Put an end to the fear of your own creativity! You—yes YOU—are an inherently creative creature. But because the human brain is wired for negative bias, that’s pretty easy to forget.
So how do you kill your fear of creativity and start living your best life?
After listening to this episode, you’ll be better able to understand how to control your emotions and reactions, learn how to keep your inner critic from reacting from fear, and recognize whether the ideas you have about your own creativity (or lack thereof) are actually true.
Scroll down for the full episode transcript.
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In this episode:
1:15 – Cookie Monster’s real name is Sid!
Hola, and welcome to The Maker Muse Podcast. I’m Paulette Erato, The Maker Muse. And today I want to show you how to put an end to your fear of creativity by explaining three things.
One: how the brain works. Two: why your feelings aren’t what you think they are. And three: how all of that impacts how creative you can ultimately be. So let’s talk about how that big brain of yours operates.
Every day, the brain is making a billion calculations; it’s keeping you upright, making sure your organs are working, and so on. You don’t even have to pay attention because your brain does this on autopilot. And we all have the same brain center, and it’s connected to our central nervous system. And yet we don’t all think or react the same way, do we?
What most of us don’t realize is that we have complete control over how and what we think we can change negative thoughts into positive ones, and vice versa. But most people don’t. They simply accept whatever they feel as fact. And it’s not. That’s also pretty dangerous. This is when we don’t want our brains on autopilot. Because our feelings are not facts.
Let me say that again. Feelings are not facts. The Earth is round: that’s effect. High heels were originally worn by men: that’s a historical fact. Cookie Monster’s real name is Sid: that’s a fact, and I’ll link that story in the show notes.
Feelings, on the other hand, aren’t facts. They’re a response to something in your brain. But most people don’t realize that. In fact, they treat their feelings like they’re outside of their control, like the weather. Well, if you can’t control the weather, then I guess you can’t control your feelings huh? So we say things like, “coño ese pinche idiota Miguel pissed me off.” Miguel pissed you off? Hmm. Okay.
But if you said something like, I feel hungry, you’d go get something to eat to change that feeling, right? So why do we treat emotions like we’re at the mercy of them with no power to change them? Instead of ignoring that we’re hungry or mad, let’s do something about it.
I’m going to get a little sciency on you and explain something called the thought model is how we experience and react to the world as individuals with brains, hopefully, then you can understand how your feelings are created. And to stop treating them as if you have no control over them.
You have five major senses, right. And through those senses of sight, sound, taste, touch and hearing is how you experience and interpret the world. That’s how information is communicated to your brain.
So when your brain receives information about something, your big, beautiful brain interprets it and assigns it meaning. That means it creates a thought about it. And it’s almost instantaneous. Immediately thereafter, you develop an emotion about it, you create a feeling about that thought. That feeling then generates a reaction from you.
So something happens and your brain immediately produces a thought about it. And then you have feelings. You react based on those feelings. And then you get results, about which you can also develop thoughts and feelings. So it’s like a never ending cycle.
Those feelings are controlled by your thoughts. And those thoughts are controlled by what? Well, your inner critic has a huge impact on how you think and how you feel, and whether or not you get to be creative. That inner critic has a lot of power. And the inner critic lives inside your lizard brain.
What I mean by the lizard brain is that ancient part of your brain’s operating system, where the fight or flight response is housed. It’s responsible for keeping us alive. Because you know, way back when humans were first developing and outliving their competition, our brains were evolving to keep us safe. Because back then, humans were food for larger predators, right? So our lizard brain was set up to fight or flight. When they were in a panicked or dangerous situation, like let’s say, a saber toothed tiger was hiding in the grass, early humans had to decide whether they were going to fight or whether they were going to run.
And so the way we’ve evolved to protect ourselves is by always thinking that any stimulus entering our brain might be negative, that we might have to fight it, or you might have to run away from it. Because that stimulus might be the modern day equivalent of a saber toothed tiger.
Fortunately, today most things are not that serious. But the lizard brain is still activated into a fight or flight response. And most of the time, it just panics at new things. Why? Because again, it’s trying to protect you. So the inner critic thinks everything is scary and it colors your thoughts and feelings with the paint brush of fear. It tries to protect us and keep us alive by basically freaking out about everything. It must be so tiring to be an inner critic, don’t you think? It’s exhausting your central nervous system, that’s for sure.
Anyway, back to our thought model. So when we have thoughts, our inner critic likes to wrap them up in negative nonsense, because when you have thoughts, we then form feelings about those thoughts, right? Then there are actions and results, okay. So if the negative critic has their way, our thoughts will be dismal. We’ll feel bad, or worse, we’ll feel afraid. And then the actions and results that come from that aren’t any good. So then the brain has proven to you that you shouldn’t take risks, right? Let’s try an example.
Let’s say you wake up tomorrow morning, or any weekday morning and it’s raining. Your first thoughts can go one of two routes. The first is thinking, Oh crap, this sucks. Then you start having a thought spiral about how long it can take you to get to work or how the humidity is going to fuck up your hair. Or now you have to walk the dog and make sure you clean their dirty paws, you know, whatever. And then you just feel bad or overwhelmed, or defeated, or just plain tired.
What happened there? See, your brain took the external stimulus of the rain and created thoughts and feelings about it. And in between your inner critic decided those feelings were going to be negative. So your reaction to them is that this is a bad start to your day. Later on if you spill coffee on yourself, your brain is going to use that as proof that this is the bad day it said you are going to have. It basically becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now let’s rewind and try going the other route, yeah? What if we didn’t let our inner troll make us think badly about the rain? Instead of being mad about the rain, because rain is just rain, it’s natural. And for some climates, a regular occurrence. What if you had a different emotion? What if and stick with me here, you were actually happy or even grateful for the rain?
