"We remember what we repeat. We internalize what we rehearse." - Marie Forleo
Ideas are funny right?
They start as a neutral idea.
With repetition and emotion, they become beliefs.
And as a belief, they shape reality.
When I was a young adult I observed people who could look at pieces of junk and imagine a work of art that the junk could become. And then created it.
It had never occurred to me to do that. So I started wondering if that meant something about me; if since I had never thought of that, maybe I was somehow deficient in the creativity department.
Then I met my husband who was very talented at looking at any amount of stuff and knowing quickly and precisely how that stuff would or wouldn’t fit into a given container. I found that to be very challenging for me. So I decided that I wasn’t spatially gifted.
So I wasn’t spatially creative. And because I wasn’t crafty, I wasn’t visually creative. Therefore, I decided I wasn’t creative. I totally dismissed the fact that creativity lies in so many other realms of activity.
I'm sure I'm not the only person in the American culture who grew up with plenty of cultural messages like, "be quiet, "be small," "don't take up too much space," "memorize facts about what is," "don't expose yourself to criticism," "don't be proud or boastful." All these affirmations piled on top of my personal experience to make me even more sure that I wasn't going to affirm and own my power.
I started affirming the belief that I’m not creative. I practiced this affirmation in conversation. I practiced it in my self-talk. The more I practiced it, the more I made it true about me. I rarely attempted artistic endeavors. Decorating my first home was anxiety-ridden. I also never attempted packing a moving truck.
Then something happened that caused me to challenge this belief.
I was visiting home from out of state. On this visit, my mom presented me with a bag of my schoolwork she had collected over the years.
Included in the bag was a short story I had written in 8th grade. Sitting on my mom’s living room floor, I read through the three-page document and was dumbfounded at what I discovered.
It was really good. I mean really good.
I vaguely remembered writing it, so there was no doubt that I wrote it. I wasn’t the type of kid who would cheat on anything or plagiarize.
So there I was, presented with undeniable evidence that contradicted my belief.
Then I remembered another time that I allowed a limiting belief hold me back from expressing my full potential. My 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Kerr, encouraged me to test for AA English class for 9th grade. I didn’t believe at the time that my composition skills were good enough to be with the smart kids. After all, my dad had always taken the lead on editing/re-writing my English composition. It was him (I thought) that was good at language. Not me. Nevermind the fact that I had picked up a thing or two from the process of having my dad edit my papers. I had never been invited to one of the accelerated classes before. So why would anything change this late in the game?
I declined testing. I didn’t want to reach too high and disappoint anyone. Or even worse, experience failure (therefore proof) that I wasn’t smart enough.
When I showed up for my 1st day of 9th grade and received my class schedule, I discovered that I was in AA English anyway. Mrs. Kerr had apparently pulled some strings.
It turned out I didn’t have any trouble making the grade in AA English. I actually really enjoyed it. In fact, it was my favorite class. I struggled a bit in creative writing, but technical writing was a breeze.
It wasn’t any wonder that I majored in English. I majored in the technical side: linguistics. Creative writing, as far as I was concerned, was outside my wheelhouse.
Fast forward to my mom’s living room floor.
I had a dilemma. Acknowledging evidence that contradicted my belief created in me the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. To relief the discomfort I had two choices: I could deny the evidence or change my belief.
I like to think I have a healthier-than-normal grasp on reality and pursuit of truth above all else is high on my value list, so denying evidence that I can see and touch is beyond what I can accept.
I started to consider that I might be wrong about myself; open my mind to the possibility that I am innately creative.
When I chose to open my mind to a new possibility for myself, evidence to support this new idea showed up in my awareness. Books like Big Magic and The Artist's Way were recommended to me and I read them.
I uprooted the belief that kept me feeling bad and replaced it with a possibility that made me feel powerful, unlimited, and joyful. I'd heard that these kinds of feelings are confirmation of truth. Fearful feelings are a sure sign of illusion.
I asked courage to help me try writing again. It felt good to create again. Just for the sake of creating. Not for praise. Not for appreciation. For the joy in the process. I began to feel more alive than I had in a long time.
I sent my compositions to some trusted friends who I knew wouldn't bullshit me.
The response was overwhelmingly positive!
Most people believe that being honest and truthful to yourself means to own your faults. They think it's the ultimate bravery to admit your shortcomings. And it is brave. But what if you ask someone to own the positive truth about themselves; own their power loudly and proudly without shrinking it?
So here I am believing I'm a writer. I am creative. There is no limit on my ability to come up with creative ideas; to solve my problems, to create beauty, to experience joy and freedom. It feels free, expansive...fucking good.
What beliefs are keeping you feeling small, afraid, victimized, limited? Psst, they aren't true.