Ever since I was little, creativity has been in my nature. When I was young, I would bring the entirety of my dresser out into the living room for costume changes during whichever musical I decided I wanted to perform that day. There was dancing and singing along to Bye Bye Birdie whether I had an audience or not. As I grew older, I participated in a few years of dance, talent shows, and drama club. For my brief stint in college, I discovered my desire to write creative non-fiction pieces and memoirs in my creative writing classes. I have fallen in love with art as a coping method, whether it be singing, drawing, dancing, or writing. It’s been my preferred form of therapy for years, but lately I’ve felt completely stuck. The ideas flow, but the negativity wins every time.
Negative self-talk is often a common side effect of many mental illnesses, especially if you already struggle with low self-esteem. This is something I still deal with daily because of my anxiety, OCD, and depression and is perhaps the very reason why I am unable to create the way I crave to so often. First, my anxiety stems from whether or not anyone will like what I’m creating and whether or not I’ll be any good at what I decide to create. Then, my OCD begins to analyze my ideas from top to bottom; the perfectionist thinking makes the very idea of starting seem impossible. Lastly, my depression questions whether my ideas are even worth it. While all of these thoughts are replaying in my mind, I am talking myself out of my ideas. In the end, my judgments become a reality and my ideas get left behind.
What I can be doing, though, is reframing these negative thoughts. For the anxiety portion that holds me back, I can remind myself that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of my work. The most important part is whether or not I like my work and whether or not it has helped me through my symptoms of mental illness. I can then continue to tell myself that the perfectionistic thinking is a product of my OCD. I know that fighting the thoughts only makes things worse. Letting the thoughts float by is the healthiest way to cope with obsessive thinking, even though it may be the most challenging. As for the depression, the thoughts can be combated by just the opposite; I am only wasting more time by not doing what I love. If it helps me then there is no doubting whether or not the time I spent creating was worth it.
I am more than aware that all of these suggestions are easier said that done. They take practice, especially when dealing with mental illness and low self-esteem. Negative self-talk is consistent and stubborn, but reframing those thoughts may help you push past that barrier and get to what you know helps you. Writing this article is my first step towards unraveling the negative self-talk and I hope that you find it in you to make that first step too. You aren’t alone.