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We Need Healthy Self Respect to Be More Creative

One way to think about the related ideas of self esteem, self regard and self concept is in terms of how we compare ourselves to others, which can suffocate our creativity.

If you are an actor, for example (or even wanting to be one), and compare yourself with Meryl Streep or Colin Firth, do you feel energized or deflated – inspired or discouraged?

Psychologist Elaine Aron notes that “low self-esteem is about power and influence, the result of rank. Like other social animals, we constantly rank ourselves among others – competing and comparing.”

Her new book on this and related topics is The Undervalued Self.

You can read some quotes in my post Trusting Your Creative Self.

Respect vs esteem

Psychologist Ellen Langer notes, “To esteem anything is to evaluate it positively and hold it in high regard, but evaluation gets us into trouble because while we sometimes win, we also sometimes lose. To respect something, on the other hand, is to accept it.”

She enjoys singing and does so “quite frequently. As those within earshot will attest, I’m not very good but I love to sing anyway. … I am not saddened by my lack of talent. I accept the way I sing. Because of this acceptance, I am able to sing without being evaluative of myself or concerned with what others think.”

From her post Self-esteem vs. Self-respect.

Ellen Langer, PhD is a professor of psychology at Harvard University, and author of On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity.

Risking to be creative

Margaret A. Boden, PhD, Research Professor of Cognitive Science at Sussex University, notes how we think of ourselves is crucial for creative risk-taking.

She writes, “A person needs a healthy self-respect to pursue novel ideas, and to make mistakes, despite criticism from others. Self-doubt there may be, but it cannot always win the day. Breaking generally-accepted rules, or even stretching them, takes confidence. Continuing to do so, in the face of scepticism and scorn, takes even more.”

But, she adds, “The romantic myth of ‘creative genius’ rarely helps. Often, it is insidiously destructive. It can buttress the self-confidence of those individuals who believe themselves to be among the chosen few (perhaps it helped Beethoven to face his many troubles).

“But it undermines the self-regard of those who do not. Someone who believes that creativity is a rare or special power cannot sensibly hope that perseverance, or education, will enable them to join the creative elite. Either one is already a member, or one never will be.”

This kind of thinking about creativity – that it is rare and so on – can be very self-limiting, Boden notes: “Why bother to try, if one’s efforts can lead only to a slightly less dispiriting level of mediocrity? It is no wonder if many people do not even achieve the P-creativity of which they are potentially capable.”

[P–creativity is her term for “coming up with a surprising, valuable idea that’s new to the person who comes up with it” – in contrast with H–creative, which “means that (so far as we know) no one else has had it before: it has arisen for the first time in human history.”]

From her book The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms.

Brené Brown, Ph.D. also points out that the notion of “I’m not very creative” just doesn’t work: “There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.

“Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.”

From her post “to live a creative life.”

Brown declares, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

This is her 2012 TED talk “Listening to Shame”:


Her book [a best seller in Self-help/Creativity on] is The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

What ideas do you have about yourself that may be affecting how much you develop your creativity?

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We Need Healthy Self Respect to Be More Creative

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). We Need Healthy Self Respect to Be More Creative. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Dec 2012
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