Have you ever met someone who is brilliantly creative, but every relationship they engage in seems to crumble, every project falls apart, and there is always someone else to blame for these things? Oftentimes the common denominator for the unproductive creative is an overly inflated ego.
When I meet these kinds of people I often have the thought, “get over yourself.”
The truth is, though, when I think about my own broken relationships and failed creative projects I can oftentimes point to some of the same troubling attributes. I usually can pinpoint the moment I became inflexible in my thoughts and attitude toward a person or project and see where my creative mojo was lost.
When we become inflexible in our own thoughts and attitudes we miss out on relationship. We inflate our value and become convinced of our own invaluableness to others. We become less forgiving of another’s wrongs against us and our ego get the best of us. This greatly affects our creativity.
When I was a kid there was a boy in my sixth-grade class who was a brilliant artist. He drew amazing pictures that were way beyond his age ability. Once we had to work together on a project. Whenever someone disagreed with something he did or said he would go into a corner of the classroom, playground, or cafeteria and sit by himself and draw.
Instead of engaging with others and talking it out, he withdrew and isolated. Working on a project with him was difficult because of this. No one really knew what the issue was other than he was upset if anyone disagreed with his opinion. He didn’t help us finish the project and refused to speak to anyone who would reach out to him.
Over time, he stopped drawing altogether. Eventually, the kids in our class ignored him and completely forgot about his drawing talent as well.
The same is true for us as adults. When we get our feelings hurt or we disagree with another we might isolate, thinking, “what I have to add is not valued” or “they don’t listen anyway.”
When we disengage with others, we not only hurt the outcome for the project we are working on together but also the relationships involved and our own creativity. Somehow we think we are controlling the situation by removing ourselves but in actuality, we are allowing our creativity to be controlled by holding on to a grudge and isolating ourselves.
The opposite of isolating when in conflict is being aggressive. Sometimes when we sense someone else is encroaching on something perceived as our area of influence, we feel the need to protect our authority and limit or refuse to allow others to contribute. Oftentimes this comes out as bullying others by either calling out or ignoring them completely.
There is a huge difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence helps us remember we are able and gifted with our creative skills. Arrogance makes us think we are the only one who is able and all others are less.
Instead of living from our value our ego becomes inflated and we treat others as if we are invaluable. We don’t allow others to explore their gifts of creativity. We become aggressive out of fear of losing our influence.
My husband is working on publishing a board game that he has created. He is part of several online groups that teach, support, and encourage game creators in their journey toward publishing. In one of the groups he is part of, there is a man who runs the group who is quite knowledgeable and experienced in publishing successful board games.
While his knowledge is valuable, he becomes quite aggressive in his responses to those who are learning the many nuances of game publishing. He certainly has incredible experience and knowledge, but that is sometimes overshadowed by the way he addresses people.
There is obvious favoritism in how he responds to creators, or even who he responds to. While everyone in the group wants to learn, it is noticeable how he ignores some of the questions and needs of those who are struggling with the basics of game crafting.
It has put my husband in an awkward position as he has been given preferential treatment and others are now envious. It has caused issues among the group members. Some have become offended and hurt by the way they have been ignored they have left the group entirely. Unfortunately, this means they have lost the opportunity to learn more about successful game publishing.
Sometimes we become offended by the way someone criticizes our creative work. We can mistakenly perceive every criticism as a personal attack instead of an opportunity to become better.
The way we treat a disagreement over our creative work has a direct result in how successful we will become in our creative process. We must be able to take instruction and criticism without offense — not only for our relationship but for our creative work.
When we allow ourselves to be offended we put our self-perception ahead of what we can learn. We compromise our art and collaboration with other creatives becomes more challenging because no one wants to risk offending us.
While there certainly is a wrong way to deliver criticism, the correct response to poorly delivered criticism isn’t to get offended. Instead, we can offer helpful suggestions on how we’d like to receive feedback in the future. This goes a long way in both relationships and our own creative flow.
Our inflated ego can cause both relationship and creativity issues. While we may not think our egos are an issue they can be hidden within subtle isolation, aggression, and offense tactics. Instead, if we can “get over ourselves” we can collaborate, relate, and create more successfully.