What other people think.
One of the most difficult things about the emotional journey of a creative is that sometimes there are simply no logical explanations for your experience.
(Kind of like dating. Super fun!)
Especially if we are prone to placing the value and acceptance of our work in the hands of others, i.e. teachers, directors, editors, followers, etc. Yet this is quite natural and, indeed, part of the system of getting your work out into the world.
We need to be “out there.” We need to share our voice, works, and ideas. Which will mean, at some point, that you make a choice to put your neck on the line in order to take your place in the world.
You take a stand for your own creative value.
But it’s far too easy to get lost in the ocean of emotions, worries, and anxieties about how you are received. Indeed, these are genuine roadblocks that arise when the fear of rejection and critique is placed in front of how we are sourced.
My Mountaintop Tale
I recall one of the most shining moments of my career, which also came with some pretty ugly consequences, defying all logic and leaving me with nothing but painful confusion.
It was a grand night, in a room packed with an eager audience and impressive colleagues. I was excited to perform the music, right in my zone of genius, and it was festive and exciting. But I was definitely nervous and overwhelmed.
I looked around the hall, took it all in, and was inundated with all the typical mental noise that joins me at those times.
Will they think that I am good?
Will they think that I belong here?
Will they think my voice is ok?
But then, right before I took the floor, I heard a clear voice which cut right through the noise, and asked: So how do you really want to show up right now?
And I remember responding, as clear as day: Right. I am going all in. Let’s go.
I walked onto that stage with determination and commitment, and leaned into the performance. It was as though some magical spell was activated, moving through me and pouring outwards towards the audience.
People started scrambling for their programs, I don’t remember when I felt more alive and present, and I couldn’t believe or understand what was happening, but it was definitely happening!
I did not hold back. I did not fret. I kept applying this choice of commitment and presence to the experience, to stay invested in the Work, rather than worry about others’ opinions, even when I became distracted by something off the mark.
I planted my feet in that performance with 1000% integrity, and I was proud of what I did, warts and all. It was one of the mountaintop moments of my career.
But then the most remarkable thing happened.
I received an email from the director of the ensemble with a review of the performance in The Washington Post. I received the most glowing and generous reviews one could ever hope to receive about their performance, and I couldn’t quite believe my luck.
The next day, I received another email with a review which, quite frankly, gave the meanest and most cutting critique of the very same thing, notably my voice.
Let me just say that I was fairly gutted, and caught very much off-guard. I was very confused, and see-sawing with my emotions from high to low like a hamster wheel:
I am a brilliant performer! I am the worst singer of all time!
But then came the real kicker.
After that interesting performance, I never heard from the director again. They did not answer my emails, they did not respond to the reviews, they just completely vanished, after a steady, successful, and intimate working relationship over several years.
I was ghosted.
What, pray tell, is a sensitive gal supposed to think now?
The Integrity Solution
One of the greatest fears that most creatives silently endure is the judgment of others.
It is also highly likely that if you are a sensitive person, you are taking things in at a much deeper level, whether that be praise, or criticism.
I’ll be honest, those reviews drove me crazy, but I was absolutely dejected about the rejection. I was so confused, betrayed, and grasping for reason. I made up stories, I went down rabbit holes, and I got pretty deep into the weeds of my own self-worth.
But there was something verrrrrry important that held me aloft in the darkest of times. It is also a cornerstone of the creative process, although I wasn’t mature enough to recognize it at the time.
I knew that, deep down, the commitment to the full embodiment of my genius in that moment, at whatever level I was at (which was not technically proficient), was the foundation of my truth.
I made a conscious choice to be present, to be a vehicle for whatever was needing to be borne through the music, and in harmony with the energy of the audience.
That’s it. I made a choice to be in my integrity. And no matter the outcomes, especially right now, I stand by that choice. It was made in Love and Truth.
We will never survive for long if we are constantly trying to anticipate the value judgments of others in order to avoid pain. Do we always want to be *constantly* meeting the question: what will they think of me?
This is not a creative environment that fosters your mountaintop moments.
However, if you are ready to release the yoke of external judgments on your work, I want to suggest fostering a new kind of creative environment.
Begin to establish any of your creative endeavors in the foundation of Love and Truth. No matter the project, the risk, or the platform. I’m dead serious.
If you can stand in your utmost integrity as you create and share your unique creative voice, you will be better able to not only weather the ups and downs of the process, but especially how your work is received.
It is the ego that is wary of others, always assessing the potential risk of harm whenever you dare to release something into the world.
But the heart will never lie.
So before you make your next endeavor, ask yourself:
Am I willing to set aside my fears of what others think, and stay rooted in my integrity?
And see what happens. You are not always going to “win” or succeed (that’s not the point), but you are going to know that no matter the outcome, you are standing in your Truth, with Love at your back.
In my opinion, that means you are doing just fine.
Maybe that will make it a little bit easier to help you share some of that genius you’ve got tucked up your sleeve.