Self-esteem and creativity

Do you dodge compliments? Is sharing your work terrifying? Do you derail yourself with the idea that your work - and you - are rubbish?

If so, unhealthy self-esteem may be impacting on your creative life.

I say ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ self-esteem, instead of the terms low and high self-esteem. ‘Low’ is clear enough, but ‘high’ gets confused with an unhealthy self-esteem that asserts superiority to feel secure. This blog post is for those who struggle with feeling useless (the others won’t believe they have a problem!)

Of course, it’s okay to have a less-than-healthy self-esteem. But, like having a less-than-healthy body, it puts limits on what you’re able to do.

When I began to take action towards a more ambitious and satisfying creative life, I crashed into something inside myself. It felt like a huge NO, a force-field of impossibility blocking movement into new territory.

I tried a lot of short-cuts. Finally, I sighed: “I guess I’m going to have to work on my self-esteem.” I knew it would take time and effort, and sometimes be uncomfortable. Worse, it required skills I didn’t have yet.

The good news is that it isn’t rocket surgery. 

Ironically, your brain created an unhealthy self-esteem to protect you, in an environment it considered unsafe to stand out or be assertive. The trick, then, is changing the subconscious mind.

The simplest way to work on your self-esteem’s health is with the help of an expert, like a counsellor. (If you’ve suffered trauma or abuse, this is also safest.)

If you’re more DIY and/or on a budget, you can still get started:

  • Try exercises from the zillion books at your local library (my fave title = ‘Self-esteem for Dummies’).

  • Meditate 5-10 minutes daily (to help you notice and work with self-destructive thoughts).

  • Learn to self-soothe - this can be as simple as reminding yourself: “I’m okay.”

  • Sit through the discomfort of accepting compliments. Avoid automatically saying ‘Sorry’.

  • Act ‘as if’ - what would you choose if you had healthier self-esteem?

  • Check in with your body to gauge the effects of your friends and influences.

  • Find a trustworthy buddy to share your journey and experiments.

  • Give yourself time, be patient, make it fun, and keep going!

Sometimes creative people fear that reducing anxiety, self-hate or addiction will cause them to lose their drive or edge. But having drive is part of being human - and edge is what you get when you work. 

In my experience, getting a healthier self-esteem frees up so much energy. This is energy you can use in your creative life.