Who’s the Bully Now?

fear, confidence, bully, friends, encouragement

The Bully on the Playground

As creatives who want to make a difference with our lives, we’re often confronted by a bully on the playground. It’s the voice that tells you you’re not worth anything and you’ll never make it. And it always shows up at the wrong time.

Bullies are the tough guys with all the attitude and put downs. Their strategy is to make you feel inadequate and look stupid in front of your peers.  He knows if he can keep you intimidated, he’s safe to continue his heinous behavior without repercussion.  

Bullying is a real problem in today’s culture. Hurtful words, name calling, and public humiliation cause depression and hopelessness.  Hundreds of thousands of suicides in young people every year are a direct result, making suicide the second leading cause of death of individuals ages 15-24.

Overcoming bullying is difficult for two main reasons.

  1. The victim feels ashamed about being the target of other’s harassment and therefore doesn’t reach out for help or intervention.  
  2. The victim starts to believe the accusations on their character are true because the constant barrage of negativity begins to influence their own thoughts about themselves.  

The Creative Bully

So, what do you do when YOU are the bully on the playground of your MIND?

Creatives each have their own personal bully inside their head. It’s Fear.  

Fear is a bully. Fear has a big mouth. Fear wants you to feel inadequate and make you think you look stupid. Fear says you have nothing to offer and you’re better off fading into the background of life. Fear says someone else is more qualified.

Fear gains control of our lives for the same reason bullying dominates the minds of susceptible young people. Shame and constant negativity.

You can do it!

The good news is that, just like bullying, fear can be overcome.  Employing a few simple tactics can help you find the support you need to keep moving forward and equip you with enough confidence to stand tall.

    1. Surround yourself with supportive people.  You know at least 2-3 people who are going to support you no matter what.  When you start hearing the negative voices in your head, get on the phone with your support group. Your supporters will be happy to walk with you through the negativity and help you build your confidence.
    2. Learn from those who are succeeding.  Someone out there is successfully doing what you want to do. Find out where they started from, what adversities they had to overcome, and what steps they took to achieve success. You’ll find out that they are just regular people who battled the bully daily but didn’t give up.
    3. DON’T GIVE UP!  Too often people give up on their dream just before it’s about to become a reality.  They feel uncomfortable and out of their comfort zone.  They allow the negative voices to convince them that the discomfort is a result of not being good enough.  When in reality, it’s normal to feel squeezed when things are about to bust wide open. Growing pains are a normal result of progress. Instead of giving in to the uneasy feelings and backing away, consider restructuring your approach to keep yourself aligned with your goals.

 

We all face negativity.  We are always our own worst critic.  Thankfully, the voice of fear is all bark and no bite. You can overcome fear by fighting negative thoughts with positive actions. Gather faithfully supportive people around you, learn from those who are succeeding, and keep moving forward.

Do these things and fear doesn’t stand a chance!

Miranda Signature

 

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All We Need Is Time and Grace

time, grace, art, art journal, perfectionism, therapy, creative

Many of us have said things like, “I’d create it if I had the time and space.”  I’ve found over the last few weeks that time and space are not what’s needed to create.  It’s time and grace.

When there’s something nagging at you, a dream or a desire, sometimes it’s hard to give it an honest look.

Seriously.

Whose got time for fanciful dreams of peace and fulfillment when there’s work to be done and things to take care of?  We often cast it off before we’ve even given it a thorough examination.  It’s so unrealistic.  Why bother?

It’s a wall we all face.  Over and over again.  It’s a wall that creatives are intimately familiar with because we spend so much time bouncing up against it.  We just can’t help it.  We’re drawn to using our creative talents to make a better and brighter space around us but then we get knocked back with a hard dose of reality.  There are more important things than making art.

It takes up too much time.  It doesn’t pay the bills.  You don’t have enough training.  No one would understand it.  You’re a nobody.  No one would ever buy it.  It’s probably not that good anyway.

But it makes you feel so good inside. Like you’ve finally found a slide of chocolate pudding that never ends. (Awesome visual. You’re welcome.)

Except, it does end because you talk yourself out of it time and time again.

