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 Talented artist, mentor and teacher, Jane Hinchliffe explores how to use creativity to improve wellbeing.

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. – Joseph Campbell

Are you someone who finds it difficult to move beyond feelings of negativity, self-criticism and inadequacy?  You’re not alone.  After having battled with depression and feelings of low self-esteem on and off for a number of years, I very much believed and fully identified with the constant self-talk that I heard in my head – you know, those feelings of worthlessness and blanket criticism that would play over and over again.

You see, our inner-critic loves to judge which in turn prompts us to doubt ourselves (or conversely, puff up our ego out of proportion) and generally keep us stagnated and not moving forward.  It’s like a thief who is intent on harnessing our joy, spontaneity and self-confidence.  So how do we quieten this kill-joy down and move beyond this feeling of being trapped and powerless?

For me, I turned to my first love which was art and creativity.  As a child I had loved to paint, draw and create with my hands but once an adult, I had for years stopped myself from pursuing my passion for art because of my over-riding feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy.  However, I managed to muster up enough courage and once my youngest son started school, I decided to pick up my brush and dabble once again amidst all the doubt.

At first, the ‘judge’ took great pleasure in informing me that I was ‘wasting my time’ – that I could ‘never be taken seriously’, that I ‘had no talent’, that there were ‘plenty of other tasks that need your attention’ and to basically just ‘stop before anyone notices and you make a complete fool of yourself’.  However, in spite of this onslaught, the lure of the paint moving across the canvas proved too much – I was curious, smitten and falling head over heels with painting once again.  Simultaneously, it also felt like I was teetering on a precipice and wondered would I tumble over the edge or simply refuse to have my spirit broken, crumpled and laying to waste.

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. – Pablo Picasso

I’m sure you’ve watched young children paint or draw.  They are fully in the moment and have no self-doubt about their ability to create their idea of magic – they don’t see anything odd about a spotted elephant, a piece of paper covered entirely in handprints or that telling ‘mud’ colour that children often achieve in their paintings.  No, they forge ahead receptive to the moment and sheer blatant delight.

Meanwhile, I found that if I acknowledged the ‘judge’, heard what had to be said but at the same time learnt to distance myself from the words, that I started to develop ‘muscles’ and strategies to cope.  Pretty soon I also began to realise that there really wasn’t much substance to the criticism when I probed further and asked questions such as ‘Why not?’, ‘What difference does it make?’, or ‘So what?’

All the while my painting abilities developed and blossomed (I’m now a full-time working artist) and whilst it wasn’t always a smooth ride I eventually became determined to not let the ‘judge’ take away my joy – that ability to be free to play and to make discoveries about myself that I couldn’t have dreamt of otherwise.

In turn, these adventures with paint and canvas have taught me much about my life as a whole – it’s provided me with valuable life-lessons that I can pass along to my children, such as being on guard for feelings of inadequacy, listlessness, boredom, discomfort and feelings of failure etc.  Ironically, these doubts are often initiated just when our inner critic is feeling vulnerable and out of control.  It’s usually a sign that you are working on something that is important to you and therefore there is a sense of risk-taking involved.  Of course, it’s sensible to take note of these concerns but not to be solely driven by them.  So be curious, don’t identify too much but rather imagine you are watching yourself from a detached point of view.

Oh and don’t think you’re not creative by the way – it’s our birthright!  As creative beings it’s how we make connections – learning who we are, putting the logical mind to one side, using hands, observation, passion, spontaneity – all things that children naturally do.  This gift of self-discovery is there for all of us, helping us feel more at ease with ourselves and approachable to our friends and family.

Time and time again, both personally and with women I help via my ecourses and creative 1:1 online sessions – using our innate creativity can often be a way of finding our way outside of ourselves so as to see life with fresh eyes and a new perspective.  A way of moving beyond the factual and logical to uncovering the real you living in the here and now.

So whether you want to pick up a brush, a camera, learn a foreign language, look for a new job etc., take some time to recognise your thoughts and then write or draw out your response.  You may want to write a letter to your inner critic, or draw your ‘inner critic’ in a way that you perceive them or even paint a colour to represent an emotion or feeling.  Remember that thoughts, feelings and behaviour are inextricably linked, so, if you can find a way to release these emotions ie. like ‘painting them out’, then this can be of great benefit.

Remember, the ‘judge’ will always hover in the background but you can be in control and essentially reclaim the essence of you which is really what the world longs for you to share with us all.

jane imageJane lives in a small village at the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, near the town of Harrogate, UK with her husband, boys and ‘Diva Dog’ called Mia.  She is a licensed artist and paints as often as she can in between facilitating art ’n’ play online ecourses.  Jane also offers 1:1 online creative consulting sessions for women who wish to bring their creative vision to life as a small business owner and is equally passionate about inspiring women who’ve never thought they were creative, to just begin – she can show you how!

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