Am I Creative?
My straight up one-word answer of my perception of me and my long-time definition of creativity would be NO.
But is that TRUE? NO.
And am I hurting myself and my creativity with having this perception of myself?
For the longest time way into my adulthood, I thought of myself as a left-brained, logic-driven, process and structure-oriented person with barely any creativity. After all, I am not good at art (or so I thought), I had a knack for music (great hearing, rhythm and ok voice - I even sang in a choir through elementary school) but didn’t do much with it other than a year of guitar + a year of the flute (and some self taught piano and the recorder), I did ballet for 7 years as a child through 7th grade, but swapped to horse riding….. I never learned to draw or paint, through I enjoyed doodling in school and even as a new mom with young kids.
The time and place of my childhood (1980s/90s Hungary) didn’t place much emphasis on creativity or encourage it much. It was really viewed as something you were born with or not. There were those kids who were really good at creativity/art and others who weren’t. It was not viewed as a spectrum and a skill that can be developed. So from early on, I believed and was raised as more the rational, structure-process-system-logic oriented child. And while creativity wasn’t vocally discouraged, it was not really encouraged either. Add to that the perception that “artists have a poor life”, “no financially stable outlook to the future”, “really hard to make it in their careers”, and “you should get a pragmatic education so you can get a good-paying job” mentality. So while no one told me to NOT pursue the arts and nurture my creativity, the message was loud and clear.
But creativity - and human nature - is so interesting. While it may seem to lie dormant, it often manifests in other areas of life one would not immediately categorize as such.
I got creative in thinking processes. Structuring thoughts and ideas. The ability to convey difficult to understand concepts and distill them to more easy-to-understand ideas. In organization. In creative problem solving, budgeting and finances. In coordinating things. Developing systems easy to replicate. Applying processes to standardize things. Developing schedules. Multi-tasking. Efficiencies.
It all requires creative thinking. But we don’t think of it this way often. So for the longest time, I focused on developing these areas of creativity and neglected the other - more conventionally defined - expressions of creativity like the arts, music, dance, fine arts. And I believed that I was not gifted in these areas. I began deferring to other people when it came to the arts or anything to do with artistic creativity: interior decor, gift wrapping, makeup, hair, styling (people and homes), design, digital design, and more. To the point, where I would even sarcastically put myself down to others and make fun of my lack of artistic skills. “I am not creative”. “You know I have no clue about colors and arrangements”. “You can do it better, don’t ask me anything artistic.” And the list goes on.
Word are magic wands. “…for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” And so I was. Condemned by my own words. I made myself believe I had no artistic skills and most of my creativity was reduced to “left-brain” activities: linear thinking, math, facts, logics. And while I am certainly and unquestionably more dominant in my left-brain activity, my continued reaffirmation of my "useless" right-brain did not help in balancing and also suppressed so much creativity I was fearful to explore. Add to that my tendency for perfectionism - the killer of creativity.
Isn’t one of the beautiful - yet often painful and uncomfortable - parts of getting older the greater insight into who we are? I would call it acquired wisdom through life experience, and through inner work and personal development. When a light bulb goes off and you start seeing areas where you cage yourself. Actions of self-limitation and self-sabotage. Beliefs that are not serving you. Fears holding you back.
My perceptions and beliefs around my own creativity is one of those areas for me. And one of the moments of awakening was when my child asked me: what is your favorite color? and I wasn’t able to answer. How about your favorite music? Or your favorite ice cream? Which fashion style you like? I was not able to answer any of it. ( I also burst into tears in embarrassment of not being able to answer). Because for so may years, I have not cultivated my own creative preferences and deferred to others who “know better”. Due to a combination of fear of not being “good enough”, feeling like “I have no developed artistic skills”, the belief that “I am not creative”, and the one that trumps most of it “everyone’s needs/preferences/likes are more important than mine” (if you are a mom, you know what I am talking about….putting yourself and your needs/wants/desires last is a mastery skill for so many moms). Add to that fear of failure and perfectionism. You have got the deadly cocktail.
Bottled up creativity leads to lots of issues. Learning to uncover and explore different areas of creativity beyond our comfort zone has so many benefits.
So I have been on a (very slow and uncomfortable) journey of exploring and cultivating my creativity - in areas beyond my prevalent left-brain creativity. Cooking was the first area of creativity - and not only did I love learning to cook, I have become great at it and combined it with my passion for substitutions to transform traditional meals into healthier recipes!
I realized that I am fantastic at creatively turning things better. Building up things and people. Whatever you throw at me will be used as fuel and spun into positivity, gold, and wins for you. I am a creative master at making things better for others, connecting people and focusing people, resources and energies around shared goals. I am a cheerleader for others’ success.
I took a stab at painting (rather copying paintings) and drawing (again, copying…). I am learning to give myself time and enjoy looking at interior design photos and challenge myself to rethink decor in my home. I feel the calling to explore dancing again - I used to love ballroom dancing in high school. I am considering singing in a choir again. I am dipping my toes in digital design and emails - and am actually doing a good job AND enjoying it too.
And while I have only pursued a few new creative avenues, I at least began thinking about many others.
I now BELIEVE that I have more creativity wanting to surface in me than I have ever believed or given myself credit for. The task is now to give myself space and time to explore these without fear or expectations.
How does any of this resonate with you? Have you felt anything similar? And what are you doing to explore your creativity?
Stay happy and healthy,