Recently, I’ve started looking at art as a practice of self-love. Therapy, really.  It’s grace that I’ve started to offer myself.  It’s an opportunity to be free, to stop judging, and just feel.  To be me.  Authentic and pure.

I don’t consider myself an artist as far as canvas and paint, but I am creative and a dabbler in many arts.  I’ve decided to give myself permission to be unrealistic for a time and practice art.  Because it’s nourishment for my heart and soul.  And it’s a reprieve for my mind.

I’ve started art journaling and I invite you to join me in the process.  I created a 30 Day Art Journaling Challenge.  It’s a daily practice that only takes a few minutes each day.  It can be as simple or involved as you want to allow. Think of it as an open door. A breath of fresh air. An invitation to be real, unfiltered, and whole.

You’ll be surprised how much making art a daily practice can change your outlook and feelings about your life.  Suddenly, you see things in a new light.  Your perspective broadens.  Your heart grows bigger.

Growth and learning are natural products when you give yourself the grace and time to just do what you love. You allow yourself to be imperfect.  You accept your art for what it is.  You connect with your heart.

You don’t have to be great.  You don’t need a lot of time and space.  You just have to be you. And be okay with that.

So, no matter what your dream or passion is, give it time and grace.  Make it a daily practice of self-love and nurturing. Release the potential that you’ve been ignoring.  Go make some art.


If you’re interested in joining me in the 30 Days Art Journal Challenge, please connect with me on Facebook or Instagram and share your art with me!  Just use the hashtag #30DayArtJournal!  And leave a comment below telling me what dreams you’ve been putting on hold because you haven’t allowed yourself the time and grace to do it.  

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Name Your Villain

art, shame, fear, negative, adversity, villain

art, shame, fear, negative, adversity, villainThe villain in a story is a cruelly malicious person who’s motives and actions are wicked.  He’s intent on bringing down the hero and victims to get what he wants.  Domination.

There is a villain in you.

As you try to make a place for yourself and your creative work, you hear a voice from inside, telling you all the reasons why you can’t.  Why you shouldn’t.  Why it’s a waste and no good.  It’ll never amount to much.  It’s fake.  Who are you kidding?

We call it fear.  But fear starts somewhere.  You were not born afraid.

We teach our toddlers not to touch a hot stove.  Don’t run in the road.  Don’t talk to strangers.  We have to teach our children fear.  There are real dangers out there that they don’t understand.

This voice of negativity is fear, but where did it come from?  Who taught you to fear your creativity?  

I suggest you start at your earliest memories and think about your influencers.  There was someone who told you it was no good.  Shamed you.  Or told you it wasn’t worth pursuing.

That person has a name.  Maybe they meant well.  Maybe they aren’t truly evil.  Maybe they wouldn’t even remember the incident.  That’s okay.  That’s the voice that keeps whispering in your ear when you’re working on your craft.

That voice of fear now has a name.  And it’s not you.

The fear that has kept you from following your creative passion has been trying to keep itself safe.  Because you learned that your art was not a safe place to live, fear whispers a warning every time you approach it.

What can you do about it?

Change your mind.  It takes time, but you can slowly introduce your fear to your creativity in measured and safe increments.  You have to re-train yourself to accept creativity as a natural and comfortable place to be.  Like the seashore or a cool forest.

Start a journal, sketch pad, paint by number.  Use your creativity is small and enjoyable ways regularly.  Tell your fear that you’re not jumping off a cliff or going to live on a deserted island.  You’re only taking a walk on the beach and smelling the flowers.

Completely safe.

It’s important that you keep your inner artist safe.  Don’t show your work to people you know will be critical.  Don’t take it on a roller coaster.  And don’t starve it.  Nurture it and encourage it.

Tell that voice of fear to hush.  Call it by name.  Realize that it’s not your voice.  It’s someone else’s.

You don’t have to listen to it anymore.

 

How old were you when you were taught to fear your creativity?  Comment here.

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The School of Life Has No Diploma

graduate, diploma, creative, introvert, conform, different, school,

graduate, diploma, creative, introvert, conform, different, school,I didn’t finish high school.  Actually, I didn’t go at all.

I don’t advertise it.  I usually avoid bringing it up.  It’s not necessarily something I regret or something I’m proud of.  It’s just a fact of my life.

