Imagine yourself at four years old, or even six. What did you look like? What was your favorite outfit? What did you like to do? What were your dreams?
In my artist den at home, I have an altar where I keep some of my more treasured creative items including some seashells from Prince Edwards Island, some hay from my family's farm, my Grandma's teapot, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. These items help me to connect to people and places I love and that inspire me to keep dreaming. I also have the photo above on my altar; it helps to remind me of who I really am inside: a fierce dreamer who feels most beautiful and alive when she is making something new. Whether it's a Bert and Ernie pumpkin or a poem, I still feel this little girl's excitement in my heart when I start out on a new creative adventure.
It's easy to tell your adult self "You're not doing enough" or "You're a failure", but how about having to face your four year old self and tell her that she isn't measuring up?
"That's a cute picture you drew, but to be honest, it's messy and would never end up in an art gallery."
"Your story is ok, but no one would ever pay to read that."
"I know you like to dance, but I'm not letting you perform in the recital--you'd just embarrass yourself."
Do these sound cruel to you? Would you ever say these to a child? What's that? "No freaking way would I EVER say that to a child!" ?
Good, we're in agreement there. And if we shouldn't say them to a child standing in front of us, then we shouldn't say them to the child that is inside of us.
It's not easy to shift away from harsh self-talk but it is possible. I used to be my own worst imitation of a sports coach, screaming to "Keep going, idiot!" and "Don't you dare start getting tired now!" and now when I look at this younger version of myself, I cannot imagine giving her anything but love and support. Seeing her hopeful face makes me want to give her dreams, my dreams, a fighting chance. Show up, take a risk, go for it. Better to swing and miss than to not have gone to bat at all. Looking at her innocent eyes, I tend to call myself Sweetheart and remind myself to "Take a break if you need it." and "I love you and am always here for you." Call it corny, but caring about yourself and your creativity goes a LONG way in helping us to continue to explore and seek out adventures.
Find a photo of yourself as a kid and hang it in a place where you can see it. Keep it near your desk when you write, in your script for rehearsal, on the wall near the chair you sit in to practice guitar or paint. Wherever you go, bring yourself with you and you might just discover a whole new way to get along.