Thoughts for HSPs and creative souls on developing and nurturing creativity through expanding its definition and letting go of old fears
If you’re a highly sensitive person, you have probably read—or heard—that HSPs tend to be “creative types.” Indeed, a great many HSPs are drawn to—and employed in—creative fields like art, music, dance, theater and more.
Over the years, I have attended many workshops and retreats for HSPs, and have often left amazed and impressed by the vast range of creative expression I’ve seen.
That said, there are also a good number of HSPs who remain on the sidelines… perhaps thinking to themselves “yes… but I’m not really very creative.” You may even have been told you’re creative, but have failed to see how. I know that feeling quite well, as I have also viewed my ability to be creative with considerable skepticism.
A closer look at “creativity”
The good news is that most of us are creative. The not-so-good news is that we have a tendency to allow ourselves to be fenced in by narrow “definitions” of what common ideas mean to us. This issue doesn’t just happen to highly sensitive people… nor does it just happen in the area of “being creative.”
When considering HSPs who feel like they are not creative, the most common argument almost always sounds something like “I have no artistic talent and I can’t play any musical instruments!” Or perhaps “I failed art in high school and I tried a pottery class, but the things I made looked like my 3-year old’s clay lumps!”
Perhaps the above are true. However, these statements are typically rooted in the basic and limiting misconception that “creativity equals ART.”
Expanding the boundaries of creativity
I am a writer, but for many years I rejected the idea that my writing was “creative.” I looked around at the other aspiring Hemingways in my college creative writing classes and perceived their amazing freedom of expression as far more creative than my own. Then I would go on to point at my own version of “convincing evidence” that I was a pedantic writer, at best.
After all, even though I started writing tales of my teddy bear going to Mars when I was nine… I clearly was not creative because I just named the story “Bear Goes to Mars” rather than “Sparkleshine Rainbowbear’s Extraordinary Galactic Adventures,” as my more creative peers probably would have.
In short, I had built a “fence” between myself and the meaning of creativity, and defined myself as being on the wrong side of it.
What is creativity, really?
Sometimes the first step in developing, embracing and nourishing our creative sides is simply to break down the barriers we’ve constructed around ourselves. We must stop worrying so much about “definitions” and simply do what moves us. And then leave ourselves open to the possibility that sometimes the most creative endeavors fit nowhere within the conventional definitions of “artistic expression.”
For example, one HSP met at a retreat—who insisted there “was not a creative bone in his body”—had created a stock market trading program that allowed him to use his fairly modest savings from working in the high tech industry to generate an income that allowed him to live quite comfortably, without working. Somehow, he’d “connected the dots” in a way nobody else had thought of—and his system reliably worked. If that’s not creative, what is?
A woman at the same retreat—who’d gone to great lengths to share her “failures” as a painter, sculptor, playwright and actor—was making her living as a very successful counselor. Aside from the “creativity discussion,” I asked her to what she attributed her success. She related that she seemed able to pull together answers and advice that “fit” each client in such a way that they were typically able to make very rapid progress through their issues. She shyly confessed that she really enjoyed “problem solving,” and seemed to have “a knack” for coming up with unconventional ideas that really worked. If that’s not creative, what is?
Creativity is not always a “thing!”
Sometimes we get locked into the belief that creativity implies that there must be a tangible “thing” at the end of the process. After all, artists produce paintings. Actors produce a play. Writers produce books and articles.
But such thinking doesn’t always hold true.
Sometimes it is how we live that becomes the expression of our creativity. We may not have one particular thing we create—instead, we’ve managed to create an overall reality that allows us to live our dreams. Maybe the “creativeness” is represented by the way we’ve taken four different favorite hobbies—none of which could possibly earn us a living—and patched them together in such a way that we basically get to “play with our hobbies” for our career.
And if that’s not creative, what is?
HSPs and fear of creativity
It may sound odd, but sometimes we actually develop fears of our own creative expressions. Highly sensitive people tend to be cautious by nature, and we learn “deeply” from our experiences—especially when they are negative.
Possibly we’re holding back our creative selves (even at age 50!) because a grade school teacher once told us we had “no talent.” Maybe we feel held back by old lessons from a family “culture” in which we learned that artists were “flakes and losers,” and we continue to carry concerns that we’ll be judged as such.
Sometimes the single greatest fear is that of stepping into our own power.
Our creative expressions generally represent the closest we can get to manifesting our authentic selves outwards; in a public sense. Whether it’s art, music, writing, or even living, we become fully invested in that creative expression—it becomes the true representation of us, as beings. Naturally, we wouldn’t be human if the thought “but what if someone judges me/it negatively?” didn’t cross our minds. And because we’re highly sensitive, such criticisms can feel especially devastating. So we choose to avoid that pain by “not expressing,” in the first place.
A year of living creatively
A new year is upon us. Although many don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, the turning of the year does mark a natural break point for implementing new ideas and experimenting with new approaches to life. Why not make this the year to embrace your creativity?
Start by examining any old definitions and prejudices you may be holding onto, in terms of what creativity means to you—and get rid of those that really don’t make sense. Next, if you have any fears, ask yourself where they come from… and then consider whether you’re reacting to an old memory, or to something that’s currently happening. Odds are, it’s the former. Accept that old fears may not be serving you, anymore—then give yourself permission to let go of them.
Last, but not least: Don’t allow worries and concerns about a lack of creativity be the thing that gets in the way of your creativity!
A Happy and Creative New Year to all!
Peter Messerschmidt is a writer, beach comber, rare stamp dealer and eternal seeker. When he’s not wandering the beach or the Internet, he facilitates groups & retreats for HSPs, and shares his musings at “HSP Notes,” the web’s oldest HSP-specific blog, at http://hspnotes.com. He lives in Port Townsend, WA with the great love of his life and several furry “kids.”