About the time I hit adolescence and middle school, it was becoming very apparent to me that I didn’t fit in.  I was smart enough, top of my class, had plenty of “friends” hanging around, and involved in lots of extracurricular activities.   My teachers seemed to like me and I was in a few advanced classes.  But I felt like a foreigner.

My peers were interested in “hanging out” when I would rather be by myself.  They wanted to go to the movies, I’d rather read a book or write poetry.  The girls were boy crazy, the boys were girl crazy.  I connected with adults and wanted to get inside their heads.  I didn’t fit in with the cool kids, although I attracted the stragglers.

I was never bullied.  Except by that obnoxious boy who liked me and showed it by slamming me into the lockers every time he passed me in the hall.  But I became depressed and it was hard to face school every day.

I tried for a while.  To fit in.  I joined the cheer leading squad which forced me in with the cool girls.  I tried to giggle about the guys on the basketball team.  I hated all of it.  It was so fake.

It was too much.  The halls were too crowded.  Friends were too superficial.  Kids were so mean to each other.  I spent most of my days in the infirmary.  Listening to the Xerox machine hum as the teachers came to make copies, the hall noise when the bell rang, the silence when everyone went to class.  I’d go around to my teachers at the end of the day to pick up my assignments.

I finished middle school at home.

My parents, thankfully, were more concerned for my emotional well-being than my academics.  We began the home-schooling process.  I was more interested in learning to cook, garden, knit, sew, and balance a checkbook than essays and tests.

Long story short, I didn’t get a diploma.  Life became my education.  I was married at 17 and a mom by 18.  15 years have passed.


I look back and wouldn’t change it.  I don’t recommend it, but it worked for me.

I’ve become a life-long learner.  I read.  A lot.  I have a personal library of thousands of books.  I’ve run a business, taught classes, counseled others.  There is no better teacher than experience.

I home-school my own children and learn a lot through that process.  My boy starts 9th grade this year.  We’re in this thing together now.

I started the process of getting my GED last year.  It’s been on my bucket list for years.  I passed all the pre-tests in half the time with extremely high marks.  There was immediate pressure to apply to college.

I didn’t finish the process because it took too much time away from my family.

I’ve come to realize the only reason I wanted my high school equivalent was so no one could say anything about my “lack of education.”  Which is a generalization I’ve held on to.  But getting a diploma is not for me.  I don’t need it.  I don’t really want it.  It’s for all those other people.  The people with opinions.

I know now that there was nothing wrong with me in middle school.  I was just becoming me.  An introverted creative.  Deeply aware of people, driven to learn practical things, and needing to create things with my hands.

I’m done apologizing for being me.  I’m not interested in a diploma.


Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation.  Forcing yourself to do something because someone else thinks you should.

You don’t have to be like them.  You don’t want to be like them.  You are unique, creative, and driven.  Some things don’t matter as much as they say.

You know what matters to you.  Do that.

 

Do you keep a part of your life hidden because it’s different?  Maybe people don’t understand or won’t approve?  Can you let it go?  Leave your comments here.

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The ONLY Response to Criticism You Will Ever Need

Criticism, critic, response, creative, negative, confidence

Criticism, critic, response, creative, negative, confidenceIt’s scary to put yourself and your work out there.  You’re conflicted with emotion.  You want people to see your work.  You want to share it with someone who will appreciate it.  You hope it will make a difference for someone.  But the fear of criticism is always there.  It’s enough to keep some creatives from ever taking that first step.

We’ll skip the debate on whether it’s a legitimate fear.  The feelings are real.  Period.  I can say from my own experience and from what I’ve heard from other creatives, the response to their work is, overall, very positive.  Generally, people are very encouraging and quick to compliment.

That’s not to say that the critics don’t exist.

The more you share your work, the more exposure you get.  Your audience increases and inevitably someone will have something critical to say.  It goes with the territory.  And by territory, I mean people.  Statistically, there’s one in every bunch, right?  That’s a real stat. Trust me.

Someone somewhere at sometime will question your motives, your technique, your authenticity.  It hurts.  And, unless it was a private email, it’s often public.  They might have commented on your blog or your Facebook page.  Immediately you look like a fraud.  Your biggest fear come true.  You’ve been exposed.

