Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be successful and achieve positive recognition for your work? Maybe you’ll get rich, famous, people will look to you for your opinions, you’ll raise your profile so much on social media that you’ll accumulate new followers by the hundreds of thousands. People will look up to you. All those doubters, all those haters who put you down, that teacher who humiliated you, that bully who hounded you, all those voices who silenced you – you’ll finally get to show them!
So when that book gets published and hits the best-seller lists, when that major prize comes your way, when those tour dates sell out, well, won’t that just be amazing? Won’t you just be so incredibly happy and proud? I hope so. I wish you every success you could dream of and I want you to achieve everything you want to, for yourself and for your creativity.
But hang on a minute.
This focus is all about what’s going to happen when or if you “make it”. It’s all about some future version of your life, a you that doesn’t exist yet. What about now? What about all the things you’re already doing? What about the you you already are?
Here’s something to take in and try to digest: “success” isn’t going to make you a better person. And that’s because you’re already creative, you’re already working, you’re already ok. Are you going to wait for that agent to take on your novel to value yourself truly as an artist? Do you need to get that contract to accept that you are a worthy person? In other, blunt words: do you need external approval before you can love yourself?
Here’s something else to chew on: how would it be if you decided to accept yourself the way you already are? Accept that you are a creative, imaginative person. Accept that you are deserving of love and happiness and fulfilment, not just in the future, but right now, already. You always have been and you always will be. Think about that for a while.
Creativity is a lot like love and I can say from personal experience and from the many experiences of many other people that it’s very hard to find someone else to love you when you don’t love yourself. Looking for creative freedom, like looking for romantic love, often has a tinge of desperation about it. It’s very easy to feel lonely, unnoticed, fall into damaging situations and lose track of who you really are when you are solely focused on finding something you don’t have; looking for the “perfect” partner is very similar to looking for a way out of creative blockage – it’s easy to try too hard and end up feeling empty and even more stuck than before. But what if we accepted that we already have the perfect love within us? What if we accepted that our creativity is always there and can always flow freely? Because that is the truth.
Accepting ourselves exactly as we are is, paradoxically, the easiest way to make changes in your life. You might want to be in a different situation, a different location, a different job, a different relationship – that’s ok, but remember what will be staying the same, what the common factor will be about any of these changes: YOU. You are not going to be anyone else by changing external circumstances and that is why acceptance is going to help free you from insecurities. Accept yourself as you are and you are free to change your actions, your appearance, your home because you truly love yourself and believe that you deserve the very best life you can have, the life that is perfect for you.
It sounds great – loving yourself and accepting yourself, doesn’t it? But I know that many, many of us grow up with so much negativity about ourselves and who we are, victims of this pandemic of low self-esteem and even self-loathing, let’s face it: it doesn’t exactly sound like the easiest thing in the world to love yourself and accept yourself in this environment. That’s true – there’s work involved in this and it takes perseverance and determination to accomplish this. But the results are so amazing and you can begin to make noticeable changes quickly in a few really simple ways. Here’s a nice way to start.
EXERCISE – MIRROR MANTRA
This is a little bit of powerful self-talk, where you give yourself a real boost just by looking in the mirror. It’s important to look in the mirror, to really look yourself in the eye and speak gently but firmly to your soul. At first, I felt a bit self-conscious about doing this, but it has made such a positive impact on my life, I very quickly got over that!
Try this first thing in the morning, last thing at night, at any point in the day you need a bit of encouragement. You can speak the words out loud (I think this is great and probably gives a greater impact) or, if you’re in a public place and it would feel less comfortable, you can say the words in your head. Whichever way you choose, say the words slowly and clearly, noticing every sound, taking in every syllable. So, sit or stand yourself in front of the mirror and say these words:
I am loved. I love myself.
I am worthy. I value myself.
I am accepted. I accept myself.
I am creative. I create.
Once a day is enough, but you can do this exercise as often as you like and it will make you smile. [Because I am a writer, I often add an extra line to the mantra:
I am a writer. I write.
If that fits with you, add it too, or, adapt it to whatever fits for you, artist, dancer, composer, gardener – whatever it is you’re aiming to free up.]
Words – as we will see again and again in our programme – are very potent and powerful. Telling these truths to yourself every day will let them seep into your consciousness and take hold in all kinds of wonderful ways. It’s a fantastically positive thought, (as well as an enormous relief!), just to know that you are a creative and worthy human being, deserving of love and praise and acceptance. In addition to all this, you are letting yourself know that actually, everything you need for your creativity to flourish, everything you need to be creatively fulfilled, you already have: all the pieces of the puzzle are already there, it’s just a matter of putting them together.
