Don’t Let Self-Doubt Destroy Your Creativity

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Ten Ways to Overcome Creativity’s Number One Crusher
by Margarita Tartakovsky

“The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt,” wrote Sylvia Plath in her journal. And she couldn’t have been more accurate. Self-doubt can persuade us to stop creating or keep us from sending our work out into the world. It can be so influential that it colors how we see ourselves, ensuring we don’t pick up a pen, paintbrush, camera, or other tool for decades.

“Self-doubt paralyzed me for 25 years,” said Meghan Davidson, Ph.D, a psychologist, professor, and researcher at the University of Nebraska. When Davidson was eight years old, her art teacher wrote in her report card that she had “no artistic ability whatsoever.” This destroyed Davidson. Her teacher’s words became a running joke in her family, who had no idea of their crushing effect. It was only after a personal health crisis reminded her of the brevity of life that Davidson decided to pursue her creativity. She picked up a camera. Today, she’s an accomplished photographer whose work has been featured in gallery shows and publications such asUPPERCASE and Artful Blogging.

Jolie Guillebeau’s project of 100 paintings a day “originated entirely from self-doubt.” “In February 2010, I wasn’t sure that I could even call myself an artist, because I wasn’t really painting. I’d been paralyzed from my own angst and hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in months.” She decided to prove herself wrong. After completing 100 paintings, Guillebeau felt more like an artist. But her self-doubt lingered. So she stepped out of the comfort of her studio, and painted outside for an entire summer.

Tips to Overcome Self-Doubt

“Creativity means navigating new terrain, and it’s scary and uncomfortable,” according to Carla Sonheim, an illustrator, workshop instructor, and author of the book The Art of Silliness: A Creativity Book for Everyone.

So feeling self-doubt is natural. “Self-doubt is a part of human nature,” Davidson said. But because it sabotages creativity, it’s important to know how to overcome it. Here are 10 ways to surmount self-doubt, so you can focus on the good stuff: creating.

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Let Self-Doubt Destroy Your Creativity”

  1. I have to comment because this is a huge problem of mine. When I was in high school I took a journalism class–the teacher said I no talent for writing and that I should never take another writing or journalism class again. That pretty much smashed my confidence until I was in my early thirties and realized she was full of crap. Twenty-five books later…and I’m still dealing with doubt. I don’t think it ever leaves us, even if we didn’t have a dream crusher in our lives.

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