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  • Writer's pictureEmma Wood

Creativity and the stories we tell ourselves

As we go through our lives, we tell ourselves a story about who we are. Simple statements such as "I'm not creative". The mind likes certainty, so it looks for proof to support this narrative.

But how often do we actually challenge these beliefs, especially when they hold us back? Too often I've heard people say they'd love to paint but "they just aren't creative". Oddly enough, I've never met a child who ISN'T creative. So what happens to that innate creativity as we grow up?

There are many, many reasons for this - and each person will have an individual story explaining why not. It could be from a teacher at school, parents, or society at large. Maybe it's a story we've been told by someone else - and as time passes our brain has gathered the proof to make it our own.

So, why do we accept these beliefs as fact without challenging them? Are they actually true? These questions call to mind the fantastic book The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday. He speaks about the difference between 'perception' and 'observation'.

The perceiver looks at a situation with all the emotional baggage attached to it. In this case, someone would look at painting a picture and consider the feelings surrounding it - maybe anticipating failure, embarrassment, or inadequacy. Our unconscious mind will go to great lengths to avoid all of those things, causing discomfort.

The observer looks at things very differently. To paraphrase Holiday:

"The Observing eye sees simply what is there. It sees events clear of distractions, exaggerations and misconceptions ... Pretend it is not important, that it does not matter ... Objectivity means removing you - the subjective part - from the equation."

So in this context, the observer would look at painting a picture aware that this is an activity - simply applying paint to canvas, and nothing more. The activity has no innate meaning - only what we attach to it. If we are attaching the meaning, then surely we can choose to change to something that serves us better? Who would you be if you were creative, and would you be happier as a result?

So, to apply this to your own life - here are some things to think about*:

1. Be aware of the stories we tell ourselves. Is it a happy story, or a sad one? What would you like it to be?

2. Challenge them - does it have to be true? Can you look at this another way?

3. Suspend belief - do something new or differently without preconceptions or expectations. Remember that whatever it is, it's just an activity. It's not who you are as a person, it's just something you are doing. With this in mind, was it what you thought it would be?

*These questions can be applied to almost anything - not limited to creativity. It can also be things you are already doing but perhaps feel you could be doing better.

The role of a therapist comes when you cannot answer these questions on your own. Sometimes awareness can be enough to make a shift, but support can often be the difference that makes the difference. I can help you explore these things in a supportive, non-judgemental way and help you write an improved version of your life. Feel free to get in touch to see how I can help you.

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