I just saw a cartoon that a friend posted. The butterfly was emerging from the cocoon. It grabbed a cup of coffee, returned to the cocoon and zipped it up. From Buni comics.
Yes, we have all had those kinds of days, but do you remember that when you are in the middle of comparing yourself to someone else’s highlight reel or do you feel like you are the only one experiencing this feeling? I want to talk about the speed of light that you can travel when you go from on top of the world to wanting to climb back into your cocoon. My day began like that. I received a notice about winning an award, with cash too and 30 minutes later I got an email which I took as a rejection. My world plummeted. I compared myself to the person that they were going to do a creative project with. I know that person struggles too with the ups and downs of living this creative life, but in that moment I was all alone in this struggle.
Everyone goes through this. Yes, everyone including the person that just left the stage after winning an Oscar. I am sure they continue to enjoy the award high, but probably the next day that little voice whispers, well what now? People are going to be expecting more from you. Do you think you can keep this up? What about…and on and on.
Well we aren’t all Oscar winners but I think you know the feeling I am describing. You have worked hard to complete your art for an upcoming exhibition. Your friends come and maybe you even sell some paintings. You are floating and this feeling may stay with you for days or weeks, but eventually the bubble pops. You return to your studio and an emptiness surrounds you. This is the you have exhausted your creative well and it is time to refill it feeling. We all go through this. You are not alone.
The roller coaster, speed of light up and down happens in the world of instant messages via social media or emails. But why? We are always a veil away from our shadow. Even after working on emotional issues and living a pretty miraculous life, I can go from on top of the world to Death Valley in a nanosecond. We are creative and sensitive people that is why. Not to say that there aren’t a lot of sensitive and creative people in other walks of life. But, I have found that to be truly in touch with my muse I need to leave the armor at the studio door. When you are open and vulnerable you are swimming the current of creativity and this leaves you open to all the other emotions that are in the stream with you.
Here is a little speech that you can memorize and repeat as needed:
I am OK.
I am good enough and I know that everyone struggles with feelings of self-worth.
Fill in with whatever your shadow is; mine is not being perfect, good enough, smart enough….fill in your not enough blank.
Know that someone else is also struggling with this. Smile at the next person you encounter. This will make you feel better and it may change their day or even their life. You never know what the person next to you is struggling with.
Here are some steps you can take to get you through the doubts and whispers of the shadow:
1. Chop Wood, Carry Water is an old proverb. For us creatives I would suggest sweep floor, stretch canvas. It’s the same idea. Be in your creative space. If you are a writer, just write something. You don’t even need to read it. A jeweler may organize supplies, a sculptor may sketch ideas. Do something that lets your muse know you are still present and waiting for her to come out and dance. I like to energetically clear my space too. I burn sage or use essential oils to clear my space. You may have your own cleansing ritual or discover a new one.
2. Write it down. Get it out of your head and onto the paper so it isn’t taking up space inside you. When you write it down you take away the power it holds over you. Self-worth flourishes in the light and self-doubt withers. Write it, speak it, leave it.
3. Be still for at least 5 minutes. Pause before responding or acting out on the immediate feelings. Breathe and this will pass. Don’t email, text or post on social during this time. We tend to take things out on those we are closest to and trust. Do your mate a favor and follow this one, you will both feel better later. I love what Brené Brown says her mantra is: Don’t puff up, don’t shrink, just stand your sacred ground.
4. Review. Look at all you have accomplished over the past week, month, year or longer. We often focus only on the feeling of failure or rejection in the moment. Look at your successes, no matter how small.
5. Be Grateful. Train your mind to see the successes. When you feel yourself going to that place of not good enough, switch gears and recall the joy and love you have experienced. Gratitude will save you every time.
6. Compassion. Sometimes it is easier in the beginning to feel compassion for others before you can feel it for yourself. Begin there and then extend it to yourself. When you feel resistance to this, whisper that you must feel compassion in your heart before you can extend it to anyone else. Still struggling, then read below.
7. Feel the Love. Think of a puppy. OK, it could be a kitten or any other small vulnerable animal. You see the baby animal in distress and you naturally want to protect it and comfort it. Imagine yourself doing this. Close your eyes and now imagine that the kitten or puppy is you. Feel the Love.
8. Go and Be. Keep walking the path and soon you will find that you are on a picturesque country road going up and down over gentle hills. The roller coaster is behind you. You will be back on that ride again, but when you find yourself there, remember your tools and that you aren’t alone.