How to Manage Creative Self-Doubt

Creativity pastelsTo create – anything – requires courage. It demands that we make something new, reshape an idea into something that moments before didn’t exist. And anytime we step out of our comfort we get a little bit nervous. It feels vulnerable and often the voices of self-doubt chime in.

“Everyone struggles with self-doubt. It doesn’t matter if we’ve received great recognition or accolades,” says Margarita Tartakovsky, an associate editor at and the blogger behind Make a Mess: Everyday Creativity.

But, despite the doubts and fears, we are driven to create. It’s fundamental to who we are.

Whether you paint or write books or parent or strategize sales programs or travel or cook – just about everything we do relies on creative thinking. Creativity is not limited to producing art. We express it in every aspect of life.

“Creativity helps us connect to ourselves,” Tartakovsky says. “It helps us listen to ourselves and it tells us that our voice is important. Through creating, we say What we think and feel matters. It’s another way to play. It’s enjoyable and fun and interesting. It helps us process our emotions.”

And it’s worth making peace with our feelings of self-doubt to do it.

How to Manage Self-Doubt

Remember everyone has it. Well-known and successful artists, writers, chefs, actors have all gone on record about their feelings of self-doubt. At one time or another, while in the creative process, you’ll probably feel like a failure. Like you can’t do it. Like you are not good enough and everyone else is. Okay. So, notice those thoughts and then remember that even those we deem as Masters, like Steinbeck and Picasso, felt exactly the same thing.

Remembering that everyone has got that critic rumbling through their head, makes me feel better. If they can do it so can I.

Forget  the critics. The worry over what other will think of our creations can keep us from creating at all, Tartakovsky says. So allow yourself to create imperfectly. Don’t worry about what others will think – you don’t even have to show them if you don’t want. Know going in that some of the work is going to suck. You will get outcomes that aren’t so good – keep going, it’s all part of the process. And when you are creating something – anything – the process, will guide you through.

Perhaps that’s the most important thing of all, says Tartakovsky — to keep at it. Creating every day is the surest way to beat self-doubt in submission. You’ll still hear the inner critic, but they become more friendly when you notice, acknowledge, and keep at the work anyhow.

Set aside five or 10 minutes a day and start creating – anything, Tartakovsky says. Do something that you used to enjoy as a child, take on a new project, journal, or dance or do anything that brings you joy. Do it every day.

Making time for creative expression every day (preferably at the same time and place) helps make it a priority and a habit. It primes our bodies and our brains to get down to work to expand and grow. To engage in our world in a new way. And when that happens, for a time, the voices of self-doubt are silenced.


How to Fully Experience the Moments in Life

A gift for youLife is a series of situations.

Moments we get to experience.

And each of them are a gift.

Some of those gifts like,  a first kiss, the first sip of rich, morning coffee, a stunning sunset, holding our babies for the first time, getting the job, the house, the car that we’ve always dreamed of — are fun. Really fun. And we feel good and think life is great and nothing can be better than this. And aren’t we awesome?

Others like the death of a loved one, divorce, illness, job loss, a sick pet, financial stress, don’t feel so good. They throb and hurt. They are scary. So we judge them as bad.

Yet, even those times are a gift. Each experience contains the things we need to be who we are and to live close to our potential. We may not know what those are yet, we might even resist some, but they are there to serve us if we can just let them be and participate.

Fully Experience the Moment

We have become so comfortable with judging ourselves and others that we forget that we don’t have to. We can simply show up, become aware, and fully experience the moment as it is.

When we judge our experiences as good or bad, easy or hard we are limiting ourselves to only one possibility. One way of looking at things.  Either bad, or good. That’s like deciding to paint your house dirt brown without ever looking at the deep shade of cocoa or the other colors in the palette. When we judge, we miss e miss out on the texture of life. The color.

Judgment makes those so-called hard times even harder.

Yet, each day we get myriad experiences – if we’re lucky. And every experience holds multiple layers of thoughts and emotions and actions and possibilities.

When we allow ourselves to fully experience those vast moments, without defining them, we can appreciate their complexity and their value and move through them. This intensifies the awe we experience when something touches our heart. But, it also allows us move through the things that hurt rather than becoming stuck in them.

My friend’s husband died today after a long illness. She is sad. Her grief is deep. And she is a little afraid. She is in a new journey now, one where she will have many moments without him.

Yet even in her grief she isn’t talking in terms of bad or good. It’s deeper than that. Because despite the pain, there is also peace, and love, and some laughter, even.

