It’s been a couple of days since I published my last blog article (about Morning Pages, and how helpful they’ve been in making me re-engage with my writing). Ironically enough, right after that, I've done a wide range of things that do not include writing, or especially, publishing on the blog. Which got me wondering...
What scares us from showing up? What is this force that seems to be always watching us, always waiting for us to give in, no matter how far we are in our creative journeys? What is this entity that keeps us from doing the things we know that we want and know that is important?
This makes me think of 3 things: ResistanceShame Balancing what we give and receive
Let me try to summarise what I know about resistance: resistance is this force of nature that works tirelessly against us, whenever we engage in a daring endeavour. Steven Pressfield wrote extensively about it in The War of Art.
The good side of understanding resistance is that we stop blaming ourselves and become aware that it is something that happens to all of us. I face it, you face it, Paul McCartney faces it, Banksy faces it. The bad side is exactly the same thing: knowing we will always, every single day, have to work against it. It doesn’t go away, as long as we are trying to make something important.
From my experience, the concept of resistance is something that you might not fully get right away. But keep this in mind as you go by your days and slowly observe it acting on you. I am sure you will find it.
Oh, this one is good…
Shame is, in my opinion, one of the many forms in which the resistance manifests. It is the most dangerous one because it can also disguise itself in many things. My favourite one is perfectionism.
Yes, perfectionism: this thing people thought to be the best thing to say as your "worst" quality in a job interview, because it would show what a "remarkable" professional you are. Perfectionism, this thing so many of us have worn (or still wear) as a badge of honour.
Yeah, suckers, I am a perfectionist! Now move away and let me be brilliant! (Imagine the joy of working or living with full-blown perfectionist who is also a prima donna and a type A personality - jackpot!)
However, perfectionism is nothing more than the shame of being judged by what we do. Is the feeling that if someone finds something wrong in our work or life, they will laugh at us, and they will finally discover what a failure we are - insert here impostor syndrome... Isn’t perfectionism just lovely?
It’s all shame, people. All of it.
Shame of being ridiculous. Shame of opening up too much. Shame of spelling mistakes. Shame of not knowing the answer to everything. Shame of saying something stupid.
You thought you were the only one battling with your indecent, crippling, painful shame? Ha! Welcome to the club - there’s a couple of billions of us.
Brené Brown has conducted some incredible research on shame, vulnerability and connection and wrote about it in her book Daring Greatly. She shares a zillion discoveries on how it manifests, where does it come from and how to overcome it. Really, read her book. In a nutshell, the best thing we can do to start overcoming shame is acknowledging it.
Whenever you feel shame, just call it out. Look straight in its metaphorical eyes and say, I know you’re here, honey. I know why you are here. And, really, it’s okay. Be cool, and I will be cool, and everything will be fine. Or not, but I really, really need to find out for myself, alright?
Giving and Receiving
The balance of giving and receiving is a systemic approach - or something like that. I probably should do more research on this… - Ha! Here you are, shame. Welcome to my blog! Now fuck off.
The idea here is that, in order to reach a balance in our lives, relationships and art, it's important that we seek a balance between giving and receiving.
In my experience of writing, for instance, it is the balance between (1) putting my work out in the world and (2) nurturing myself with references, experiences, knowledge and resources.
If I just write and don't consume anything, my well will dry out. It will be out of balance. On the other hand, if I just consume stuff and don't let it out in the world somehow, all gets locked inside - and that’s not good, folks.
Any imbalance can cause emotional and physical pain. The catch here, though, is that it is virtually impossible to reach a perfect balance because once you take care of one area, the other starts to demand. So, don’t seek for perfection (or just read the previous section of this post as many times as possible).
Understand that working towards balance doesn’t mean reaching the pot at the end of the rainbow. Moreover, it means going towards it, but kind of spending our lives walking across the rainbow. This may sound frustrating, but look: there’s a freaking rainbow above you.
The antidote to all three is the same: show up. Do the work, get the ball rolling. Acknowledge the resistance and the shame. They will be sitting at the table by our side every day, all the time, just waiting for you to give in.
It matters less if you’re doing something good than that you are doing something. If you write, sit down with your computer or journal. If you paint, stand in front of the canvas. And, whenever possible, show resistance and shame the way out.
While you are showing up, reflect on how much you are giving and receiving. Are you consuming all the content in the world and not letting anything out? Are you creating relentlessly, day after day, and not getting anything in return? Look for the thing you need to do to regain the balance. And then just do it.
Whenever you find your energy blocked in a way, maybe ask yourself the things I am learning to ask myself:How is resistance playing here? What am I ashamed of? Am I giving too much or receiving too much? Once we become aware of these factors, it gets a bit easier to work past them. And just like that, you can work towards finding balance again - until it's all unbalanced once again, about one second later.
But well, that's life. And the rainbow up there looks pretty great.