This is NOT the time to throw in the towel, give up, and take your crayons home.  It’s also not the time to get all defensive and start slinging mud.  Instead, consider your options.

How To Respond to the Critics

1. You can delete the comment.  

You can.  I’m not sure I’d recommend it. But it’s definitely an option.  If the comment is downright mean, full of vulgarity or obscene language, by all means, make it go away.  You don’t need that kind of trash in your life.  And it’s cluttering up your space and public image.

2. You can respond. 

I’m going to make this very easy for you.  This is what you say…

“You might be right.  I’ll consider that.”

When you say, “you might be right,” you tear down the defenses and make yourself open to the critic.  Which is precisely the opposite of what they’re expecting.  By accepting the possible merits of what they’ve said, you effectively take the wind out of their sails.

  • If the comment is made in private, aka email, you don’t have to respond right away.  However, you don’t necessarily want it hanging around in your inbox either.  Send off your canned response.  Thank them for taking the time to write.  Then delete the email.
  • Snail mail doesn’t warrant a response.  But you can if you’d like.  They won’t expect it so it’ll surprise them and awe them that you actually read their message and responded.  But again, don’t keep negative letters.
  • If the comment is public, offer this response.  It shows the rest of your audience that you’re not afraid of criticism and you’re willing to consider someone else’s opinion.  It also portrays confidence in that you’re not obligated to accept what they’ve said as truth.

Here’s what you don’t do.

BLAME THE CRITIC FOR THEIR OPINION.

Blame is a wall we use to protect ourselves.  It’s often our first line of defense.  It takes the pressure off yourself and puts it on someone else.

Bad move.

Blame starts a war of who’s right and who’s wrong rather than just accepting an opinion for what it is.  We’re all entitled to be wrong.  Did I just say that?  I mean… We’re all entitled to our opinions.

My last tip…

Don’t take criticism too seriously. 

If someone is determined to tear down your work or your character, THEY ARE NOT YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.  Don’t waste too much creative time on the naysayers.  You are sharing your creativity with the people who will appreciate it.  Those are the people that motivate you.  Not someone on a power trip.  Keep your focus on the people who love you, encourage you, and appreciate your creativity.

 

Have you had experience with public criticism to your creative work?  How did you deal with it?  Leave a comment here

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Hello, Failure, My Old Friend

success, failure, comfort zone, celebrate, learn

success, failure, comfort zone, celebrate, learnWe all want to succeed.  To hit the goals we’ve set.  We want our creative hard work to be recognized.  And we want someone to be impressed, helped, or inspired by what we’ve created.  But, we’re afraid of failure…. so we say.

The truth is, we’re comfortable with failure.  Too comfortable.  There is something about failure that feels okay.  It’s like old tennis shoes that you keep going back to even though you’ve got the newest and best in your closet.  Or that old friend you keep around for some reason.  But you can’t remember why.

But, success?  That’s scary.

Success is like a dream.  Something out there that we can only imagine what it will feel like.  It’s unknown.  While failure is something we deal with regularly.  We know what failure is like.  We’ve all been there.  Disappointment is one appointment that we all make and keep.  It’s old hat.

They say life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  

The comfort zone is actually quite uncomfortable, though.  It’s too small.  You’re always bouncing off the boundaries of your comfort zone.  You want to leave it.  You know you should.  The only chance you have of real success is on the other side of your comfort zone.

Yet, for some reason, we want our journey out of the comfort zone to feel good.  Let me tell you… It doesn’t.  It feels a lot like failure.  That old friend that we’ve met so many times.  So, instead of fighting through to the end, to success, we embrace failure as if we were always meant to be together.

One way to combat our strange love hate relationship with failure is to get acquainted with success.  You experience little successes every day.  Did you finish a book? Great!  Did you cook an outstanding meal? Awesome!  Did you finish a project? High five!

These little successes are worthy of some praise and acknowledgement.  Sure, you may not shout it from the roof tops or make the front page news.  But it might be worth updating your status on Facebook, calling a friend, or at least a mocha dulce latte.

