Wherever we are on our journey as artists, there’s likely to be a deep level belief or two that’s holding us back without us realising.
You might be merrily creating at what you think is your full capacity, and creating plenty of good work, but there’s always a nagging doubt that something’s not quite right, that there’s so much more within you.
It’s as if there’s a conflict in you that’s preventing you from being your most creative, an invisible ceiling.
If you could just disconnect from whatever is keeping you secretly shackled, you could create at a whole other level of freedom.
You could create at a whole other level of wonderfully brilliant you-ness.
But if you don’t know what it is – if this deep programming that’s compromising your creativity is so secretly embedded that you can’t even recognise it – how can you ever hope to change it?
The first step, as with so many aspects of life, is to gain greater awareness. In this case, this first step is to look at all your beliefs about creativity, and being an artist.
The best way to do this is to break it down in two parts.
First, think about all the beliefs you have about artists in general.
Take a large sheet of paper, and write in the middle – “Artists are…”
Then complete the sentence in all the ways you can think of, to uncover to all the beliefs you have about artists. Don’t worry about editing or analysing, just pour out everything that comes to mind, and write it down.
You’ll likely find some positive beliefs, such as: Artists are creative, intelligent, curious, adaptable, interesting, and so on.
It’s also likely you’ll reveal some that are not so positive. Maybe sentences like: Artists are loners, undisciplined, poor, unreliable, and others might come to mind.
In both cases, just write what you feel. Get down on the page all the associations you have with artists, even if some don’t make sense or seem contradictory.
Next, take another sheet of paper, and write in the centre – “As a creative artist, I am…”
Again, don’t analyse or edit, just write everything that comes to you.
Now, with these two pages, we can begin to identify some of the deep programming that’s been holding you back.
Take a look at your first sheet, your general beliefs about artists.
Looking at the more negative ones especially, you might think that you have these kind of thoughts at arms length, and that they don’t apply to you, only to other artists out there.
But if you want to be highly creative – as creative as you know you can be – then that makes you an artist.
And if this desire to be the best artist you can be is being undercut and sabotaged by contradicting beliefs, you’re not going to reach your full potential. You might not even get anywhere close.
You can use the second sheet – the one with your beliefs about yourself as an artist – to compare with the first and weed out some of these conflicting beliefs, to throw them out in the open.
For example, if you believe that artists have to spend most of their lives in lonely isolation, but you are someone who is very sociable and loves being around people, then these two beliefs clash. One does not support the other, they can’t co-exist. Or at least not without one effecting the other.
Trying to be true to yourself in this situation becomes like trying to press on the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal at the same time in your car.
You’ll just be burning up loads of fuel trying to getting anywhere. That’s if you get rolling at all.
So identifying these kind of contradictions will help you see the potential areas that might be holding you back.
In reality, it doesn’t matter where this programming originally came from. Maybe there are beliefs you picked up from relatives, friends, the media, or other sources.
What matters now is that you have started to uncover some of the limiting beliefs that you didn’t realise you had. They’re not secret anymore.
Repeating this exercise from time to time, maybe every few months for example, helps us stay vigilant to the kind of destructive programming that can creep in again and keep us held back.
The more you know about your deepest beliefs, the more you can shape them and choose and nurture the ones that will fully support the creative life you know you’re capable of.
Try this exercise yourself, and you’ll reveal some of the deep destructive prorgamming that’s been keeping you tethered. Only then can you really begin to reach those new levels of creativity in yourself that we all want to see.
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