I get this question a lot:
"How do I get out of my own way?"
I don't only hear it from fellow creatives . . . I hear it from myself.
I think we've all been there: A great idea, opportunity, or bit of wisdom comes along and at first we are all, "Hell yes!" and then we're all, "Oh no!" When your heart calls out a deep desire (you know the feeling) that then shows up in your life, my guess is that you're both terrifically excited and totally terrified to the bone. Yeah?
That's normal. Think about it: when a great idea or opportunity comes along that's aligned with your deepest desires, that's life asking you to step up and answer the tug on your heart. That is scary because it is so true to you - it is so deeply tied to your passions and your dreams and your creative ability - that everything yelling "Yes" inside of you is also trying to protect you, keep you comfortable, and keep you safe.
Self-sabotage can take shape in many ways throughout our lives in relation to our health, our relationships, our work, and our creativity.
This post focuses specifically on how to spot (and stop) creative self-sabotage in its tracks.
In my experience, my creative self-sabotage shows up like this:
1) The voices.
You know the ones - the lovely little voices that say all sorts of things like: "You could never do that." "Who would listen to you?" "It's already been done." Some days are quieter than others, but some days are cacophonous. When I start to hear even a whisper of these voices, I make something, anything, in order to move through the doubtful lies and prove that I do have creative ability.
Freezing often arises when I listen too closely to the voices. Doubt creeps from my brain down into my fingertips to cease creative action before it even begins. Even though I logically know that I have skills and "failing" is actually learning, freezing can quite literally take over this knowledge and stop my creative process.
When this happens, I dance. When I'm really frozen? I record my dance and post it to social media (so for those of you who've seen that, now you know). When I'm frozen, I know I'm in the state of taking myself (and those voices) too seriously, so I shake myself out of it by dancing to a any song with a great beat. Then I get back to work.
(Suggested dance songs: "Feels" by Calvin Harris ft. Pharrel Williams, Katy Perry, Big Sean, "Blame it on the Boogie" by The Jacksons, "Sing a Song" by Earth, Wind, and Fire).
3) Running away.
Oh ho ho, is this one as common for you as it is for me? I'm a Sagittarius so my ramblin' spirit is always after the next adventure. But man! I really started to notice this tendency at the beginning of the year. When an amazing idea or opportunity comes along, one of my first fearful, sub-conscious self-sabotaging inclinations is, "Where can I go? Can I take a day-trip to Taos? Can I go to a coffee shop to work (aka hope I run into people to distract me from the task at hand)? Can I plan my next trip? Can I go to social media to completely block myself from what is before me?"
Y'all. Running away is not just a physical movement to a different place. It is a self-sabotage move that can be as simple as scrolling Instagram, organizing your desktop, or reading another "how-to" article (ahem).
This pull to run is in direct opposition to what needs to happen:
a deep dive into the task at hand.
Now when I feel the pull to run sneakin' up on me, I pause, close my eyes, and take a few deep breaths to bring myself back to the present moment. I allow myself to feel the squirmy discomfort and breathe through it. I say thank you for the idea or opportunity and fully recognize it for the gift that it is. Then, I get back to work.
So, how do you turn self-sabotage away when it comes a knockin' at your door?
I know it sounds so ridiculously simple, and that's because it is!
When I self-sabotage, I'm often seeking some complex deep answer that tells me how to move forward and that I am good enough to do so. If this is you, too, then this is the complex note you're seeking:
You are good enough. Go create.
Here are some examples to get you started:
-Have an idea floating around in your head?
Start by writing it down on paper. That act alone will move the idea out of your body and into the reality of the world.
-Sitting down to draw, but you can still hear your 4th grade teacher saying, "You're not an artist"?
Prove the voices wrong. Draw a single line and go from there.
-About to write your short story, but turn to social media instead?
Put your phone in airplane mode, turn off your wifi, set a timer for 30 minutes. Write. When your timer goes off, stand up, take a break (do a dance? See above). Sit back down again tomorrow, put your phone in airplane mode, turn off your wifi, set a timer for 30 minutes. Write.
Creativity is intrinsic to your being, so let it flow. Release expectation and allow yourself to enjoy the process because the process is where the learning, growth, and increased ability all take place.
This post is almost finished, but I do have to include another truth:
It might not work.
Many times our creative endeavors don't go the direction that we expect, but that doesn't mean trying isn't an option.
In fact, it means trying should be your number one option.
Because trying opens up doors to sights unknown and new solutions that only reveal themselves to us through trial and error. When something doesn't work, you can receive more information in the very process of trying than not trying at all. With this information you can take another step forward with more knowledge, wisdom, and experience.
So go on and get out of your own way!