I wrote recently about how perfectionism can be such a creativity killer. It may seem like perfectionistic striving helps us get things done, but its constricting energy actually puts a stranglehold on the flow of our creativity. Still, most of us learn from an early age that there’s value in pushing ourselves, in being hard on ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to someone who’s feeling scared and stuck, and at some point in the conversation they say, “I just really need you to give me a kick in the butt so I can get going.”
Sorry, but I’m never going to do that.
What I will do is suggest that you look at how it feels when you have the thought, “I really need a kick in the butt to get going.” How do you proceed from there? Does it feel enlivening? Does it instill confidence in yourself? And, even more importantly, does it create a feeling of trust in yourself?
When I attempt to proceed from that thought, I feel angry. My stomach tightens. My jaw clenches. I also feel some sadness, because I am attempting to motivate myself through force and fear. And I decided a long time ago that that’s not the way I want to live.
The “kick in the butt” method is an example of motivating ourselves by pushing ourselves. If someone pushes me in line at the grocery, I will probably refrain from pushing them back (or maybe I won’t!), but I really want to push back. And similarly, when I push myself, something in me pushes back. I may be feeling resistant to whatever it is I want to do, but pushing myself only creates more resistance. When I proceed from a mentality of pushing myself, I create an inner struggle.
So what’s the solution? For me, it’s changing my mentality from the concept of pushing to the concept of stretching. I’ve always loved the feeling of stretching myself — whether it was stretching my arms and legs in a ballet class as a child, or stretching myself to write that one more page in my journal last night that was just dying to come out, even though I was getting tired.
For me, stretching feels good. It may be uncomfortable and unfamiliar — as when we are beginning to use muscles we don’t usually use, whether we’re in ballet class or starting our first novel — but it’s a challenging sort of uncomfortable. It feels juicy, a bit scary, maybe more than a bit sometimes, but what stretching says is: I trust you to grow toward what is life-enhancing for you. I trust you to more fully become yourself.
What pushing says is: If I don’t push you, you’ll never do it.
I much prefer the message of stretching.
Also, stretching is a good antidote for resistance. If I focus on the feeling of excitement and challenge and discovery that comes with stretching myself, I feel less resistant to doing whatever it is I want (but am scared) to do.
I’d love to hear your experiences with stretching vs. pushing yourself. What have you discovered?
And don’t forget, I offer free Creativity Consultations. Check them out here!