“No one can create negativity or stress within you. Only you can do that by virtue of how you process your world.” - Wayne Dyer
Being creative can be a very stressful requirement to have for a job. Sometimes, your ideas come easy, sometimes they don’t. Have you noticed how for every one or two good relatively newly-formed indie bands, there suddenly appears an entire group of musicians making very similar music? This also goes for web design, for example. Surely you’ve seen that some of the most inventive web design structures have been used as inspiration by many other creative professionals.
How is this related to negativity? Well, we know that being negative is the sworn enemy of creativity. So, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume that the large majority of designers out there think little of themselves, limiting their own creative scope and chances to innovate. We will define being negative as some form of insecurity.
For example, if one of your beliefs is that “it’s all been done before” or “there’s nothing new to thought up” design-wise, then you shouldn’t regard yourself as a connoisseur or analyst of the industry’s evolution. What you really are is insecure about your own capacity to generate something of real interest.
Your attitude towards your surroundings (the status of an industry, society as a whole, you name it) is also a reflection of how you see yourself, to some extent.
To make the long story short, where creativity lessens, negativity grows and the other way around. This article will help you improve your perception of yourself; and with it, your performance. The good thing is your only goal here is to take away pressure, relax and accept the setbacks and challenges as part of the design process.
Take responsibility for your negative patterns
.. Because, as crazy as it may sound, they aren’t always based on reality. Many beliefs you carry with you, you’ve formed sometime in the past and they don’t really serve your best interest anymore. They may not even reflect who you are now, but you still find yourself under their automated influence. Maybe you were constantly told what to believe (by either parents or peers) or your intense reaction to some situations formed a mechanism through which you now filter the objective world.
Having your own perception of the world isn’t a bad thing, we all do. When you incline towards negativity though, you’ll engage in some repetitive patterns that are going to end up hurting yourself. And the most important thing is to acknowledge them, even if you can’t control them. Pay attention to yourself and be vigilant. Whenever you specifically engage in putting yourself down – it could be when you’re by yourself or with other people) try writing it down in a notebook. You’ll see just how hard you are on yourself and you’ll start noticing why and how you get to this frame of mind.
This isn’t a small achievement. By taking written notice, you start to distance yourself from your damaging beliefs that you would otherwise let swim all over your subconscious mind and keep you ultimately from being free.
To just name one, a lot of designers struggle with creative block a little more intensely if they don’t know or fail to realize that it happens to the best, that creativity isn’t a finite source per se, but it naturally fluctuates and that they’re not alone. Often times, this struggle means second-guessing themselves and their choices, becoming very judgmental towards themselves and basically working hard to forefront the idea that they’re not any good. Doesn’t that sound like it’s feeding creative block?
Turn the tables on negativity
Once you’re aware of your self-sabotaging habits, you need to try and turn the tables on them. How do you do that? It’s a lot harder than it sounds, because often being negative feels as though you’re being realistic. We’re quick to accept the negative because it protects us from the pain of disappointment.
Limiting beliefs also have a funny way of becoming addictive. People who become ingrained in this way of being have a tendency to think that they’re better than everyone else. Remember that Kurt Vonnegut quote “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” from his book Slaughterhouse-Five? Supposedly, being intelligent means knowing that not everything is beautiful and some things hurt. Or maybe you’re familiar with that old saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Staying positive is so incomprehensible to some, that they’re ready to equate it with ignorance. Well, we’re overstating a bit, for the sake of the argument.
It’s important to play around with these ideas. Say you don’t apply to a certain design job because you don’t think you’re up for it. You feel intimidated by the scope of the project or the company o client that’s putting it forward. You lack experience and you feel it’s out of your reach.
How should you deal with all of this negativity?
- Try creating a character for it. It’s less weird than it sounds. You don’t have to name it or anything (though it could help). Once you do this, there will be two of you with two sets of perception. One of you will find all the reasons why you’ve been found too “lacking” to even try, while the other one – the honest you – will be able to see why it couldn’t hurt to try.
- If you’re only able to articulate the negative reasons, make a list with two columns and start with what you know. Then write next to each a logical, positive alternative. Don’t overdo it. No one is telling you to get drunk on optimism. Just twist your existing negative belief into a positive one.
- Try to understand where each belief comes from. This is what’s done when people go to therapy. Fortunately, you can do that by yourself. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with your freelance designer job because someone important to you at some point expressed a preference over stable jobs, those that make the world go round. It isn’t your own belief, but you reinforce it. Why choose another person’s subjective perception over your own? Don’t.
- Imagine what you did in this or that situation (we started from a job application example) if you didn’t have to carry the burden and limitations with a certain belief. Then, after a little day dreaming, come back to Earth and see how you are the only thing standing between you and those possibilities.
Be patient with yourself
There are no easy solutions. You have to be committed for any of this advice to work. Don’t expect to see breakthroughs in the first few days and give up if there aren’t any. It’s the kind of vicious circle people go through with dieting. So you put your brain on a diet for a little while, but you’re not losing any noticeable weight. Something must be wrong and your efforts are in vain, right? Wrong. You’re telling yourself all these things because old habits don’t die without some sacrifice and you’re just not willing to do it anymore so you find excuses.
Make sure you keep at it, the insight you’re (gently) forcing upon your mind will eventually reach your spirit, no matter what level of disbelief you may feel right now. A new way of seeing things will become a lifestyle. Treat is as such, never confuse it for a temporary solution.
If you’re determined to make a change, you’ll evolve, become a better person and, therefore, a better professional. What do you think of this approach to self-imposed limitations? How have you managed to keep your negative voice silent through different challenging situations? Let us know in the comments section below.