When you start celebrating the little successes, you’ll realize that taking that first step out of your comfort zone, even though it feels awful, is a success of its own.  Celebrate it.

Then take the next step toward your goal.  And celebrate it.

Failure might come.  There’s no guarantee that it won’t.  But sometimes a failure is also something to celebrate.  If you’ve learned from it.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford

You don’t have to be great at everything.  Cut yourself some slack.  You are awesome at some things.  You’re a creative genius.  But some tasks are just a drudgery.  That’s okay.  We all have our own strengths.

It’s great and sometimes necessary to become competent in some non-creative and very mundane areas.  Especially when you’re just starting your business or getting your work out there in the cybersphere.  But don’t expect to become an expert at everything.  Don’t waste your time and creative juices trying to cram something in your head that doesn’t fit.  Delegate or find someone who is proficient in that area to walk you through it.

So, as you’re taking the next steps in becoming successful, remember these things.

1. Failure isn’t reserved just for you.

2. Stepping outside your comfort zone feels a lot like failure but it’s really a small success.

3. Celebrate every little accomplish to become better acquainted with success.

4. Failure is a great teacher.  Just think of it as another opportunity to try again.

5. You’re a creative genius, but you don’t have to be an expert at everything.  Get some help with the mundane stuff.

Are you being too friendly with failure?  It’s time to prepare for success.  Big and small.  Tell me how you will try to celebrate your successes in the comments.

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Black, White, Grey. What’s the Difference?

shades of grey, morals, integrity, side-effects, media, right, wrong

shades of grey, morals, integrity, side-effects, media, right, wrongLet’s face it.  The times of clear cut boundaries and obvious good vs. evil scenarios are over.  Life is messy.  There’s a swirling mass of information and media being forced on us daily.  Right and wrong are relative terms.  And getting through life with integrity and consciousness takes an extreme amount of effort.

In a world of shades of grey (haven’t read it and resent that the term is now associated with porn), anything that can be considered black or white will eventually have its merits questioned.  People want to know what’s the difference?  What makes one thing better than another?  How do you know which is right or wrong, good or bad?  Who makes the decision?

I was having this conversation with my 13 year old son one afternoon while in the car.  He was dealing with someone questioning his personal standards of life.  He knew it mattered what he consumed and there was a line between what was good for him and not but he wasn’t sure how to put it into words.

We often find ourselves in the same boat.  You may have a standard of living, beliefs that shape who you are, and morals that guide your choices.  It never fails that someone somewhere will have a difference of opinion or feel threatened by your stance and feel the need to express their views as right and put your beliefs on trial.  While you feel comfortable and justified in your values, verbally defending them isn’t always so easy.

So, trying to put it into perspective, I asked my son, What’s the difference between drinking a soda or drinking alcohol?  Neither one is really good for you, so what’s the big deal?

His response was very telling.  He said, “There’s a big difference in the side-effects.”

There’s wisdom dripping from that one sentence.  The side-effects make all the difference in whether something we consume internally is beneficial or detrimental.

Just because two products are offered to you in the same medium, whether video, audio, or text, doesn’t make them equal.  The value of anything you consume is found in what benefits you walk away with.

What thoughts are you left with after watching a video?  What language are you becoming familiar with after reading a certain genre of books?  What feelings are you left with after listening to the latest tunes?  Are you comfortable with these side-effects?  Do they stay within the guidelines of your own personal standards of living or are you compromising your integrity and morals?

Sometimes there are more obvious lines of black and white.  And times when the people we associate with will readily agree with our decisions.  But when the lines are blurred and others may feel like there is no difference and want to challenge your decision, think about the take-away value of what you’re consuming.  Sometimes that’s all the difference between one video and the next.  One song or another.  The lingering side-effects.

You make the decision.  No one else can decide what’s right for you.  Don’t be bullied into letting down your standards or moving your boundary lines.

If you feel like something you’ve consumed is just mental clutter or leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling then avoid it.  You don’t need more mess in your life.

When you feel like you’re benefiting from something, keep it, do it, enjoy it.  No explanation necessary.

Have you ever felt the need to justify your moral boundaries?  Give an example of a “shade of grey” that you’ve taken a stand on.  Comment here.

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