So, we are working on accepting ourselves as we are, knowing that this is the best way to move in the direction of creative freedom. It’s normal and natural that this takes time and work. Thinking about ourselves and the aspects of our lives that we have been so negatively critical of, there are often painful reasons and experiences behind them. Why do we judge ourselves so harshly? All kinds of unkind voices resonate in our consciousness: cruel and even abusive voices, cynical and sarcastic voices, echoes of harm done to us and our creativity in the past, maybe even decades earlier. I don’t know what you have been through in your life but I do know this: you have survived them well enough to be right here, right now at this point, at this page, making these positive steps to free yourself. Look at yourself! You are amazing!
Once you start doing your Mirror Mantra, reminding yourself that you are accepted just as you are, that you are worthy of happiness and love and creative freedom, you are ready to get on to the next stage and that is what I like to think of as a bit of spring cleaning – whatever the season may be!
Loving, valuing and accepting yourself is the basis to creative freedom, and as you begin to undertake this challenge to all the negativity that has been hanging around, you will find many other benefits. There will be many new and wonderful feelings and experiences coming your way as you open yourself to your creative freedom: you might want to make a bit of space for them by clearing out the cupboards! Accepting yourself as you are means seeing yourself as you are, honestly and openly, nothing hidden, no holding in the stomach, no blanking out the lines: accepting yourself exactly as you are. Maybe you’ve been hurt before, maybe you’ve been rejected, maybe others have been unkind, maybe it feels like the fires have gone out and your energy is depleted, letting a type of fatalistic negativity set in. All of this is stored within you, weighing you down, leaving you in shadow, closed into a darkened room. Self-acceptance and letting your creativity free is not going to erase all of these thoughts, but it can go a very long way to making them lose their power over you. You can acknowledge these negative experiences but you don’t have to let them rule over you.
What about opening the curtains of this loveless room, a little at a time, letting the light slowly trickle on to the scene? Then at least you can begin to see the situation more clearly and these nebulous worries can shrink back to a more manageable size. After this, you might be able to go further than pulling back the curtains and even open the window a little bit, letting yourself and your creativity breathe fresh, clean air. The breeze might even blow some of those doubts and fears away. The next step might even let you open the door and go outside to explore. All this comes from a little bit of light – the light of love.
I am loved. I love myself.
And now, you are beginning to make room for the power of your creativity. You are accepting yourself, just as you are, scars and all – all of this is what makes you the unique, beautiful, creative person you are.
Now, before we move on to the next step, here is a little treat for you. You are going to create a list detailing as many of your positive qualities, talents, gifts and skills that you can think of. I imagine this as the plinth supporting a wonderful statue – your personal plinth, if you like, or the strong foundations of a mighty building, or the broad roots of a tall tree – view this however suits you, but enjoy the task! When I did this for myself, I thought it would be challenging, because I thought it might not be so easy to blow my own trumpet, but once I got going, things just started to flow. The same thing will probably happen to you. Here’s some tips to make the task relaxing and fun.
- Remember, this is just for you – you don’t have to show anyone else your list, it’s not designed to be a résumé or CV!
- Everything you can think of will be valid – nothing is “too small” or “not that big a deal”.
- No one is marking your spelling or grammar or handwriting or typing, and no one cares what kind of paper or ink or font you use.
- You can draw pictures too, if you like.
- Of course it would be easier to write this list about someone else, but that’s the challenge: you are noticing and valuing YOU and your own positive qualities. Be brave and be honest –this is not big-headed or arrogant, it is helping you to love and accept yourself, it is helping you achieve creative freedom!
- Other people can help you, if you want them too, but remember – it’s what you think that counts here.
- Other people might hinder you, if you let them, but remember – it’s what you think that counts here.
- Being able to make unmentionable noises with your armpit is definitely a skill worth listing – I’m still working on that one!
Bearing in mind point 6 above…!, here are some ideas which might get you started or spark an idea for your own list:
- I am a good listener.
- I have taken some brave chances in my life.
- I have a way with words.
- I love learning new things.
- I am a good friend.
- I can cook a hearty, homely dinner.
- I have written two complete novels.
- I tell a joke well.
- I stand up for the underdog.
- I can swim a long distance.
- I am a good driver.
- I am a great teacher.
- I am a talented photographer.
- I am kind to animals.
- I have undertaken physical and emotional challenges with determination.
- I taught myself to play guitar.
- I make good coffee.
- I have worked to overcome some big fears.
- I am generous with my time and with my love and support.
These are just a few ideas! Go with the flow, let the ideas come out and write or type them as they come into your mind – you won’t get anything wrong or make any mistakes, you’ll just write the truth as it comes to you. Be brave and be honest, let your light shine. Once you have written your list, keep it somewhere safe, because it’s precious, but keep it somewhere accessible, because it will be helpful to you to look at it, add to it, again and again. You are amazing, aren’t you?