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Talk to me about creativity and I’ll tell you comparison kills creativity. Ask me about happiness and I’ll tell you the path to true happiness is self-awareness, self-love and ditching that mean little voice in your head.
Sounds easy, right?
Sure it does. But what sounds easy rarely is easy. It’s more difficult than we think. Why? Well, we get comfortable and we let that mean little voice in our head run away with everything but the fine linens. If that little voice could talk us out of being a participant in life, it would. It would keep us huddled in a corner like a frightened recluse.
That’s why we need to be mindful of creativity and happiness killers that can hold us back from our greatness in both life and our creative work.
6 Mental Habits That Kill Creativity and Happiness
There have been periods in my life where I have been crippled by fear. So much so that anxiety intervenes and I’m about as useful as an apple in an orange parade. My ability to take risks dwindles and my courage is, well, wilted.
To counter this creativity and happiness killer, I put myself out of my comfort zone and do my best to make peace with my fears. I embrace open-mindedness.
When faced with a difficult decision or full on fear, I ask myself one simple question:
Will I regret not doing this?
99% of the time, the answer is yes, I will regret not taking a risk, or embracing an opportunity, or going on an adventure.
This one simple question has led to exponential personal growth for me. I’ve conquered fears, grown in my creative work, been on solo adventures around the world, and expanded my mind beyond consumerism.
The Comparison Trap
The comparison game is nothing new. It’s been around for ages. When I grew up, there was no social media, but the comparing was still there. There was always someone who could run faster, had nicer clothes, took regular vacations, was allowed to wear makeup and always had the latest and greatest.
These days, it’s a hell of a lot easier to get caught in the comparison trap. Simply pick up your phone and launch into a social media spiral and you’ll be feeling like a wilted violet by the time you’re done. For creatives in particular, this can be devastating to your work and a happiness stealer.
Comparison steals your creativity by allowing you to believe you are no longer unique. That you have nothing valuable to contribute.
As a blogger and photographer, I fall into this trap regularly. You develop a mindset of “it’s all been done, why bother?” This mindset could be further from the truth. You have not lived the same life. You have not experienced the same things. Heck, you are not the same person you were yesterday.
The key to avoid comparing is to approach other creatives’ work as a jumping off point — something to inspire you. The idea is to be inspired by others not deflated. Remaining confident about your own abilities and not giving up will put you on the path to success and happiness.
“Never dull your shine for somebody else.” ― Tyra Banks
Comparison steals your happiness by making you believe you’ll never achieve success.
Ever heard of the phrase “don’t compare your middle to someone else’s ending?” I’m sure you’re aware of it. But for most of us, instead of making that realization, we jump to conclusions and believe we’ll never make anything of our lives — we forget that everyone has a humble beginning. Aimee Song of the popular fashion blog Song of Style and author of Capture Your Style, understands this well — looking back on her journey, her very first OOTD photo was hideous. Something she “would never consider posting” online today, but she did anyway.
And that’s the thing — you have to just start.
You won’t be that perfect photographer right away, it takes time. Nor will you be an amazing fashion blogger if you don’t stop comparing and simply put your work out there.
If you’re still working on your minimalism journey, remember that it takes time to change years of bad habits, declutter and rid yourself of excess. Embrace each small step you make and realize that each one is a small win.
When I’m feeling the comparison trap, I read one of my popular blog posts that has connected with readers, head to my photography portfolio, or remind myself of all the great things I’ve done, places I’ve seen, and adventures I’ve experienced. It’s a quick way to restore belief in yourself and a happiness boost.
Quick exercise for when you’re comparing — step away from social media and take 10 minutes to write out 5 accomplishments you’re proud of and 5 adventures you’ve been on that inspire courage and creativity. Smiling yet?
Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Gal
Are you a shoulda, woulda, coulda gal? Do you regularly relive your past? When you lock your mind into badgering yourself about what you could have done better and thinking about your past constantly, you’ll never move forward. Life will stagnate.
Sitting around in a mire of ‘I should have done this’ or ‘could have done that’ or ‘would have done this differently’ will get you nowhere. Well, except for blasting your self-confidence to smithereens.
The past is the past for a reason — learn from it, don’t repeat it and move on.
Stop kicking yourself for not following X minimalism rule over Y minimalism rule. It’s your stuff, it’s your life, declutter it however the heck you want to.
Live each day by embracing change. Have the courage to not wither and hide from life because of your past. When you let go of the past, you free yourself to live fully in the present.
Focusing On What You Don’t Want
When I think of this, I immediately think of affirmations and manifesting what you do want into your life. We have thousands of thoughts per day and up to 80% of them are negative. What you tell your subconscious repeatedly is what comes to fruition. You think your reality. When you focus on what you don’t want, you get exactly that — more of it. Which in turn, makes you unhappy and sidetracks your creativity.
To retrain your brain, stop telling yourself what you don’t want and instead focus on what you do want. Affirmations beginning with ‘I am’ or ‘I want’ work wonders for focusing your mind (and the universe) on what you do want from life.
Caring What Others Think
I’ve found that as an emotional, creative type INFJ, this is a hard one to get past. I’m all about people. I care about the world and about humanity and the negative ways we can treat each other. If I could have everyone loving each other I would – I’m still working on it.
But there is a difference between caring what others think and letting it rule your life.
Taking everything someone says to heart is destructive. Trolls, haters, nasty commenters, bad reviews, and art haters are everywhere. Letting them get to you is your choice. When you let them get to you, you’re handing them your happiness and letting them run your life.
Discouragement from others happens. Even though you may be open minded, others may not be. On your minimalism journey, others will not understand why you’re doing it. They’ll find ways to get you to conform and stop rocking the boat.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”— Albert Einstein
The best thing? Ignore them. This is your life. Your happiness. Live by your values.
When you live by your values and ignore the crap others spew, you’ll lead a much happier life.
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”—Lao Tzu
Yes, this is a thing. We can and do sabotage our own best efforts. We get in our own way. We all know one form of self-sabotage or another — comfort eating, procrastination, self-medication with alcohol — and may have even been plagued by one or the other.
Every day we program our brains for bad behaviour. How? Saying things like, “I’m not pretty,” or “Sweets are my downfall,” or “I suck at blogging”.
You’re programming your brain to believe you’re inadequate, that you have no willpower, or that you’re a fraud and can’t learn. It goes back to focusing on the wrong thing. When you focus on NOT doing something, like not being stressed, or not messing up a writing piece, all your brain hears is I want more stress, I’m inadequate, please give me more of that.
In this case, a simple change in the language you use can be a game changer. Start by creating new thoughts that will lead to the creation of new healthy habits. Again, we can go back to affirmations – I am healthy or I want to be healthy. I am a photographer or I want to be a great photographer.
These thoughts and affirmations provide motivation for your brain to create new habits and behaviours.
So drop the self-deprecating language, love yourself more and know that you are worthy.
When we step out of our own way, our creativity can shine and we lead happier lives. Being aware of these mental habits will allow you to be more self-aware and make changes to keep them from running your life.
Is there a bad mental habit you’d like to break? Do you have tips for breaking bad mental habits?
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