Developing Your Creative Confidence
Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.
--- Theodore Roosevelt
Being in the entertainment business, I see a lot of shows. From magicians to comedians to singers, I’ve had the opportunity to watch and work with some amazing talents.
I talk a lot about open mics because it’s the perfect place to see a wide array of performing artists within a two hour period.
One night, I was sitting at a bar in Sommerville, MA watching an open mic, waiting for my turn.
Most of the acts were comedians, with a couple of singers and poets thrown in. Being an open mic, pretty much everybody was trying out new, rough material.
That’s okay, since that is what’s expected at an open mic. That’s what I love to see!
No one act killed it because each act had flaws that the artist was trying to work out. But I noticed something about the performers themselves.
Regardless of their material, I really enjoyed watching some performers over others.
This wasn’t new; I noticed this too while watching magic shows that had several magicians on the bill.
What was it about these performers that made them so enjoyable to watch?
During any other show, I would say they were doing the best material. But clearly that didn’t matter since, at an open mic, their material bombed as much as everyone else’s.
Then I realized what it was.
People listen to confidence
Confidence is what these performers had that made them the audience favorites.
Confidence, as I could see from attending open mics, is more important than the actual material, as long as that material is still good.
And it’s not just in comedians or magicians either.
Look at some of the most successful CEOs and businesspeople in the world, and you will see them brimming with god-like confidence.
Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few. These gentlemen --- and more --- personify success, innovation, brains, and confidence.
The correlation between confidence and power can best be seen in politics.
Think back to the 2016 presidential campaign and how then-candidate Donald Trump dominated debates.
Many of the other candidates had better policies and more political experience, but Trump showed an unwavering confidence in himself that was more powerful than any scandal that came his way.
Confidence is how performers, CEOs, and politicians command the stage.
It’s how they are able to take risks that could result in embarrassment, yet often lead to growth.
Without confidence, none of these high-performing men and women would be where they are.
Creativity requires confidence
I believe that everyone is born with an innate sense of creativity.
As children, our imaginations run wild with pure creativity.
But as we grow older, we learn about humiliation and become self-conscious of our creativity.
This leads to us putting aside our creativity to protect ourselves from the humiliation of sharing a bad piece of art.
Kids grow up no longer having a strong sense of creativity, and they enter the workforce with their creative muscles unused.
However, the few that do still use them are the ones that excel.
Creativity is like biceps. Everybody has biceps, but they go unnoticed on most people from years of inactivity.
Those who train their biceps everyday and take proper care of them are the ones who have strong, visible biceps.
Everybody still has an innate sense of creativity, but most people have spent years letting it decay due to a lack of confidence.
Developing your creativity, therefore, first requires developing your confidence in your own creativity.
This is the confidence that was lost long ago, due to a teacher or a classmate or a parent.
It has turned creativity into a phobia and will prevent you from ever sharing a creative thought again.
Developing your confidence
Part of overcoming this phobia is overcoming a fear of the unknown.
We don’t know how others will react to our art, so we keep it to ourselves.
Will the audience laugh at the joke?
Will the painting get a lot of likes on Instagram?
Will your boss like your new idea?
A fear of the unknown is what keeps most people from finding out the answers to these questions.
This is rooted in our fear of being judged.
We think that everyone is watching our every moves and listening to our every thoughts, and that keeps us from doing something that makes us seem weak.
We first begin to think like this in our teenage years, and it follows us all the way to the grave.
The truth is that everyone is so worried about being judged themselves that they simply don’t have time to judge others!
No one is really paying very close attention to what you’re doing.
If you’re on stage in a show with ten other performers, chances are you won’t stand out very much in the mind of the audience from the other nine.
If you’re part of an organization, you have even more competition.
This is a good thing!
That means when you mess up --- which is human nature and nothing to be ashamed of --- it won’t stick around in everyone’s minds for too long.
Realizing this will give you the freedom to try new things, share new ideas, and mess up more often, because you know that you won’t be judged as harshly as you’re already judging yourself.
The best way to overcome these fears is to face them head-on.
This begins with getting out of your own head and dipping your toes into the world of the unknown.
Share your joke with a few trusted friends; share your idea with a few trusted co-workers before telling your boss; put your piece of art up on Instagram, just for kicks.
By gently putting your work out there for others to see, you will have to face some of the fears that were holding you back, such as people who don’t like your work, critics who can think of a million ways to “improve” it, and rejection.
But you will also gain powerful insights into what your work actually looks like in the real world, which will lead to creative breakthroughs.
Most importantly, you will see that your worst fears are almost never realized.
This realization alone will give you a confidence boost.
Your art is never as bad as you think it will be, even if it is rough.
Your critics will never be as loud as you think they will be.
All of the worst fears that are holding your creativity back are just products of your imagination, and nothing else.
The reason why creativity is one of the most sought-after traits in CEOs today is because it is so rare.
And most of the time, those who have a developed sense of creativity also have a strong sense of confidence.
Working on one will undoubtedly help you develop the other, but they both need to be exercised on a regular basis to reap the full benefits.