Joy's High Fence

Here's an exercise. Picture learning a new skill, something you've always wanted to try. Surfing, coding, printmaking, etc.; what fantasy shows up? Just for a moment, see yourself doing it.

Now imagine being told you've made a mistake, done something wrong, or betrayed your own lack of skill.

How does that go over?

I have a theory about how creative people, who are typically highly sensitive, respond to being judged. We tend to feel at least a little sting. At worst, a great well of shame swallows us whole. Usually, we experience something in between.

This discordance often masquerades as one of an array of defense mechanisms.

Yes, I mean the middle finger. So much, said so economically. I can't pretend I haven't ever relied on the gesture's symbolic genius.

The trouble is, when you care about the outcome of whatever risk you're taking, the pain of correction is a potent temptation to quit. If you stop trying, you'll be comfortable again; or as comfortable as you can be when you've given up something you wanted.

Over time, this defeat gnaws. It might even lead to dark places. It certainly doesn't make risking easier next time.

Being unwilling to take feedback can rob us of real, tangible joy. 

So what do we sensitive, vulnerable yet ambitious types do about it?

The answer isn't "to get a thick skin". Numbness is anathema to creativity. No, the trick is to develop enough self-compassion to take the blow without making it personal. To differentiate between the performance and the person. To make the world within your skin safe.

Next time someone offers up feedback, notice what happens within you. If you're the first to heap fuel on the fire of your own abandoned dreams, pay attention.

In that space, where you have the opportunity to learn and grow, or flip your middle digit, you'll find the answer. It takes courage to go there, but allow yourself to try. Whatever you do when you feel made wrong, that is what you always do. So are you at all respectful? Or do you unknowingly agree with every negative projected your way?

Notice, and choose. What would serve you best?

When you can treat yourself fairly and with kindness, you'll be able to withstand the blow of being imperfect. When you can speak to yourself in a way that supports your momentum, it won't really matter what anyone else thinks. Take it, leave it, or cherry pick the highlights; it's up to you.

I hope you'll allow the pain of being judged to lead you to a kinder voice; your very own.