I screwed up. I blew it. Now what? Two steps, actually, which I share in this episode, and which have everything to do with living a full-color, creative life, even though they might not seem like it at first…
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First, an exciting announcement: On Sunday, August 2nd, Live Creative Now hit #1 in the Self-Help category of New & Noteworthy on iTunes!
Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave a review. The only reason Live Creative Now is appearing in iTunes New & Noteworthy at all is due to all the downloads, subscribes, and reviews YOU have given it, and I am so, so grateful!
I know people are discovering the Creative Uprising here at Living A Creative Life directly from the podcast, and without your support, that would not be happening, so thank you, especially because I know iTunes does not make it easy to leave a review!
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Plus remember, right now I’m running a contest — if you subscribe, and leave a review, you could win:
- a copy of The Art of Work, by Jeff Goins (who I’m going to be interviewing in a few weeks)
- autographed copies of my CDs of original music – Online Dating Blues, and My Ukulele (the Naked Sessions)
- a 12×18” poster of my Creative Sandbox Rules.
OR, the “grand prize,” a half-hour one-on-one session with me, to borrow my brain for anything you want — get past creative blocks, help with your creative business, whatever you want.
I want to talk about something that, on the surface, may not seem like it has anything to do with living a full-color, creative life, but in fact has everything to do with it.
I’ve been walking around with a heavy feeling in my chest. I did something, without thinking, that hurt someone and betrayed their trust.
It was unintentional on my part, but that doesn’t matter. Something I did hurt someone I care about and damaged our relationship. Possibly permanently.
This person felt devastated, and I feel devastated that I caused that.
I feel embarrassed and ashamed at what I did—something that simply didn’t occur to me would be a problem, but it is a problem, and now I feel like an idiot, and a really bad person.
So what do you do when you make a mistake that has damaging consequences?
Well, the first thing I did was to accept responsibility, acknowledge the damage and hurt I caused, and apologize. I did this thing, and I understand that it hurt you, and I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I was wrong.
I did not realize that my actions would cause offense and breach of trust, but now I do, and I feel ashamed.
I offered to make reparations as best as I could, acknowledging that the damage was done and could not be undone.
And I promised that the offense I committed would not happen again.
When we’ve wronged someone, this is all we can do. Apologize, acknowledge the offense, offer assurances that it wasn’t intentional and will not recur, express remorse and shame, and offer what reparations we can.
This essentially follows the steps of an effective apology, as outlined by apology expert, Aaron Lazare. (See his articles “Making Peace Through Apology” and “What an Apology Must Do” on the Greater Good website.)
So that’s the first step. Whether the person forgives me or not is out of my hands. They may, they may not. All I can do is seek forgiveness.
The offended party may feel that I have damaged the relationship beyond repair, which feels awful, but I don’t have control over anything beyond what I do. I can only do my best, and then let go.
What I do have control over—and I believe this is as important as the first step above—is how I treat myself.
When we do something we’re ashamed of, it’s easy to go down a black hole of self-flagellation. “I’m a terrible person. I’m an idiot. I’m irredeemably bad.” But no matter how much I might feel this, it’s not really useful to go there.
Instead, I’m working on practicing shame resilience and self-compassion.
Shame researcher Brené Brown, author of the best-selling book, Daring Greatly (aff), has said that reaching out and giving voice to your experience of shame is critical to shame resilience, and I thought of her when I felt the flush of shame washing over me when I discovered that I’d blown it in a big way. I wanted to curl up in a hole, but instead I told my husband what had happened.
As Brown says, empathy is the strongest antidote to shame. “If you put shame in a petri dish and douse it with empathy,” she says, “shame loses power and starts to fade.”
Indeed. Sharing what happened with someone who could listen and respond empathetically helped put me out of a shame coma.
Kristin Neff is the world’s foremost researcher on self-compassion, and her book, Self-Compassion (aff), has had a big impact on me.
As Neff defines it, self-compassion is composed of three elements:
- Mindfulness – the ability to hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring the pain or exaggerating it.
- Common humanity – recognizing that we are not alone, that suffering, and feelings of inadequacy, are part of the shared human experience and something we all go through.
- Self-kindness – being warm, gentle and understanding with ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain, or beating ourselves up with harsh judgment and self-criticism.
So self-compassion is a combination of self-kindness, a recognition of our common humanity, and mindfulness. This sounds a lot like letting go of perfectionism, doesn’t it?
It also sounds a lot like my Golden Formula: self-awareness (aka mindfulness) + self-compassion = the key to everything good. (Click to tweet!)
(Yes, in Neff’s definition, self-compassion contains the concept of mindfulness within it, but hey, I came up with my Golden Formula before I discovered Neff’s work, and I find calling out the self-awareness piece as a separate element to be very helpful, so my Golden Formula is staying. )
Put them together, and…
Here’s where the connection between my shame story and living a full-color, creative life intersect.
In order to live a full-color life, you must allow yourself to be where you are. You must practice self-awareness. You must practice the skill of noticing your experience; noticing what is working, and how that feels; noticing what isn’t working, and how that feels.
And you must practice self-compassion: holding that awareness of your feelings and experience, without getting sucked into it…
While at the same time recognizing that you are human and flawed, just like everyone else…
And treating yourself gently and with kindness.
This is something to practice in every area of our lives. In our relationships with others, and in our relationship with ourselves, and with our creative expression.
If I can forgive myself for causing damage to an important relationship, guess what, it gets easier to forgive myself for not being as skilled as I wish I were in my painting, my singing, my podcasting, my writing. It becomes possible for me to keep creating, even though the gap between where I am and where I wish I were is almost unbearably huge.
How we do anything is how we do everything.
This quote has been attributed to people as far back as Marcus Aurelius. I don’t know who said it first, but I do know it’s true.
How you relate to the people in your life has a lot to teach you about how you relate to yourself and your art. Everything is interconnected. Everything counts.
That’s all I have to say.
Thanks for Listening!
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Now go get creating!
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