This is an intricate life we lead. Layered. To judge it as right or wrong, good or bad, is to diminish it.

Instead, allow yourself to fully experience the moment as it shows up and you’ll find the gift within it.

Patience Helps Us Find Peace in What Is

Last week I felt edgy. I was waiting for feedback from a client so that I could finish her work, waiting for a package to arrive, a callback from a landscaper. Then, Saturday, when we were all packed up and ready to go to Sweet P’s soccer game, I found myself sitting in the car, waiting for my husband to fill his water bottle. All the waiting sent me over the edge. I mean he had all morning to get ready so why did he need to fill the water bottle right then when we were all waiting to go, right?

Clearly, patience – tolerance for the circumstances of life — is something I need to work on. It’s definitely something I want to improve because every time I’m feeling edgy and filled with impatience, I’m giving my power away and moving into a place of separation and irritation. When I’m impatient and intolerant, I’m allowing external circumstances to dictate my mood. That changes how I behave and engage in life and not usually for the better.

When we act impatiently or feel impatient, we are not tolerant of plan changes, or waiting periods, or the actions of others and we feel irritated, anxious, restless, uptight.

Yet, with the power of patience and an ability to tolerate, we are able to roll with things easier. We are flexible, open, resilient. We don’t worry about what is or isn’t happening because we are okay with whatever happens. We are able to maintain our inner state of peace and positivity no matter what is happening beyond us. There is confidence in this. Most importantly, patience allows us to accept life as it shows up, to appreciate others and their differences, to find the gifts within every circumstance.

At the America Meditating Retreat I attended last month, the spiritual teachers there include Tolerance, defined by patience and flexibility, as one of the Eight Spiritual Powers.

I get that. When I slow down to become present, to fully connect with what is, there is no place for the irritation or frustration that waiting brings. When you are patient, you are not waiting, you are present with whatever is there.

Acceptance of the Moment

Impatience does not make things happen any faster or easier. It simply means we are stewing over things that haven’t happened and may never happen. This is resistance and when we are resisting what is we are blind to the possibilities contained in the moment.

Patience, tolerance for the speed of life, allows us to become present to all that is. There is power in that, but even more importantly, there is peace. Wednesday, I’ll share with you some of the strategies I’m using to connect to this superpower of patience.

How to Live Happier in 2014

Happy New Year 2014I learned a lot in 2013. Had a lot of fun and plenty of moments I don’t want to repeat. Challenge. Discomfort. Stress. It was there. So was the Joy. Passion. Wonder. Awe. Gratitude.

Life is all of it – often within the same moment. When we are in the thick of the struggle we often wish it away. Yet those are the moments that also allow us to see the light. To experience the joy. To love more deeply. It’s the contrast that makes a difference.

My friend, a former monk, once told me that challenges are just those things we are less skilled in dealing with. The things we haven’t encountered before so we don’t know how to handle them. That causes us to feel uncomfortable. We aren’t sure of ourselves, don’t know what to do. But we muddle through and learn and get better at it. In the working through of these things we become stronger, more experienced, better and that makes it easier the next time we face a setback.

I hung on to that thought this year when I felt afraid or uncertainty snuck in.

I also went looking for the goodnesses, as my daughter calls them. The joy, love and appreciation that showed itself daily.

You have to do that. To live your best life you have to be willing to engage, to live with whatever shows up, to find gratitude in every moment. I was reminded again and again of the power of those practices this year. I’ve made a habit of them.

Three Things that will help You Feel Better in 2014

I’ve been asked many times, this year, what we can do to feel more connected, less stressed, happier in our lives. I’ve been asked what we can do to make a positive difference. There are a lot of things. Gratitude is certainly one of them.

Here are three other difference-makers.

1. Live with compassion for yourself and others. This is not conditional. Nobody has to earn it. You are simply connecting with another through empathy and understanding. You don’t have to judge or criticize, nor is compassion an endorsement or support of another’s behavior. It is simply letting the moment be filled with kindness for another. The great thing about compassion is the one offering it feels just as good as the one receiving it. Want to be happier? Live with compassion for self and others.

