(Becoming a creator is tough, but you can be tougher than you think)
Generated by the author using AI
I almost threw up.
I could feel a wave of nausea coming as the time was ticking. Seconds after seconds, piling up into minutes.
And there I was a few instants before starting, feeling sick, trying to mask my nervous shaking, my whole body shouting: “Go far from here! Now!”.
I was about to present my latest work on a project, in front of about 200 people. The crème de la crème of the discipline, the world specialists gathered for this internation conference.
What I was about to show was not even a finished project, only a work in progress without fancy technology, except for a few cool details. Not the same level.
I almost vomited my imposter syndrome that day.
But I didn’t. I walked on stage and started what ended up being a surprisingly decent talk, given my emotional state a few seconds before. I even got the interest and questions from the audience.
But that’s not the point here.
What happened and how did I shift so quickly to a much calmer state? And why should you even care about this story anyway?
Bear with me, it will be good.
Why do we get so emotional in front of difficulties?
Let’s deconstruct my story through the lens of survival.
Before starting the talk, I was like an animal trapped in a dangerous situation. Like surrounded by predators ready to bite and eat me as soon as they would see me on stage.
My survival brain interpreted the situation as highly risky. I could very well be rejected by my tribe, be excluded from access to vital resources and die. Well, not really but that’s how it thinks.
Thus it ordered my body to escape.
But I resisted using my evolved brain, which created a conflict between the two, leading to nausea and shakiness.
At least, that’s the framework I am using to explain it.
In this model of behaviour, we are still animals driven by survival instincts with an envelope made of our more evolved minds. This modern layer makes us able to get over those primitive behaviours and be more specifically human.
When you keep that in mind, you see more clearly why others or ourselves behave in such or such ways.
But how’s that explain what happened next?
How to overcome it?
My perspective is that I have been able to shut down my survival brain and let my evolved mind take control.
This was triggered by me hopping on stage in front of my assumed predators. Maybe my survival brain had to shut down by itself like a fuse to avoid any damage due to an electrical surge.
But I have another hypothesis.
It came from my training.
See, before this day, I already gave quite a few talks. In front of tiny or relatively big audiences (a few hundred). And more than once in situations where I was actually judged and my competency assessed.
That’s part of the job and I wasn’t a newbie anymore.
And this training helped me to develop a special skill: equanimity.
If you are not familiar with this word (I wasn’t before writing this), it means: “a state of calmness and balance in the face of challenges and difficulties.”
Since I had already lived this type of experience, I knew that I would survive. Thus I could take a step back and observe myself having this irrational fear.
It’s an example of what we are capable of if we train our modern/higher minds to take control.
Equanimity is not a skill you can acquire using brute force. It’s rather a subtle art. A slow and delicate mental practice.
Far from the “Just do it” motto.
But there is a range of practices that can help:
- Meditation: nothing esoteric there, it consists of focusing your attention on the present moment, observing your thoughts and emotions without judgment, as an external observer, and letting them go without holding them. When I started to practice meditation thanks to my friend Joe Lurie (highly recommend his course for beginners), I quickly felt an improvement. It’s not that hard and it doesn’t take hours every day.
You can use apps as well, such as Headspace or Calm (I used this one for some time) to guide you through the process.
- Self-awareness: start by paying attention to your thoughts and emotions, noticing how you react to different situations, and identifying behaviours that may be causing stress or anxiety (scrolling social media for example).
Journaling can be a helpful tool for that and you can incorporate it into your day easily (similar to nano-writing).
- Gratitude: Practicing gratitude helps cultivate a more positive and equanimous mindset. The usual tip is to write down three things you are grateful for. I do it always daily but not for specific things of the day. More for having a family, a roof over my head, food and water.
It sets your mood for the day. I advise doing it when you go to bed and when you wake up.
- Self-Compassion: when you make a mistake or face a setback, try to treat yourself with kindness and understanding, rather than criticizing or blaming yourself. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety and foster a sense of equanimity. You are not perfect, so nobody is. And your value is not related to what you do or how successful you are. You deserve some unconditional love from yourself!
I tried a weird thing that I learned from my baby girl: smiling at yourself in a mirror. Try it, it feels good after the weirdness vanishes!
There are more things, but it’s a good start. And don’t be impatient. Enjoy practising each of these activities for how they make you feel now. The results will come at some point. Maybe earlier than you think.
The added benefit is that you get to know yourself better and feel better and in a more positive mood. Guess what, this helps for every aspect of your life: work, creation, relationships, and health.
If you are not convinced, I don’t know what to say…
Actually, I know. Keep reading!
What is the benefit of equanimity for a creator?
(in particular for overthinking creators)
I just touched on it briefly, but I want to give you even more reasons to cultivate this skill! Because I care that much 😊
- Reduces stress and anxiety: equanimity is about remaining calm and composed even when faced with challenging situations. This is so frequent as a creator that it’s becoming part of your daily life. But it could be different.
- Increases focus and productivity: you will become able to better at concentrating on the task at hand because you will handle more easily your brain telling you to check out something else now (looking for a good old dopamine shot!). Obviously, the quality of your work, or at least the speed at which you work, will improve. As a smart creator reading this, you know that it is one of the best ways to stand out.
- Improves decision-making: when you are in an equanimity state, you are better able to make decisions. Decisions that are rational and grounded in logic rather than the emotion of this instant. Like the fear you feel before hitting publish to send your (imperfect) stuff in the wild west of online content.
- Enhances creativity: because it allows you to let go of any limiting beliefs or self-doubt that may be hindering your creativity, you will use your creative potential more efficiently. And stand out more!
- Builds resilience: because it sucks when you get crickets after publishing this amazing article, tweet, or video, you spent hours and hours crafting. Building resilience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks, rejections, or the sound of social media void, will make you keep the show going on.
I am sure you can find more and send me a message to let me know!
Dealing with your emotions is what separates you from your (deserved) success.
The aim is not to become blind and deaf to them. No, there are useful signals and part of our lives.
But you don’t want to be paralyzed by fear or underachieving because you limit yourself in your creative endeavours.
Let me finish with a quote:
Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
Imagine yourself as part of those few people.
The world is yours.