Self-Doubt: The Killer of Creativity

Self-doubt kills creativity. It is the red-handed murderer of every project I've never started.  Mere thoughts stand in the way of the very things I desire most. I am constantly telling myself that I am not capable, that I am not good enough, and that I am not worthy. These thoughts have become so natural and automatic that they don't even seem to phase me. The worst part is that they continue to exist without question and have thus become my personal glass ceiling. These reoccurring thoughts have gotten into the habit of popping up uninvited and staying without a second thought. This on going struggle between wanting to create and telling myself that I can’t sometimes leaves me in a place of purgatory, not sure which part of myself to believe.  In the end, self-doubt is just an excuse to remain creatively, personally, and emotionally stagnant.

Self-doubt kills creativity because it prevents you from starting in the first place. Simple as that. When your mind is only bombarded with reasons why you can’t do something, you naturally just tend to believe it. Self-doubt may just be a defense mechanism; a way that the ego prevents possible future hurt and failure by preventing you from doing something in the first place. Putting yourself out there and exposing the deepest parts of your being through your work means that you are vulnerable. And, according to the ego, vulnerability is something to be avoided at all costs. So it makes sense that the ego wants to protect you, but that doesn't mean the lies it feeds you contain any truth. The ego may help to prevent inevitable rejection and disappoint, but it is doing more harm than good because in the end it is only preventing you from expression yourself and bringing something beautiful into existence.

If considered a defense mechanism, that means self-doubt (or similar line of thought) may always exist, and that is fine. This ongoing and uninspiring dialog in our heads only becomes debilitating when we believe it. But how can we not? It is so easy to believe the thoughts that constantly flood our minds especially when those are the thoughts we choose to focus our attention on. It is so easy to give in, to silently confess that we are right and then to simply just step aside and not even try. Whatever creativity we think we have or are capable of is so softy and quietly killed by the belief that we can’t. By the belief that there is no point in even trying because we are only destined to fail. Our motivation to even begin becomes crippled, but maybe we are better off that way because it means less embarrassment and far less effort. Ultimately it means less hurt. By giving into our fears, we are choosing the easy way out. We are choosing to believe the lies we tell ourselves with hopes that it will prevent pain in the long run. This is ultimately only hurting ourselves. We are choosing to live a life far below our true potential and far from the life that we envisioned for ourselves.

But the thing is, no matter how capable, how intuitive, and how innovative you are, these internal demons exist without discrimination. They do not reflect the individual or a person’s capabilities; they represent the human psyche as a whole. But past the realm of self-doubt, the ego, and its defenses lies the desire to create. And that desire to create will constantly in the back of your mind driving you crazy with its steady nagging unless you do something about it. Self-doubt can quiet that need to act, but it cannot rid of it completely. This is because that desire comes from a place of curiosity and expression which is the true self, not of a place of fear and criticism which is the ego. If you have the desire to create something, it will not go away until it has been fully expressed. The choice becomes listening to your inner critic and staying still or venturing out into the unknown which is the birthplace of creativity change.

The triumph comes when we recognize that self-doubt will exist but we choose to proceed without giving into its fears and concerns. It comes down to believing that you are worthy of creating the very things your soul calls on you to create. Your art is not a manifestation of the soul, it is the soul. Your art, your soul, and your being have a place in this existence and you have the right as much as anyone else to occupy this endless creative space. Accepting that self-doubt exists is key, but you must also accept that it can kill your creativity ONLY if you let it. These creatively crippling thoughts are going to exist, the choice we must make is how we are going to live with them. We must live with the fact that we will experience times when we are our own worst enemy and unfortunately it may happen more often than not. So let self-doubt exist, but become detached from it. Sit with it, but do not entertain its lies. Don’t believe everything you think.

Want to go further down the rabbit hole? Listen to Episode 19: Self Doubt 101.  In this episode, I explore the concept of self doubt and why it can be harder to face than anything outside of us. Self-doubt is defined the lack of confidence in one own’s motives, abilities, and even thoughts. But what exactly do those doubt show up as and how do they prevent us from moving forward? I am attempting to look my self doubts in the face in order to eventually move past them.