Ben and I get into some pretty deep discussions. We get into some shallow discussions too, but we are both people who think in great detail about the various layers of life, about the society we live in, our place in the world, the meaning of it all – you know the kind of thing – so often our conversations circle around these complex themes.
We were out walking recently when Ben said something about creativity that caught my attention because it described so perfectly my own experience. He said that he’d realised that when it comes to ‘work’, the most important thing to him isn’t money or achievement or stability but the actual process of giving form to some creative idea that’s calling to him. In other words, creative self-expression is the thing that matters most. And it’s not just that it matters most, it’s that it feels like a case of life or death.
What he said reached deep into my heart because this has been my driving force for so long. I left my corporate job in London ten years ago because I longed to be myself in the world, even though I had no idea what that meant then. I just knew that the repetitive nature of working in an office, doing what people told me to do, when and how they told me to do it, did not feel good to me. It did not feel good at all. Yes, there are elements of creativity you can bring to anything, but it is not the same as having the freedom to follow the creative flame within you wherever it is called to go next.
There is a huge desire to create authentically from the heart. To create what is original to you. And it’s this creative process that lights me up, fills me with joy and truly helps me to keep being here on planet Earth. It is a huge part of what gives my life purpose.
We talked about what it would mean for us to embrace ourselves as artists, first and foremost. I realised that if I were to embrace myself (more) fully as an artist, it would mean, for one thing, allowing myself the necessary space for the creative process to take place, without the guilt that is so often attached. Creativity needs space!
Yet I notice the subtle voices whispering their various deterring and limiting phrases in the background. Each of these seems to boil down to some variation on the thought, ‘It’s not valid/ok to love what you love’ which is really just, ‘It’s not valid/ok to be your true self.’
And isn’t that what it always comes down to? The secret thought that it is not safe or valid or ok to simply love what we love and to be who we are? The thought that if we allow ourselves to really embrace ourselves as artists, we will somehow finally prove to the world that we are exactly what we have feared ourselves to be all along? Unworthy humans of the highest order!
But what is the alternative, if not walking the path towards our most authentic selves, expression and way of being in the world? Isn’t the alternative to live what feels like a lie? Living in ways that drain rather than energise? Living in ways that don’t allow us to bring the best of what we have to offer to the world?
Luckily, my desire to be true to myself has always been stronger than my desire for approval, though the conflict between the two has held me back more than I would like to admit.
Here’s to creative self-expression – yours, mine, and all the world’s.
Love and courage,