You’ve felt it before. It’s the feeling that you experience when you have so much going on inside your mind and heart that you can’t say or do a thing to express yourself sufficiently. Being frozen in self-expression just might be the most frustrating and lonely feeling a Creative Leader must cope with on a regular basis.
For about six years I felt as though I was locked up inside my own body. I was stuck in my own head and I didn’t know how to come out. The sad thing to me was that I’d tasted the sweetness of creative self-expression before, but I just didn’t have the time or emotional energy to connect what was going on inside of me with words or actions on the outside. So what did I do? I distracted myself to avoid thinking or feeling. And all the while, the pressure in my subconscious world built up, leaving me ready to burst at any given moment.
After taking care of my physical need for chemical balance in my brain and my spiritual need for restoration of my relationships with God and people I loved, I decided to tackle the problem analytically by researching the gifts and curses of creativity. Here is what I found.
The gifts that most Creative Leaders possess or have the potential to cultivate can either help or harm your ability to express yourself well in what you do and say. The key is to play those gifts like a fiddle instead of letting them play you. Let’s take a look at a few.
- Empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel what other people feel. It’s an incredible power you can use to connect and understand other people. However, it can be difficult to separate your feelings from the feelings of others. This might sound crazy, but you can choose what you will feel to a certain degree. What feelings are other people experiencing that you might be mirrorng simply because you’re around them? Are those feelings yours to own? Use your empathy to understand the other person, but then take a look at that feeling and decide if it is yours to carry.
- Sensitivity. Empathy and sensitivity are closely related. If bright light, being surrounded by certain colors or sharp/loud noises feels painful, you are experiencing sensory sensitivity to some degree. If chaos or commotion bothers you more than it does other people, you may be overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. Emotional sensitivity is related. When your nervous system is overwhelmed, your emotional equilibrium may be, as well. Sometimes, feeling emotional pain may cause you physical pain and vice-versa. The pain and overwhelm you experience could leave you feeling frozen or about to explode. Either way, sensitivity can also be used in your favor. When you become more aware of the things that overwhelm or cause you pain, you can choose to prepare ahead of time, avoid certain situations or, most powerfully, use your own sensitivity to understand when other people might be experiencing overwhelm. When you begin to take care of yourself, you can focus your efforts on helping others, releasing the grip of overwhelm.
- Intuition. This gift comes right on the heels of empathy and sensitivity. It’s that gut-feeling, not based on conscious thoughts. You just “know.” You might feel frozen because your gut is telling you it’s not a good time to speak for whatever reason. That’s OK! But sometimes what we just “know” is wrong. Intuition connects our past experiences and knowledge in non-linear ways. It is incredibly important to not only give yourself the opportunity to pursue good experiences and build a knowledge base that you trust, but also to be aware of what you are actually feeling in your gut and then ask if it fits with what you believe. Practice reflection on a regular basis to build your intuitive skills so you know whether that frozen feeling is irrational fear or wisdom.
- Idealism. Creative Leaders tend to be idealists. They see the world as it could be. Unfortunately, many people who begin as idealists may have been accused as being overly positive, irrational and not practical in their youth. As idealists experience the shame, injustice and disappointment of life, they may begin to question everything they previously stood for or believed. These kinds of situations can disappoint idealists to the point where they deflate like a balloon and feel utterly defeated. But that isn’t the end for you if you’re an idealist! Turn your idealistic demands into your ongoing idealistic vision. Let it fuel you as you strive to make the world a better place rather than depress you that it’s not what you thought it could be. When you feel frozen, find inspiration to tap into your idealistic vision and move toward it rather than letting disappointment overcome you.
- Initiative. You can be creative without utilizing initiative, but don’t call yourself a Creative Leader unless you do use it. Initiative begins with an impulse to do or say something and then it acts on it. Unfortunately, people punish or squash initiative all of the time because of the fear of failure and fear of the judgement of others. So what if we do something and it doesn’t work? Of course there are times when we need to heed wisdom, but Creative Leaders must be willing to stick their necks out by offering their ideas, service or art to the world in full knowledge that they might be rejected, ignored or shamed. Don’t let the shadow sides of empathy, sensitivity and intuition overtake the bright shining light you just might radiate if you act. Lead by being willing to appear less than perfect and you will not get stuck.
- Intensity. Emotional intensity is a powerful force, so be sure to learn how to use it for good. When you feel frozen, your emotional experience may be so intense that you don’t know how to contain it, though you think you should. You need release! The number one piece of advice I have for people experiencing emotional intensity is this: tap into your emotional core rather than living from your immediate emotional reactions. “Sad” is under “angry” every time. Give yourself permission to feel your sadness and possibly even cry. But don’t stay in that discouraged state. Find something that inspires you and open yourself up to how it could bring you out from your sadness or frozen feeling. Sometimes it helps to learn something new or be reminded of something old, but it is very difficult to will your heart to follow your head. Find something that speaks to your heart and don’t be afraid of the intense power within you. Use it!
- Problem Solving. Your ability to employ your creativity to solve problems is an incredible gift, but it is tempting to get stuck in a holding pattern where you keep trying to solve the same old problem. Unfortunately, for Creative Leaders, not all problems can be solved. If you find yourself frozen by the same old problem, it’s time to step out and gain perspective. Use those problem solving skills to analyze the situation. You might need to let go of the idea of solving the current problem and find a different way to look at your situation. Maybe you’re solving the wrong problem! Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to obsess over the same problem forever. Keep moving forward in other areas and perhaps you will stumble upon the right solution at a different time.
Do you relate to any of the above gifts listed above? Which one feels most like a “gift” to you?
I will say it over and over. Authentic self-expression is not about doing or saying whatever comes to mind in the moment. That’s reactionary self-expression. Authentic self-expression is based on a holistic perspective of who you are. It is awareness, reflection and action based on more than your emotions. That’s why I believe Creative Leaders need to go through the process of uncovering and refining their core message.
Align what you do and say with a robust understanding of who you are for clarity, confidence and focus. Download the Arrowhead Alignment PDF now.