Unused creativity is not benign

Brené Brown’s research on the feeling of shame, which we all know too well, has led to many other discoveries in human behaviour. Ones which might not have been immediately linked to feelings of shame. In a podcast interview with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons, Brené explains:

“I used to believe, before I did the research for The Gifts of Imperfection… that there were creative people and there were non-creative people. And now I absolutely understand personally (and professionally from the data) that there are no such thing as non-creative people. There are just people who use their creativity and people who don’t. And unused creativity is not benign.

How is it that a group of children who start preschool together colouring, sculpting, and playing with creatives materials, mostly end up thinking of themselves as not creative? What happens along the way for the massive shift in self perception? Brené goes on to explain where the notion of creative people versus non-creative people comes from.

“I found that 85% of the men and women who I interviewed remembered an event in school that was so shaming, it changed how they thought of themselves for the rest of their lives. But wait – this is good – fifty percent of that 85% percent, half of those people: those shame wounds were around creativity. So fifty percent of those people have art scars. Have creativity scars.”

I think most of us are not surprised that there is now a field of research which confirms our lived experience. If these statistics hold true for the general population then there are plenty of people who can remember the person who told them or the moment they discovered, they did not measure up in a creative activity. This could even extend to team sports, which I hated in school because the torture of not being picked by the leader to participate in something I was not very good in any way.

I don’t recall a certain moment or a teacher who inflicted shame on me. Instead I am struck by remembering all the creative and athletic pursuits I participated in when I was still in grade school. This seems to be a time where I was more confident, well-adjusted and somewhat oblivious to what other people thought of me. The desperate need to fit into a social structure had not descended on me yet.

I was reminded of the experience of developing photographs in a dark room, by a blog post called ‘creating courage‘. My task was part of a ‘shop’ assignment where we rotated around the room doing a whole variety of things, using a whole bunch of different machines. Were we graded on the outcome? Maybe. Then we moved into the home economics space and practiced sewing and cooking.

I was intrigued by the idea of making my own clothes. But this was only one of the many ways which I practiced creativity. I was always too embarrassed to tell anyone about some of the other stuff. Maybe I had witnessed someone else’s shaming and didn’t want to suffer the same fate. I never showed anyone the ‘plays’ which I painstakingly typed on my mother’s typewriter. Going back and correcting every misspelled word. 

Eventually I would create a career in the field of apparel manufacturing. I landed on this by being pretty lucky. I was born in Canada and graduated from school having lived in an upper middle class family. These circumstances essentially set the stage for the opportunities I would take advantage of over the years. But, somewhere along the way I lost my sense of creativity. Or maybe a better way to describe it was, I remembered ‘the creative girl I used to be‘ and realized I had strayed pretty far from the kind of life I had hoped for. 

Again, I was lucky. I had married a man whom I continued to share common values with. He supported me emotionally for many years and then when I needed financial support, he was able to offer that as well. In this partnership I have had the time to reinvent myself. This is a gift to myself which will benefit our whole family. For I have rediscovered the joy of creativity and will work tirelessly to help others do the same.

This life is short. I am grateful for everything which has passed. I regret nothing. I am extremely excited when I wake up in the morning and wonder how each day will unfold. The only thing I know for sure is, it will be filled with all sorts of creativity!

#creaspatreat – Join me in this creative journey. I am on a mission to start a global movement, focusing on the importance of creativity in our daily lives. Together, let us see where we can take this. I look forward to hearing from you! Please share your thoughts. Feel free to send an email to: Christine@dailycreatives.com

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Comments: 4

  • reply
    June 10, 2018

    I was told in Year 12 by my Theatre teacher that I might be able to sing, but I couldn’t act, after I auditioned for a lead in our high school musical. And I just thought “Lady, you have no idea. Every day that I come here with a smile on my face, I am acting and you wouldn’t have a freaking clue” … I came from an extremely dysfunctional, abusive home. Not that I ever let on to anybody back then …

  • reply
    June 11, 2018

    I was a pre-med major who didn’t want to work that hard and didn’t quite measure up. I didn’t want it bad enough…decided I might like to marry a doctor instead. Which also did not happen…which is neither here nor there. But switched schools and majors to graphic art. Where the other students were all blue jeans wearing hippies and I was the only gal wearing skirts, blouses , pearls and heels. It didn’t take long for one of the art professors to pull me aside and question whether I was really an art major at heart. I wound up switching majors again to art education. What is the expression – if you can’t do it, teach it? Something like that. Anyway, I can relate to having my creative juices instantly evaporated by a teacher.

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