Like many highly sensitive people, I am creative. I like to draw and sketch, and I like to make things with my hands. I’m an artist. But until recently I would have never called myself that.
“Who do you think you are, calling yourself an artist?” said the gremlin voice in my head whenever I contemplated it.
I think all of us have heard many messages throughout our life about how we should be and not be in the world. And that we should stay in our lane. And act a certain way. How, if you are defined as one thing you are not the other.
So calling myself an artist felt like I would be opening myself up to criticism. And opening myself up in this way felt made me feel vulnerable, with all the negative connotations that vulnerability brought up when I thought about it.
I think HSPs are especially reluctant to being more vulnerable. That makes sense. We feel that we are already criticized for being too sensitive… why would we want to open up even more and invite more criticism?
It wasn’t until I listened to Dr. Brené Brown’s famous TED talk and read her book The Gifts of Imperfection that I started to see vulnerability in a different light.
Dr. Brown points out that yes, vulnerability makes you feel fear, anxiety and self-doubt. But vulnerability also is the birthplace of love, trust and belonging.
Her research showed that at the core, vulnerability is about creating authentic connection with others.
This was quite a revelation to me. I’ve been fortunate to have a few close friends, and that includes my beautiful and patient wife. But I always saw myself has an intensely private person and I have been reluctant to make new friends.
This was partly because I’ve always found socializing and making new friends to be very difficult, and partly because of the simple fear of rejection.
But I also want to be seen. So I started to allow myself to be vulnerable.
I took my first tentative steps with a video blog, showing some of the things I made. I started to post more of my art and my doodles on my Instagram.
And now when people ask, “What do you do?” I tell them first about my art and the things I make.
Here’s what I experienced when I allowed myself to be more vulnerable: People identified with me. People connected with me. People are generous.
I’ve heard from several people who are inspired by my work. I’ve even connected with a few and bonded over how we experience our artistic journeys. I’ve found many more creative people who I’m inspired by, just simply through their generous act of hitting the ‘like’ button.
I also discovered who my biggest critic was. It was me. I was being way too harsh a critic of my art.
What I’ve come to understand is that allowing yourself to be vulnerable is really the most authentic way to express yourself. A large part of creativity is sharing what you create. And so you cannot create without vulnerability.
And now that I see that, I’m OK with it.
In fact, I will frequently post art I’m not happy with, even though I enjoyed the process of making it. I sure feel vulnerable when I post art I don’t like.
Curiously though, many people respond by defending my art from me. They don’t need to, but I appreciate it. It makes me smile inside because I now know it’s OK if I make something that others like but I don’t. It is a good reminder that everyone will have a different perspective of my art.
That’s how I learn and become a better artist.
What I’ve taken away from all this is being vulnerable is not weakness, it is what makes you beautiful. Allowing myself to be vulnerable has allowed me to connect and to be seen.
All the while though, my gremlin is still there, trying to convince me not to share and I try my best to not listen to it.
Does your inner gremlin stop you from creating, or sharing your creativity? How do you deal with that gremlin?