“For writers and artists, the ability to self-reinforce is more important than talent.” – Steven Pressfield
Being able to validate yourself as an artist is so important to your ability to keep creating and enjoying it—and so up for me lately—that I just had to write about it when I read Steven Pressfield’s excellent post on the subject this past week. (https://stevenpressfield.com/2018/11/reinforcement-and-self-reinforcement/)
With Our Thoughts We Make the World
I have been watching my mind more closely lately, because my moods have been wavering too often between “the dumps” and “OK.”
And it’s largely because of what I think in my head.
Yes, there’s been really hard stuff happening in our world. From the rise of fascism in America to the fires ravaging California. There’s climate change and economic oppression, racism and greed run rampant in many parts of the world.
And then there’s my personal situation—the stress of ongoing economic uncertainty combined with the agonizingly slow path to recognition for my writing, despite all the hours and loving attention I pour into it.
This is hard!
But what makes it hard most of all is what I think about it.
The Point of Power Is Within
This is very good news because it means we aren’t helpless. We aren’t victims.
The point of power is within us, in our thoughts and feelings. And we can change that.
So, I have been paying close attention to the tiny thoughts that slip by unheard but create a sinking feeling in my chest, as if all the air had gone out of the balloon.
I am noticing the stories I make up about the world’s future, my future. And the stories I make up about myself: that I’m not good enough, feeling like a failure, like I’m unloved and unwanted.
It’s the thoughts that determine my reality, because they dictate how I feel.
And, how we feel is the whole game!
Anything we desire for ourselves or our world, we desire for how we believe we will feel. Whether it’s world peace or a new home.
Your Feelings Are Like Magnets
Our thoughts and feelings create powerful filters for how we perceive reality and what we attract.
We filter out whatever contradicts our beliefs, even when those beliefs create the very things we don’t want.
When I dwell in negative thoughts, not only my mood takes a hit, my life does too.
When I am feeling bad about myself, my life and my world, I am not magnetic to my heart’s desires. I am not attractive to experiences that would counter these false beliefs. It doesn’t mean these experiences can’t happen, but when I feel bad, they are less likely to happen, and I’m less likely to notice them.
So, I’m watching closely. I’m noticing when my mood sinks and inquiring: What is it I’m thinking? What am I telling myself? What am I believing?
Bring it to the Light
I’m making those thoughts conscious, because when we bring anything into the light of awareness, it dissolves in the Truth of who we are.
I am telling a new story about myself, my future prospects, even about where our world is headed.
I’m choosing a brighter future.
And I have to do it again and again. Because I have practiced so long these negative habits of thought and feeling. So it requires care and patience and reinforcement to pave new neural pathways, create new habits of thought, feeling and action.
But isn’t it worth it?
Isn’t it better to bring attention and loving care to the stories we are telling ourselves, even if we have to do it again and again, than to let those false beliefs and limiting views run our lives and our world?
It’s Time to Validate Yourself
As artists, most of us long for validation. For the praise, awards, sales, shows, applause that would tell us that what we are creating is good.
I long for this validation, and I have my whole life.
And it’s a deadly poison to depend on this.
It puts my value, my worth, my quality as an artist in the hands of others. And threatens to steal the joy, delight and innocence of the creative act.
Because I am sending my writings out for publication every week, I receive a lot of rejections. These can really dampen my spirits and discourage me. But only if I let it. Only if I make it mean something bad about me and my art.
This is where self-reinforcement, self-validation comes in. Why we must get very, very good at it, and practice it constantly.
Be Your Biggest Fan
Tell yourself every little thing you’ve done well. Approve of your efforts wildly. Appreciate yourself and every positive action you take, every step towards your dreams, regardless of the results.
Be the most loving, encouraging friend you can be to yourself and your creativity.
Make this a habit throughout your day. Make it a habit in your life.
If you don’t love yourself and your creations, if you don’t take the time to appreciate yourself, how can you expect others to?
I write acknowledgments and celebrations daily in my journal (though I often neglect this practice too).
I make a list of weekly celebrations as part of Vision-Mapping my week, a practice of sacred time management that I teach.
But most important of all is what I think moment to moment, what I tell myself inside, how I encourage myself, as an artist and as a human being.
Pay attention to your thoughts. Pay attention to your feelings as indicators of your thoughts.
Make a new choice. Encourage yourself. Approve of yourself. Praise yourself. Validate yourself. You are worth it.
You are good. You are whole. You are valuable. You are needed here. Your gifts are unique. You are a blessing to our world.