Embrace creativity. Live purposefully.
When I was in grade 4, at the tender age of 9, our class had a substitute teacher in one day. We had a writing assignment on dreams and while the rest of the class wrote about Disneyland, I wrote an imaginative piece about an actual dream (we had not yet covered ambiguity in our syllabus). Some of us volunteered to read our pieces aloud, and after hearing everyone’s story about Disneyland I became excited to read my piece. I was so proud of it because it was different, but when I read it, the teacher laughed and turned my mistake into a joke. This encouraged the rest of the class to laugh as well, and just like that, I was introduced to self-doubt.
We all have experiences like this lurking around in our pasts; our first experience with ridicule, destructive criticism, even shame. Nobody is immune to the long-term side effects of these experiences. It slowly strips us down of our belief in ourselves and self-doubt begins to manifest and infect every area of our lives like a cancer. We begin to question our abilities and it’s not too long before we question our own worth. We think less of ourselves than we should, and as a result of not wanting to relive the experience of being ridiculed, we begin to start shaping ourselves around pleasing other people.
At some point, we become so focused on being accepted that we forget to be ourselves. Social validation replaces personal reward and fulfillment as our reason to do anything.
I started recognizing and acknowledging the experiences in my life that caused me to doubt myself and my unique abilities when I completed a creative recovery course called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Even so, the social validation trap is so easy to fall into, especially since we spend such a big portion of our lives on social media platforms. Online, being socially validated (or rejected) is easy and immediate. Post a thought, opinion, anecdote or picture and wait to see how many people ‘like’, ‘favourite’, ‘retweet’ or ‘share’.
When I started my blog, I received a lot of positive feedback about my writing and that really boosted my confidence. People enjoyed what I was posting and I was enjoying the personal reward of writing, of creating something outside of myself. But then the novelty wore off and I began getting less feedback and encouragement. Less social validation. I became anxious about my blog posts and put pressure on myself to create content people would enjoy (forgetting that I was writing for myself as the audience).
I started googling, ‘how to drive traffic to your site’ or ‘how to get more likes on Facebook’ and the like. What came up is that people like when you write in list form (eg. 10 ways to blah blah blah) and keep your post size down to 350 words and under. I have to admit, I fell for it. This post was originally titled. “The 5 Things That Stop You From Being Who You Really REALLY Want To Be”. It’s a good title and I know more people would’ve clicked a link like this, but it’s not me. I don’t write in list form, I can, but it’s not what I’m best at. I like a flowing narrative, and I like writing upwards of at least 500 words.
Imagine I chose to do what ‘works’ instead of what I am best at. I would become average, just like everybody else who does the same thing. I have unique experiences and abilities that shape my unique contribution to the world. Instead of writing about Disneyland like everyone else, I wrote about streams of orange juice and money that grows on trees. I still love that story I wrote and I’m proud of my ‘mistake’. Given the chance to do it over, I would not have changed a single word.