Creativity doesn’t come easily to me, and the saboteur inside my head makes it even harder to be inspired. We all have a self-generated saboteur or two. It’s the voice, which only you hear, attempting to thwart you from trying something new. Inner saboteurs warn you of imminent failure or embarrassment in an effort to protect you from harm. The problem is sometimes the warnings prevent more than failure. They also prevent you from succeeding.
My creativity saboteur shows up by whispering things like “Only buy exactly the materials you will use or you’ll waste your money.” Other times it sounds like, “This will never look like you imagine it. You know you’re not good at stuff like this.” Everything I work toward and believe is disregarded by my saboteur. I work toward recognizing mistakes as part the learning process. My saboteur thinks mistakes are a waste of time and money. I believe there is joy and value in time spent creating and learning. My saboteur measures only the end result as validation for time well spent.
You can probably think of times when you wanted to try something new and found discouraging thoughts flitting through your mind as you planned how to learn the new skill. One time a saboteur was speaking so loudly in a friend’s ear, the friend said out loud about himself, “You shouldn’t even play if you’re this pathetic!” My friend hadn’t played tennis in over a decade, yet his saboteur expected a solid performance and prevented him from enjoying our time on the courts. It was a very limiting saboteur.
I’m working to recognize when negative thoughts step in the way of being creative. That’s why a little flower arrangement project became a reminder to step back and ferret out what was really going on when my saboteur started talking a couple weeks ago. If you had been party to my musings while choosing flowers and pumpkins, you would have heard the same old refrains about choosing carefully, only buying exactly the right blossoms and stems, and fretting about buying “extra” bouquets to fill in gaps or complement colors.
Then I remembered it wasn’t about how much was spent or how efficiently the materials were used. It was about having fun creating a pretty fall floral arrangement for my mom’s birthday party. The moment I recognized the saboteur was pointing me to the wrong goal, I stopped worrying and chose everything needed to do the job well. Then I went home and enjoyed time being creative – and ended up with enough material to make a beautiful arrangement for my mom, and one more for me!