Guess what? It’s okay to have some positive thoughts about yourself.
Many of us were raised in intellectual households, where if you couldn’t prove your point, well, you were just being delusional. I’m asking you to be a little delusional. You may be reluctant to think nice thoughts about yourself. I understand. You may feel that your negative thoughts “keep you in line” and you don’t want to “get a big head.”
Darling, you will not get a big head. I promise.
EXERCISE: TEN NICE THINGS
Step 1. Write Down Ten Successes, Wins, or Blessings from the Past Year.
Grab a pen and write down ten good things that have happened in the past twelve months. It’s time to give those chattering critical voices in your head a rest. It’s time to change the tape. It’s time to accentuate the positive.
If it doesn’t work, no worries — you can always go back to thinking negatively any time you’d like.
(“I paid off all my credit cards” or “I learned how to cook a perfect roast chicken”), things that happened to you (“My cousin gave me that wonderful birthday present” or “I got asked to perform the solo”), things that happened around you (“There is some jasmine growing right next to my bedroom window, and it smells heavenly” or “Those noisy neighbors finally moved away”) or (most likely) some combination of the above.
Don’t have a contest with yourself about the “best” things that happened to you; just list some things that, when you reread the list, make you nod and smile to yourself and think, “Yep. That’s pretty good.”
Step 2. Write Down Ten Nice Things about Yourself.
Now make a list of ten nice things about you. They may be nice qualities that you were born with, like your quick mind and your lovely eyes. They may be nice skills you’ve learned, like your gorgeous gardening skills and your ability to run a mile without losing your breath.
Or maybe they’re things other people appreciate about you, like what a safe and courteous driver you are, and how you always remember everyone’s birthday. Push yourself to come up with ten.
After all, the assignment is not to write down ten extraordinary things about you, or ten things that no one else in the world has ever done — just ten nice things that, again, you can look at and say, “Yep. That’s pretty good.”
Maybe you are in the middle of a dry spell so severe your lips are parched.
I’m sorry. I know that feeling — that sinking, empty, aching feeling — and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
But I know that eventually it will end. And you will live through it. I’m sorry I can’t say how long “eventually” will be, but I do know that you will get your mojo back.
You are an artist.
And sometimes artists endure extended periods during which it seems as if nothing’s happening.
It ’s called acedia, meaning “spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui” or “anomie in societies or individuals, a condition of instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals.”
And it doesn’t mean you’re dead inside.
It just means that you’ve temporarily lost the ability to feel joy in your work. Which is sad.
But if you accept this dry spell as a stage in the artistic process, feeling fully confident that no one and nothing can ever take away your identity as an artist (after all, they haven’t been able to make it go away yet, have they?), you just might survive.
Maybe this is the time to pursue some of those other things you always say you want to do. Volunteer more. Have lunch with friends.
Take a temporary job in a field that ’s of interest to you. Spend more time with children. Read all those books you’ve got piled up. Plan a trip. Sit on the couch with the television off.
Whatever happens, don’t give up on yourself.
Eventually you will get a little tickle. An idea will whisper to you. You’ll catch yourself thinking, “I wonder if . . .” and you’ll be off to the races again, productive, happy, and rejoicing in the renewal of your vibrant, creative voice.