you don’t want to or can’t step away from your situation. But you could do some simple stretches or march in place or dance for fifteen minutes. Get your body moving. 

What Do You Reach For?

Does stress make you reach for chocolate? If it does, don’t beat yourself up for it (and cause more stress). But do make a plan for how you want to react to stress. Choose the best foods and exercises for you. Do you have a certain food or exercise you use for stress reduction? Your comment below may help someone else reach for healthier foods and for exercise. 

Does the News Make You Disheartened and Afraid?

Are you disheartened and afraid after the recent horrific shootings in California, Texas, and Ohio? Take a minute to refresh yourself.

The news this weekend was overwhelming. People responded with grief and anger and a variety of other emotions. All those responses are appropriate. But it’s easy to take too much of that in. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be healthy enough physically, mentally, or emotionally work the changes we want to see.

To help you if you're feeling disheartened and afraid an image of Fred Rogers and Officer Clemmons with their feet in the pool and Mr. Rogers's words: "To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember by mothers words and I am always comforted by realizing there there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in this world."
Dr. François S. Clemmons [CC BY-SA 4.0 ]

Mr. Rogers said there’s comfort in looking for the helpers, and he was right. So, take a minute and look for the helpers. Let’s get started:

A Step Toward Cleaner Oceans

Irish Teenager Wins Google Science Award for Removing Microplastics From Oceans

“He used magnets to attract microplastics from water. The project found that a magnetic liquid called ferrofluid attracted the tiny plastic particles and removed them from the water. After nearly a thousand tests, his device successfully removed about 88 percent of the microplastics from water samples.” Read more.

Community Donation Event

While shopping for sandals for their vacation, her daughter asked to buy shoes for a classmate. It inspired her mother. And her mother inspired their whole community.

“A 9-year-old girl who asked if she could buy a pair of shoes for a classmate who couldn’t afford his own inspired her mom to take advantage of Payless’s going-out-of-business sales and buy out all 1,500 shoes at a shuttering location to donate to other kids in need.” Read more.

Truly Make Believe

A woman with dyslexia helps herself by helping others. And her mission grew into Truly Make Believe.

“For most of her life, Rachel Oehlert has struggled with dyslexia, often becoming confused when looking at words on a page or seeing letters as backward or upside down.”

“When her nervousness about reading aloud in grade school continued into adulthood, Oehlert, 24, of Thornton, Colo., thought she needed something radical to jolt her out of her fear.”

“In 2016, she came up with an idea. She bought a princess costume with some money she had been given for her birthday, then arranged to visit a children’s hospital bedecked as Belle from Beauty and the Beast.” Read more.

 Beaux & Paws 

A 12-year-old boy designs bow ties for shelter pets.

“Darius Brown was diagnosed with developmental delays when he was 2, but a hobby creating bow ties has helped him flourish — while benefiting the animals he loves, too.”  Read more.

I hope you don’t feel so disheartened and afraid. I wish I could say such horrific events aren’t likely to happen again. Unfortunately, we all know that’s not true. But, if you and I look to the helpers, we can beat the helplessness of feeling disheartened and afraid. And we can be helpers, too.