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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Building a sense of self

In coaching creative artists around the world, I’ve come to discover that there are similar issues or situations that constantly comes up in the sessions, no matter what type of artist, level of success, age, or where they live. It centers around these feelings and questions such as:
“I’m not good enough”
“Why am I not getting to a level I want to get to?”
“People tell me I should do this and that, or don’t understand why I’m not on the radio or a success”
“Others judge me”
“I can’t finish because it’s not good enough”
“I’m overwhelmed, I just can’t get it all together”
“I don’t want to make a big goal, in case it doesn’t happen”

All these, and more, can have their own reasons and answers, but it emanates from one key, core aspect: our sense of self.

To be clear, I see “sense of self” as different to self-esteem. It includes self-esteem, and is dependent on self-esteem, but it is more than self-esteem.

What is a sense of self:
I have read in dictionaries and the like that a sense of self pertains to the increasing awareness of self, the world, and interpersonal relationships as we become adults from childhood. Yes, I do understand this definition, but I’d like to postulate that a true sense of self is actually more like how children see themselves. A child, unbeknownst to the big world and all that is (good and bad) have a remarkable sense of self in that they are honest and strong in their beliefs (whether true or not), and generally are inhibited. They listen to themselves and play when they want, and create when they want, and express when they want. I wish adults had more of a child’s qualities, or at least to be able to look at the world with child-like yes: fresh, ambitious, open, and creative. Unfortunately, as we get older, we start to build judgments on ourselves and others, and start comparing ourselves to others, to a point where we can lose our inner identity and trust in our own instincts.

My definitions of “sense of self” are:
·         An innate feeling/sense/trust/knowing of who you are and who you want to become.
·         Finding and speaking your voice.
·         Tuning everybody out. Listening to your own higher purpose. I call it “seek no one else’s approval but your own.”
·         Being secure with who you are.  Meaning, opposite of being insecure. So, you trust who you are, you know who you are (as much as you can as we are discovering ourselves our whole lives); and you believe in
·         Being the master of your destiny, not the victim of circumstance.
·         A “sense of peace”.
·         Tapping into your instincts and trusting them (rather than second guessing).

What blocks a sense of self:
·         Need of other people’s approval – many of us look out, not in, for approval. We listen to others and take in their comments, often judgmental. This causes us to second guess our initial instincts and often creates what I call “commence-aphobia”: the inability to start due to fears of not being good enough or not meeting other people’s expectations.
·         Judgment from others (allowing them to judge you) - Remember, we don’t get judged, we allow ourselves to be judged and we listen to what they say.
·         Self-judgment – “I’m not good enough.”, or “I can do this better”, and any negative words and feelings that your inner critique.
·         A skewed sense of perfection - If you think you can’t begin something, or put out to the world something you’ve been working on, it may be that you have a funny sense of what perfection is. Maybe you want it to be “perfect” but what does that really mean? In a way, by not completing something because it has to be “perfect”, may really be that you think you are “imperfect” and therefore won’t begin/complete/share your work.

How to build a sense of self:

Journaling/writing positively – often a great way to push out the negative thought and conjur up positivity. Take time out on a daily basis to write your thoughts and hash out any concerns. Then create positive affirmations you can live by. Stick those affirmations on your mirror, wall, door, anywhere you can remind yourself about who you really are.

Follow through without judgment – take a step, even the smallest, decide to not only do it, but actually finish it. The art of completion can be tough, but it helps your sense of self as it gives you a great sense of achievement when accomplishing even the smallest of tasks. Why do you think I titled my book, “Just Get Out There”? Because by just getting out there, no matter the outcomes, or even knowing the way, you will achieve and succeed by the very act of doing.

Inner Listening! - Listen to what you like; listen to your instincts (that inner positive voice that tells you what is good versus bad. It’s there all the time for you if you tap into it and push out the inner critique.

Build strong goals, both short term and long term. I’ve spent quite a bit in my book “Just Get Out There” on how to build a solid plan to achieve your goals. It takes time (not just in writing ,but in implementing, so time management is key), as well as feelings of hope and wanting to write a goal. If you don’t have a strong sense of self, it’s hard to even write one goal.

Let’s look at the initial questions and issues again, and match them with a balanced sense of self perspective:

“I’m not good enough” – I question, “what barometer are you comparing yourself to be “good enough”? This ties into my “perfection” analysis above. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just do your best.

“Why am I not getting to a level I want to get to?” – I don’t agree with levels. It shows that you are comparing yourself to someone or something that is beyond your control and a false notion of success. Read my blog (also a chapter in my book “Just Get Out There”) . I wrote, I’m successful already. I define success on my own terms. I don’t believe in “levels”. I see our creative journey as simply that, a wonderful journey, and I don’t feel like I have to climb the steps to any pearly gates in order to be a better artist or be successful. So… in my opinion, there is no level to climb. It’s all one level.

“People tell me I should do this and that, or don’t understand why I’m not on the radio or a success” – Yes, this can certainly stop you in your tracks and make you question your own judgment. Simply put: don’t listen to everybody’s “you shoulda, you coulda” unsolicited comments. Define success on your own terms. Another aspect to this is those who are not in the entertainment industry basically know nothing about it. No, you don’t learn about it by reading glossy/trashy magazines of people on the red carpet. Knowing what it takes to “make it”, so to speak, is a giant black hole. The answer is, “making it” is an illusion. Define success on your own terms, not by others’ standards which are usually ignorant of where you, yes YOU, want to be.

“Others judge me” – again, don’t listen to their judgments. Learn from those you respect, and only listen to chosen few who you admire. Other than that, seek no one else’s approval but you’re on. People will judge. Get used to it. The more you are in the public spotlight, the more people will judge. It’s up to you how you respond, or not. I recommend don’t respond, and don’t listen to the naysayers.

“I can’t finish because it’s not good enough” – This ties into self-esteem, and a false sense of perfection. You can’t finish because finishing it any less than perfect may just rock your boat, and not being able to finish is more about you not feeling good enough. You ARE good enough, for your own definition of success: I say, just put it out there! Besides, who cares if you don’t finish it? Too much is spent on completion. Enjoy the journey of creating! It’s way more fun!

“I’m overwhelmed, I just can’t get it all together” – I spend a LOT of time with my clients talking about time management and learning to prioritize. The sense of being overwhelmed does not mean you have too many things to do, or too many goals to achieve. You can do it ALL, but…. Not necessarily at the same time. So, that means prioritizing what comes first, second, third, and that takes a little time management skill. My book, “Just Get Out There”, has a great chapter on this called “What’s Time Got To Do with It.” A little time management structure and scheduling ideas can remove your feeling of being overwhelmed, and instead, help you with getting your best work done.

“I don’t want to make a big goal, in case it doesn’t happen” – The self-defeating prophecy: I won’t dream incase it will never come true… How do you know it won’t come true? Actually, it won’t come true if you don’t plan it. Ever learn about the Law of Attraction? Big dreams and goals only come to us if we focus on them, so start writing your goals down, and creating a plan of action. I love working with artists on their plan, and together we create step by step tangible strategies to realize them. Without you knowing, all of a sudden, they come true!

Come work with me in one-on-one artist coaching, and see how you can align with your sense of self to make your dreams come true:

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