Whose Voice Holds You Back?

One of my favorite books to peruse time and again is Julia Cameron’s  The Artist Way.  The first section of the book is dedicated to cleansing yourself of all the negative input you’ve received in the past regarding your creativity.  You see, if your parents or friends told you your passion (drawing, dancing, singing) was stupid or a bad idea, it’s likely that those comments were internalized.  For some this means that they (over)work to defy these comments.  But for others, sublimation of their passion occurs, and they avoid their creativity.

Likewise, entrepreneurship is about big ideas based in passion — ideas that no one else has.  It requires us to be self-empowered and self-motivated.  This makes us specially unique to accomplish great things, but also means that when we hold ourselves back, there often is no one to get us back on track.

If you have ever told yourself that your idea isn’t good enough without a factual / statistical reason, it’s time to decipher where the reasoning came from.  Why does it matter?  Because stopping yourself from taking a leap can become a habit, and just like with writer’s block, you may become entrepreneurially blocked.  Ideas being our livelihood, that’s bad.

How to Find the Source of the Negative Commentary

You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?  I want to help you find where that negative reinforcement is coming from, so you can heal it (or tell it to bugger off, if you prefer).  Note that I’m not a psychologist, I’ve just done this for myself to great benefit.  I am only able to instruct you based on personal experience.

Each step will take time — how much time varies with each individual.

Step One

Think about the last time you had an idea for your work that you gut reacted negatively about.  This may take some time — I know my memory is odd with things like this, and sometimes I need to tell my brain to find a fact, then step away from the task for a while.

Once you have the moment in mind, we can proceed.

Step Two

Think hard about what stopped you from pursuing the idea.  We’ve already decided that it wasn’t a fact or statistic, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing this exercise.  Did you stop yourself because the idea felt silly, wrong, or too ambitious?  Perhaps you felt it was selfish, or would be too much fun (not ‘work’).  Nail down exactly what it was, otherwise the next step won’t work.

Step Three

With the reason pinpointed, you can now consider who in your life might have left that impression on you.  This could be through the language they used, or the attitude they exuded toward things similar to the idea you had (or toward entrepreneurship in general).  I see a lot of entrepreneurs hold themselves back not only from individual ideas, but from success because someone, somewhere, once left a negative impression on the pursuit.

For many of us, these internal conflicts formed when were were too young to write off the attitude of the person we were with.  That is why this exercise is, at times, necessary.  Basically, we’re going to go back in time and re-teach ourselves that what we were taught was wrong, and release it.

Use the reason you abandoned an idea as an indicator.  90% of the time, my clients immediately know who it was who negatively affected them, even if the actual event isn’t remembered.  Just like your best friend may be the only person you know who uses the word “rad” anymore, the attitude or words left with you by someone is quintessentially them.

If you can’t remember, despite your best efforts, it’s alright to proceed to the final step.  Sometimes things happen to us at too early an age, or weren’t consciously remembered because, at the time, they seemed to be insignificant events.

Step Four

Was it a parent?  A friend?  A teacher?  With this person in mind, are you able to think about the moment this attitude was taught to you?  What was that moment really about?  Sometimes, as young people, we don’t realize that the comment or attitude wasn’t directed at us.  We pick things up because we are learning at break-neck speed, and garbage gets rolled into the good.

If you meditate, try to enter the space in which the event occurred, and see it for what it really was.  If directed at you, it’s time to forgive the person, and yourself (I know I get frustrated at myself for internalizing other people’s issues), and let it go.  It will be easier to let go of something that wasn’t directed at you, but it’s nonetheless important.  If you don’t meditate, do your best to put yourself in the shoes of the person in order to acheive the above result.

This is a process, and I expect it to take time.  Ultimately, business decisions should be based in fact, so if you find yourself negatively reacting unnecessarily to a new process, growth, or idea, take the time to go through this exercise again.  You may have more than one incident to clear up, or require positive reinforcement for the change to stick.

If you try this, please tell us about your experience in the comments!