Editor’s note: This article is the second in an A-Z series on issues related to creative blocks. This month the topic is beliefs.
How do our beliefs hold us back from creating?
Our beliefs are intertwined with our thinking, our emotions, and our actions. Rational emotive behavioral therapists (REBT) developed a treatment methodology based on the important role our beliefs play in the way we think, feel, and behave. The conclusions we draw about the world around us and the meaning we assign to everyday events can have a powerful effect on our choices and our behaviors.
When it comes to creative work, beliefs have a powerful impact on one’s motivation, creative process and final outcome. Beliefs are the silent statements we accept to be valid. In accepting them, we are slowly building the internal and environmental conditions we face when creating, producing, promoting, and so on. Beliefs can be divided into the following larger categories: beliefs about ourselves, beliefs about our creative work, and beliefs about the world around us.
Beliefs about Oneself
We all develop “inner truths” about ourselves as individuals and consequently as creative individuals. These beliefs may be rooted in early experiences, messages we received growing up, feedback we encounter, etc. Consider the following assertions:
- “I’m not talented enough.”
- “I’m always supposed to have great ideas.”
- “What I have to say is not important.”
- “I’m too sad to create.”
- “I am only good at this type of music/dancing/art.”
At times, creative individuals experience a disconnect between their desire to create and the action of doing so. This can result from thinking patterns about their artistic identity which can, contrary to their intentions, sabotage their confidence and motivation.
Beliefs about One’s Creative Work
Whether they are new at a craft or have had ample time to build a portfolio and an “artistic style,” creators may have developed an inner narrative about what it is they do and what their work represents. This may sound something like:
- “This is not innovative enough.”
- “I’m not sure about what the creative process should be like.”
- “My work needs to be pleasing.”
- “I am not trained in ___; therefore, I shouldn’t try it.”
- “It is pointless; whether I create or not makes no difference.”
It is not uncommon for artists/creative individuals to develop a belief system about their work, without questioning whether or not it is true or helpful. It’s important to take a step back and remove ourselves from the creative work itself. By doing so, we can identify what built-in beliefs we have created about what the outcome is “supposed” to be.
Beliefs about the World around Me
Depending on one’s background, culture, access to resources, environmental conditions, etc., the creative individual will develop a set of beliefs about the outside world. These beliefs can trigger creativity and motivation (think of an artist making a sociopolitical statement, or an inventor addressing the needs she faced growing up). At the same time, such beliefs often impose limitations. Here are some examples:
- “It’s not safe for me to show my emotions through my creative work.”
- “Nobody will care about my work.”
- “My work is provocative — the world is not ready for it.”
- “There is no market for what I am doing.”
- “My work is not provocative enough — the world needs to be challenged.”
When artists find themselves holding damaging and counterproductive assumptions about their external environment, it is important that they both identify what those are and what sustains them, and develop new, healthier beliefs.
Due to the quick, automatic nature of such beliefs, it is not always easy to have a grip of the inner statements we hold to be true. Do not get discouraged if nothing comes up when you first begin to identify them. It takes time and exploration, often through the help of a counselor or a therapist specializing in these topics.
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Olga Gonithellis, MA, MEd, LMHC, therapist in New York City, New York
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