Yeah, the rain can mean a slower commute. But that also means more alone time for you in the car or on the train. And those can be precious moments. It might mean your car doesn’t need to be washed this week, or it means your garden is being watered and you’d have to do anything. And more greenery means cleaner air for everyone! Once that rain finally stops, it also means the big poofy clouds in the sky, the smell of fresh wet grass, and even puddles if you want to jump in them. So just imagine all the great things that come with rain.
In this second scenario, if you do end up spilling coffee on yourself, it’s just one little thing that happened. It’s just an oops, it’s not an indictment of your entire day. And as an added benefit, you might not even feel bad that it happened.
Now think about it. Which one of these days would you actually prefer to live through? Do you want the day where you like it, “ay chingao it’s raining!” Or, “hey, look, it’s raining. Cool.”
That’s how you stop being passive about your feelings, you get to choose whether or not today is going to be a good day. Now, remember how I said the inner critic has a lot of power, and how it can impact your creativity. On top of being an ancient function— oh, by the way, I should have mentioned this at the beginning. Everyone has an inner critic. No te apures if you’ve got a negative inner voice inside your head. That’s a feature of being human, not a bug. Meaning it’s normal, okay?
So on top of being an ancient function of the brain, the inner critic is also an amalgamation of all the criticism we’ve heard across our lifetimes. It starts absorbing and internalizing what we hear at a very early age. If you were ever yelled at for almost touching a hot stove, or attempting to grab a knife in the kitchen, that taught your brain that those things were bad, right? In the same way, if you’ve ever told to color inside the lines, or you got caught playing with makeup when you weren’t supposed to, or drawing on the walls, or whatever, that discouraging voice made its way into your brain and settled in. So now you’re wary about making art in that way.
Let’s say you’re not very confident about your drawing skills. A lot of people think that if they can’t draw stick figure then they can’t draw at all. Well, the truth is, they probably can’t draw well. But that’s just a learned skill. You have to start somewhere. And most people start off by being bad at stuff. And that’s totally fine. You get to be bad at stuff, so you can get good at it. You get to be bad.
But anyway, let’s say you’re not so good at drawing and I invite you to come out to one of those painting nights at a bar. (Obviously, there’s no pandemic in this situation. It’s safe to be around people again, okay?) We’re going to go have a few beers, and we’re going to paint the same vase everyone else’s painting. If your inner critic is really raging, your immediate reaction might be “no thanks! Nope!!” Or maybe it’s “well, I’ll have a beer but I’m not painting.”
Why? What happened? Going back to the thought model, your brain heard an invitation to drink and do something artsy fartsy. Maybe it likes beer, it knows how to drink beer. So that part sounds safe. But the drawing part? In public, where other people can see? So its first thought about drawing is you’re not good at that. And then you might feel whole litany of emotions ranging from vulnerability to shame, to awkwardness, and fear. The inner critic loves fear, right? Drawing?? Out in public???That’s right up there with a damn woolly mammoth about to trample you! At least, it’s the same to the lizard brain.
And that’s how your inner critic negatively impacts your ability to be creative. It uses fear to kill your creativity. And it happens all the time. How? Well maybe you think you can’t wear red, because it’ll call too much attention to you. Or you shouldn’t sing because you sound like a dying cow. My brother once told me that about me. And guess what: I’m working really hard on forgetting that because that’s not a voice I want in my head.
All of these creative outlets and decisions you could have made are hampered by a little voice inside your head. And even though it can be pretty damn loud, the part of the brain that it lives in the amygdala (that lizard brain), that’s less than an ounce of weight inside your brain. It’s tiny! Tiny, but mighty. It’s been there since the beginning so it’s a well-used mechanism. The neural pathways the inner critic travels are deep and well-used, like a freeway system.
Those neural pathways are for the brain to rely on because the brain is lazy. It likes efficiency so it’s going to travel these established neural paths because that’s easy and efficient. It doesn’t have to waste a lot of calories forming new neural roads.
On the flip side, your brain loves to learn—it’s made to learn! So forming new neural pathways is possible. You do it all the time. If you’ve ever changed your mind about something or learned something new, you’ve established a new neural pathway in your brain. It’s pretty simple! It’s basically forming a new habit, a new way of thinking, and your brain loves it. But it still has these well worn paths inside that are easier to get to.
This is why they say a habit takes like 21 days or 10,000 hours or whatever to stick. Because the repetitive nature of doing something over and over and over…that’s what’s building the new freeway network in your brain. And once the freeway is established, well, now the brain can travel that one instead of the ones established by fear.
So that’s one of the first steps to extinguishing your fear of creativity. It’s a change of mindset. And now that you know this super simple way to recognize that what you’re thinking and feeling might not be how you want to think and feel, how can you apply that to everything else?
What other stories are living in your head about you and your creative talents, or lack thereof, that maybe aren’t true? Think about that for a bit and see what comes up. Remember, no hay un saber tooth tiger get te va comer hoy. Not today.
So here’s what I want you to take away from this episode:
One: your feelings aren’t facts, and you can control them, your thoughts, and reactions to situations. Two: fear will kill your negativity. So don’t let your inner critic react from fear. And finally, three: if there are beliefs floating around in your head about your creativity, that maybe were colored with a brush you didn’t intend to use, now might be the time to re-examine them.
And that’s a burrito! Thanks for listening to The Maker Muse podcast. I’d love if we could make this a regular thing for you and me, so please subscribe to the podcast and tell all of your family and friends about it. And I’d really appreciate it if you can rate and review it wherever you’re listening to this right now. Nos vemos!