by Leslie Zeigler
We often talk on this blog site about naysayers – you know who they are – the people in your life, either from your past or your present, who are are ever-so-skilled in delivering that critical message. The message that has the power to be worse than a bee sting in its lingering sting. It may not matter how confident you are about your creative endeavor – this message feels like just the opposite of an encouraging comment. It can make you doubt your own talents and abilities. The person may even think they are being helpful by saying: “Perhaps you are wasting your time trying to write. You must know you will never win a Pulitzer.”
Another form this naysaying might take can be silence about anything you do that is creative – a complete absence of comment, as if these people had selective amnesia when it comes to your creativity. Sometimes this type of naysayer style can hurt even more than the overtly negative comment.
But what about the naysayer inside of you? Are you aware that you might be your own worst naysayer – the one who has the greatest power to stop you from pursuing your creative dream? It can occur in a very subtle way – a brief occasional internal message that you may barely notice, like “Are you sure you write well enough to keep working on that short story?” Or perhaps you tell yourself you are wasting your money on those workshops you are taking to become a better writer or classes to become a better painter, photographer, actor, etc, etc., etc. Or maybe it is not subtle at all – maybe it a a loud, repetitive, internal voice that says you are really a fraud, you really should just stop whatever passion you are directing towards your creativity and give up and focus your energy on anything else but being creative.
So what can you do? First of all, understand that you cannot easily get rid of this kind of internal message. Just trying to order it to stop it does not usually work. It is rare to meet someone who does not struggle to some degree (the operative words) with self-doubt and harsh self-critical messages.
But there are things you can do. The first step is to become your own detective of your internal naysayer messages. As you do this, begin to raise your awareness that the message is negative and just that – an internal message – not a fact.
In the book The Mindful Way through Anxiety, by Susan M. Orsillo, PhD, Lizabeth Roemer, PhD, the authors say “The human mind is like a movie theater that never closes -always prepared to show films of what we fear.”
This is a beginning step to take in using mindfulness as a way to help cope better with these understandably upsetting messages. In my next blog post I will describe Step 2 in using mindfulness.