Are you your worst naysayer? A Mindfulness mindset can help.

June 18, 2012

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.

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Post-Gig Depression

April 11, 2010

After the Finishing Stroke

Posted by Deborah Atherton

When we are completely absorbed in a creative project, we experience some of the deepest engagement, and through it, happiness, that human beings ever manage to find.  And then, suddenly, it’s over.  The show opens.  We finish editing the film. We place the last delicate stroke on the mural. We end the song on the final, perfect note. Or, as in my case last week, we add the last chapter to a novel we’ve been working on for a few years.  Most likely, we experience one glorious moment of accomplishment and completion. And then?

And then, very likely, we plunge into a very, very dark moment.  We become convinced that we will never have another idea, that our old ideas are all rotten, anyway, and, quite possibly, that critics everywhere, as well as everyone we know, will despise our completed work, if, in fact anyone ever sees or hears it.  I like to call this post-gig depression (and no, you will not find it in the DSM.)  Virginia Woolf suffered terribly in these moments – completing her books sometimes drove her to the verge of suicide.  Most of us experience it in a milder form. But oh, we do experience it.

Perhaps somewhere out there is the artist who completes his or her work with total confidence, and with the assurance that all who ultimately experience it will love it.  I myself do not know such an artist, but surely, among the many on this planet, a few live their lives out this way.  But most of us run into a period of questioning and anxiety after the initial excitement of completion.  (And this is even before all the other people with an opinion weigh in.)

I can’t give you a magical elixir that will help you through this (although some swear by Jack Daniels) but I can assure you that this, too, shall pass.  Some artists we interviewed have told us that they get through it by jumping right into the next project, and not giving themselves time or space to question (and some artists, of course, labor under constant deadlines, so don’t always have the luxury of time under a dark cloud.)  Some require a mourning period.  I myself turned to some very good friends and coaches, who spoke to me about the inner critic and the shadow self, and the necessity of acknowledging the doubting dark side of the creative impulse.  (And I’ll try to talk more about this later on, as I learn  more myself!)

I think what we face, at the moment we finish, is the resistance that has been dogging us all along, surging for one final push to retain the status quo.  And as artists, we have a responsibility to work through it and keep on.  And to remember that, not too far in the future, we’ll be having that lovely, “Is it 3 AM already? I didn’t notice”  feeling again, which is, let me remind you and myself, one of the best feelings in the world.


How to quiet the inner voice of fear

August 24, 2009

Posted by Leslie Zeigler

Becoming creative is not always easy.  It is rare to find someone who does not have an inner critic waiting to pounce.

Or a deeply held negative belief  saying you just are not going to make it – so why be a fool and try? It is precisely this kind of a belief  that has dramatically held back my sister Gail.   She has been thinking for a long time about writing a particular children’s book.  The operative word is THINKING.  With a little support from friends, coaches, and/or family members, you,  too,  can move off of the fence and start moving forward.   Gail has been able to go from THINKING  to actually registering to participate in a children’s writer conference   being held in November 2009 at the 92ndStreet Y.   In spite of her considerable fear and anxiety,  she has not only sent in her registration form but has also written and sent in one page of a children’s book idea that she has been wanting to write for a very long time.

In my experience, people often harbor the myth that they have to completely get rid of the fearful inner message before they can take any creative risks.   However, that is not really necessary or realistic.  The first step is to become aware of the negative message and just accept that, for the time being, it is there. The challenge is to move forward by taking very small steps in spite of the fear.