As I’ve mentioned before, I firmly believe that creative people are more sensitive than the mainstream. I also believe we are more open and honest by nature, because we have less need to put on a façade or adopt a persona. This isn’t to say we are elevated in any way through being sensitive, more that it is a simple fact that we happen to be sensitive. Sensitivity helps with the work we do, and it may even drive the work we do. We notice things about others, we pick up on the feelings of others, we tend to have a higher level of empathy, we may love nature, and may well feel our own emotions more deeply, whether they be highs or lows.
As American novelist, Pearl Buck, says:
The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
So this is powerful stuff going on inside us. I also think we may well question more about life with a good deal of inner reflection and use these traits and tendencies in our creativity. Most of the time this works quite well, but by being creative people we are often in a position in expressing ourselves where we have to be a bit of a maverick and follow our heart in who we are and what we do. You could say we have to beat our own drum. So if we were in a big band of drummers, where everyone is expected to beat in time, we may find ourselves rebelling, wanting to detach ourselves, to walk away and beat that drum to our very own tune, leaving the remainder of the band thinking just who do we think we are? And this is where the paradoxical difficulty lies, because we are going against the tide of conventional thinking and the socio-cultural expectations of behaviour and opinion. We may have to rebel, stand out as being different, stand up for what we believe in, walk out of the hall if we don’t like being part of a particular crowd who are representing values we don’t accept.
But this standing out sets us up for criticism, and at first we may think we can take that, and if you are anything like me you do try, but inevitably our sensitivity probably kicks in and we suddenly find ourselves struggling with what people think of us – both in our personal life and our work – and for us, these are intertwined threads of the same life canvas. And of course when we put our work out there, we hit this anomaly again – we need creative validation for the work we usually put our heart and soul into, but we are sensitive to negative criticism while dismissing the positive. Sound familiar?
In his book, Blessed Are the Weird: A Manifesto for Creatives, Jacob Nordby, quotes Bertrand Russell (British philosopher and writer) on the topic of creative people by nature challenging the status quo:
‘Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.’
Nordby adds that ‘those of us who feel a great need to live out some truth that leads us off the beaten path need to remember that we trigger the fear of being wrong in others as we do this. It is a flip side of the coin from our fears of being persecuted for contradicting the wisdom of the herd. Now we can see another ancient fear in play – being wrong.’
So when people don’t want to be wrong and we are somehow challenging that, they fight back with some form or other of criticism or judgement. Someone called me naïve the other day, when I was giving the benefit of the doubt to a social care situation I was describing, to do with my volunteering. This isn’t the first time I’ve being called this, and I guess I am somewhat of an idealist, but this time I asked myself how I would feel if I called someone naïve? Well, I would feel arrogant, narrow minded, and cynically hardened by life. But being accused of this still upset me because I invested too much in what this person believed about what I was describing. This undermining can happen in quite subtle ways and we may not realise it’s going on until we have time to reflect afterwards. We have cared too much what someone thought, and by doing so have given our personal power away to them. It has taken me a long time to work out what is happening here and therefore the need to beat our own drum, whilst being sensitive to what people think of us is a bit of a struggle. We can’t go around wearing a suit of armour…
…and we can’t go around wearing our hearts on our sleeves (see previous post) letting anyone take a pop at us because we have an open, caring and sharing nature and we assume that other people realise everyone has a right to their own opinion and their own responses. In other words, that we are all individuals.
Here is an article by Taoist teacher, Casey Kochmer, on personal power. The relevance is that we need to cultivate our own personal power to protect ourselves as sensitive creatives because we may find ourselves having to go against the flow to preserve our own integrity or our work. We have to be able to stand up for ourselves and our creativity, despite cultural norms wanting to suppress us through the need for the conventional norms to be right, and not wrong. We must learn not to pre-judge ourselves and by doing so invite others to ‘have a go’. We have to learn to navigate our way, always bearing in mind that society thinks it should have the last word on how we present ourselves as social beings. It can try to make us feel guilty, it can try to undermine our resolve, it can try to change our mind and relish our confusion, and peer pressure is the way it can go about it.
And to stay true to ourselves, we may frequently need to resist peer pressure – an insidious thing. I’ve often thought it’s one thing retreating to a Buddhist monastery and adopting their doctrines to find some inner peace and acceptance, but try putting these beliefs into practice in the outside world. Very tough going indeed when surrounded instead by the capitalist consumerism way of life in the west. So we have to learn to protect ourselves by practicing not sharing everything about ourselves, by holding back on what we know our triggers are. We can practice keeping our personal truths separate, or only share one personal truth at a time so we don’t get ‘attacked’ from too many directions. We can wear a little armour around our hearts, tucked away on the inside, as a form of self-care. We can anticipate the reactions of people to what we are about to share, and decide whether it’s worth it to share or not. We can stay true to ourselves by keeping our own counsel. We can seek out our fellow creatives, or people who are sensitive and share ourselves with them – this is where valuable friendships can come into play. We can know our own subjects in depth so we can’t be undermined by ‘experts’ making us feel inferior or undercutting our opinions or knowledge. We have to be savvy, we have to be smart. We have to retain our personal power.
Here are a few quotes to help with all this:
Care about people’s disapproval and you will be their prisoner (Lao Tzu)
You have enemies? Good. That means you have stood up for something, sometime in your life (Winston Churchill)
When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself as someone who needs to judge (Wayne Dyer)
When you practice personal power and let go of the compulsion to control, or to care too much what others think you, you come to a place of enhanced personal freedom that makes your efforts all worthwhile – and it is worth the effort. You can be like a lion, soft and cuddly on the outside, but if provoked you can roar and fight for what you believe in. And ultimately the only person’s approval of you that you need, should be your own.
Is all this easy? By no means. But it can be a conscious ‘work in progress’, as it obviously is for me. And I know from many of you out there, that it is for you too. But as you keep probably hearing, this is the road we must travel. So please enjoy your journey.
Cheers for now!
(pics courtesy of Pixabay)