2. Allow the moment to be as it is. This is a tricky thing. I like to manage, predict, plan. Manage some more. But, my practice is now accepting what is and letting go. I’m learning to allow and let the moment be. Instead of worrying about getting it all done, I’m focused on what it is I am doing. This keeps me from getting wrapped in what-ifs and wishful thinking. It also takes the drama out. And surprisingly, I’m more productive. Because, I’m more focused on what I’m doing, rather than multi-tasking, I’m also making fewer mistakes.  When you are living with what is happening there is no time or need to worry about what might happen. The present is all we have and by allowing and letting it be, you get to live with it fully.

3. Look for the meaning. Every opportunity allows us a shot at growth and gratitude. There is something to learn from every experience. When I’m rocking through a difficult time, I go looking for the meaning in the moment. I trust that there is one. And this process alone, takes my attention from what isn’t working, to what is. It reminds me that we hold a higher purpose here.

Nothing is wasted. Even our greatest struggles our deepest pain can serve us and help us to live our potential. I don’t always know what the meaning is in the moment. Sometimes it takes awhile to see, but I always know there is one. This doesn’t mean I feel happier or more sane when facing adversity. Plenty of times I’m freaked out and scared. But, I’ll tell you what, understanding that there is a deeper purpose to my experience helps me trust that I will learn what I need to know to transcend the trouble. I like that.


Image from Free Digital Photos

Can You Give Up the Quest for a Happy Holiday?

Thanksgiving and pumpkin pieShould you invite his mom and dad, even though haven’t spoken since the divorce?

Which mashed potato recipe should you follow?

Paper plates or the good china? You want the ease of paper plates but your mom did give you the china…

What if Aunt Edna drinks too much, the turkey is too dry, or the cable goes out during the football game?

What if the holiday isn’t perfect?

Seriously, let’s all just get over it. If you invite actual people to your holiday dinner, you can also anticipate a bit of uncertainty, chaos even. But, we certainly don’t need to add more stress or drama by serving up a helping of unrealistic expectations.

Really want to make the holidays happier? Then, set the tables how you want, serve the meal when you choose, and invite whoever you feel like  then Let. It. Be.

Stop Micro-Managing and Let it Be

Let be what will be. Let go all the judgments, expectations, and attitude. Lead with acceptance and compassion for yourself and others. Do this and the holiday will be interesting, authentic, and dare I say it, enjoyable, instead of a series contrived moments filled with disappointment when people don’t measure up to your expectations, or they diss your sweet potatoes.

Many of us attempt to create a great holiday by micro-managing details and people and place settings (yes, my husband has been the victim of this strategy). We try to control every outcome so that nobody feels left out or stressed out. We strive for really good, perfect even — instead of good enough, authentic and fun. And by doing all this we create a set of arbitrary rules and behaviors and expectations that we ourselves and our guests must live up to.

The Danger of Secret Expectations

Often, we even keep these expectations a secret – I mean people should just know that you always pass food to the left, right? And how dare you take a bite before I sit down. And seriously, do we really need to go into a discussion about how you feel about your ex, now?

While we are imposing our secret little judgments, we talk about the importance of coming together as family and friends to share time and food and gratitude. We talk about love. And we believe, deeply and sincerely, that family is the most important thing. Just as long as that  family behaves, fosters pleasant mealtime conversation, chews with its mouth closed and doesn’t offer up any “liberal” views that will get the father-in-law going. At this meal, we are all going to be smiley, happy and grateful. And everyone, yes everyone is going to eat the Brussels sprouts without fuss. Dammit.

Sound fun? Of course not. Instead of enjoying the afternoon, we are vigilant, constricted, making sure the husband doesn’t say anything off color, checking off the Rules of Thanksgiving Comportment in our head, evaluating whether the expectations we’ve set for ourselves and others are being met.

Stop Trying for a Happy Holiday

This year, stop trying to make the holidays happy, stop trying to make the perfect meal, stop trying to make others get along – heck, the only thing you should be making is your favorite recipes (and that’s only if you want to) and be curious about whatever does show up. Be engaged, alive, grateful, open.

This year, let’s create a gathering that is interesting, meaningful. Let’s strive to stay aware and open; accepting and compassionate to whatever occurs. The result of all of this is you might actually have a good time no matter what happens.

Start by releasing all outcomes and expectations. Drop the rules. Let people be who they are. Let things unfold as they will and be open and present. Of course some crazy will come out. Don’t judge it, just notice, respond consciously and deliberately with compassion instead of reacting emotionally with anger or disappointment. The subtle shift will take the stress out of the day leaving you and your guests feeling better.

Wednesday, I’ll offer up some other tips to help you actually enjoy the holidays no matter how they turn out.


Photo by Stock.xchng