Healing Our Creativity Scars

It was 11am on a weekday and I was already feeling my motivation dwindle. My focused actions turned into mindless Twitter scrolling and my coffee was cold – sure signs that I was on the edge of surrender.

My inspiration savior came in the form of Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons. Fellow social worker (and career-crush) Brené Brown was featured on an episode in which she talked about her belief that “non-creative people” don’t exist – only people who do and do not use their creativity.

But then she said something that really shocked me. While researching shame, Brené Brown found that 85% of the people she interviewed remembered an event in school that was so shaming that it changed the way they thought of themselves for the rest of their lives. Among those individuals, 50% reported that those shame wounds were related to creativity.

As someone who has her fair share of difficulty with creativity, I wondered: do I have childhood “creativity scars”?

Almost immediately I remembered a shaming creativity memory from my childhood. I was attending a Fine Arts summer camp, where all of the campers were asked to choose a creative course to engage in – acting, painting, sewing, or singing – and our efforts would culminate in a theatre performance on the last day of camp. I loved to sing and write songs as a kid, so choosing the singing course seemed a natural fit. I still remember approaching the teacher when it was my turn to sing as she played one of my favorite songs, Hopelessly Devoted To You from Grease, at the piano. I was already completely terrified at the fact that I was there, singing alone in front of 20 other campers and a music teacher, making me completely and utterly mortified when she told me, “Don’t sing so breathy. Make your voice stronger.”

Did I take her advice? Did I toil away, day and night, to strengthen my vocal cords and eliminate my breathiness so I could have the most amazing musical performance in the history of this Fine Arts Camp for fourth grade girls?

Of course not. You know what I did? I left class that day, asked to be switched to the sewing class (which I didn’t even want to do), and canceled the plan that I had with my friends to sing a song in the end-of-camp talent show – a song that I wrote myself. I was so ashamed of my voice that I quit the singing course and I watched from the audience as my friends performed a song about best friends I had written for us all to sing together.

Looking back on this story, my heart hurts: it hurts for the kid version of myself (who should have been encouraged instead of critiqued), it hurts for the adult version of myself (who is still, on some deeper level, impacted by it), and it hurts for the 50% of you reading this who can clearly remember a creativity-shaming event similar to mine.

Brené’s interview inspired me to work toward healing my creativity scars – wounds rooted in the innocence of childhood and the susceptibility to believing anything an adult says.

So how can we heal our creativity scars?

First, we can think back on those childhood scars with our present, wiser minds. If you, as you are now, were in the room when the creativity-shaming event happened, what would you say to the child version of yourself? I know what I would have said: “It was so brave of you to come up here and sing. Look at the wonderful things you are capable of doing if you put yourself out there and do something that you love. You are doing such a great job.” Let yourself hear those words and believe them.

Next, we can take the plunge and engage in our creative side. This might be trying something – writing, drawing, painting, dancing – and keeping it private for a while. Feel what it’s like to be creative without anything to prove to anyone. Then, slowly challenge yourself to share your work with someone you love and trust. Feel the glow of being creatively supported.

Finally, let this creative rebirth remind you that you don’t need to worry about how “good” or “bad” your work is. You ARE creative. You CAN create. So don’t ask yourself if your creative work is good or bad; thank yourself for awakening the inherent creative spirit that has always been living inside you since you were a kid, waiting to see the light again.

Thumbnail photo from deathtothestockphoto.com.