Please note: This article was originally posted on one of my former blogs; it was transitioned to this website on March 5, 2017. Graphics may still reflect the name of the former website.
When a year comes to a close, we often go into reflection mode. It’s as though we’re searching for snippets of wisdom from the past.
Sometimes we not only reflect on the past year, but on many of our previous years as well.
Reflecting and reminiscing can be insightful. This process can help clarify our strengths and weaknesses. It can put us on the right path towards reaching our goals.
And if that’s the way you’ve been reflecting on your past as this year comes to an end, I hope you find all the insights you need to make a magnificent 2017.
But if you find yourself veering off into some not-so-positive thoughts about yourself or the choices you’ve made, then this post was written with you in mind.
Reflecting can help us see more clearly, but sometimes, the thoughts that come to mind can also weigh us down.
The Past Can Influence Our Self-Perceptions about Creativity
You might be someone whose creativity was stifled instead of nurtured in the past.
Personally, I remember having answers marked wrong on grade school assignments – not because the final answer was wrong, but because I didn’t arrive at the final answer in the exact manner in which I was taught in class.
Many situations in school and in other environments stifled my creativity.
The Nancy Brown quote above links to a Fortune magazine article about the importance of cultivating a work environment in which employees feel free to share creative ideas.
Often times in school, at work, and even in home environments, conformity is the name of the game. When innovative ideas are introduced, they aren’t always well received. Reactions can be harsh.
And as a result, sometimes, creative expression is withheld for fear of punishment (loss of work, etc), labeling, or potentially losing relationships.
But we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for creative expression.
The Past Doesn’t Have the Right to Stifle Creative Expression
I remember watching a documentary about Einstein years ago, and I was surprised to learn that he had been considered a less than stellar student.
He was stigmatized and unable to find work after college. For some time he internalized others’ negative perceptions of him.
We now know that he was far more intelligent than his professors believed.
Einstein simply thought differently. He learned differently. And academic traditions couldn’t confine his complex mind.
While working at a patent office, he published physics journal articles without any academic associations. And eventually, he entered academia.
His life story is much more involved than I can cover here, and I suggest you watch the documentary because it’s really mind boggling – especially for anyone whose creative thoughts have been minimized.
What Einstein’s Story Teaches Us About the Past?
Einstein could have given up. He could have conceded to believe all of the inaccurate labels that had been placed on him for decades.
All of the odds were against him. His academic records did not put him in a good light, and he had every reason to believe that he’d never become a physicist. He may have wondered if all of his daydreaming (mind experiments) had been a total waste of time.
He was thirty-two years old before he earned professorship – the year was 1911. His first physics paper was published in 1905 and he had hundreds of doors closed in his face prior to then. Image how frustrating it must have been for him.
But due to his persistence and his inability to squelch his own creative thoughts, he became the one person most individuals now associate with the term, “genius.”
We’re all geniuses.
We’re all creative in some way.
And we can’t allow labels or social perceptions to detract from our unique expression of creativity. We must be persistent. We must choose to embrace our creative gifts and use them to solve problems.
And we must embrace our creativity regardless of ups and downs, successes and failures – because mistakes are as much a part of progress, maybe even more so, than success.
I used to spend this time of the year reflecting on all the ways in which I’ve come up short. I thought about all the creative things I should have done. And all the creative skills that weren’t quite developed enough.
I replayed all the negative words that’d been spoken over me. I’d relived all the negative experiences related to others trying to douse my internal flame. I’d think, If only I were different. If only I were more like what others expect me to be, then maybe…
But no longer.
What I’ve since learned is that while many situations in school and in other environments stifled my creativity, my creative expression only lay dormant – it never fully dissolved.
I spent most of 2016 reintroducing myself to my right brain AND allowing it to freely engage my left brain.
To do this without inhibitions and in spite of current looks, judgments, and snide remarks, was liberating. And I plan to continue on this path in 2017.
Instead of absorbing and reabsorbing all of the negative words and experiences, I chose to focus instead on what my actions are telling me now.
I’ve had to ask myself, “how does my truth compare to the things they’ve said?”
The other morning I thought about some projects I submitted online. The same recordings kept coming to mind: “You should hold off on posting any more until you have something valuable to offer.” And “What you’re putting out there isn’t all that great; it’s not good enough yet.”
In that moment I had an epiphany – I hadn’t received not one negative review for the work I’d posted. All of the reviews I’d received up until this point had all been positive. 100% positive.
“So,” I asked myself, “where is this coming from?”
This epiphany helped me realize that once again, I was simply rehearsing what had been told to me. I’d adopted others’ limiting beliefs about me.
Although I haven’t completely restructured my thoughts from the past, I have come a long way, and I considered that moment to be a win. I’ve already begun working on a new project that I’ll post on that platform soon, and I think it’s my best yet.
Allow Reflections to Lead to Creative Expression
So if you’ve been reflecting on the choices you’ve made this year and are all but pleased with yourself, or you find yourself adopting others’ perspectives of you, I invite you to look for the good.
Think about the small things you’ve done to bring yourself one step closer to your creative goals. Love yourself for that, and then plan.
What are some small ways that you can acknowledge and embrace your creative expression going forward?
Can you take classes? Can you pull out supplies you already have on hand? Can you finish at least one unfinished project before the year comes to an end? Can you simply continue on the path you’re already on and believe in yourself enough to keep going?
What can you to right now. Because that’s what will matter going forward.
The past might have stifled your creativity, but it can’t prevent you from developing your creative gifts going forward.
What are your thoughts on choosing to embrace creativity?
I’m not sure if I clearly expressed my thoughts in this blog post, but I felt the need to share it, so here it is.
And I’m curious to know what you think. Is it hard for you to embrace and/or express your creativity? Was it at one point, but not any longer? If so, what steps did you take to unclog your creative expression?
I wish you the best as we approach the New Year!