Many of us let our self-doubts or previous missteps and mess-ups dictate our actions. We adopt an all-or-nothing perspective, assuming that if we can’t do something perfectly, if we’ve made mistakes before, then we have no business trying, again.
Self-doubts can lead us to question our worth and decide that we’re undeserving. Self-doubts can stop us from pursuing our dreams and responding to our needs.
In the new book The Creativity Challenge Tanner Christensen features an exercise to cultivate our creativity, which I think is also great for navigating self-doubts and insecurities. The technique originates from improv: It’s about “addressing every idea that comes your way by responding to it with ‘Yes, and …'”
Christensen shares the example of contemplating writing a book. You’re wondering if you even have anything worth writing about. Here’s how you’d respond:
Yes, and … if I write about my own life, it will be original.
Yes, and … because it’s my life, I’ll have much of the plot already figured out.
Yes, and … I can write about it as if it were a fantasy novel to make it more exciting.
Instead of a self-doubt instantly squashing a need, dream or desire, we’re able to remain open and curious. We’re able to dig deeper and brainstorm helpful ideas. We’re able to focus on the things that serve us.
Here are some ways you might use the technique with different self-doubts or insecurities:
You bombed your previous presentation, and you’re wondering if you can do well on another one: Yes, and … I can address each slip-up I made last time, and learn from it. And I can remind myself that practice makes progress. And did I really “bomb the presentation”? If I really didn’t do well, that’s OK. We can’t be great at everything right off the bat. But I can use my mistakes as opportunities to improve (and maybe even enjoy myself).
You aren’t immune to all the articles you see that stipulate exercise needs to be tough and challenging, so you’re wondering if you should stick with your current physical activities: Yes, and … I really enjoy this kind of movement. Life is too short to waste on punishing workouts that are boring to me. And if I am getting bored, what sounds like fun? What do I want to try? How do I want to experiment and move my body?
You feel guilty for practicing self-care. Maybe someone even made a comment, and now you’re wondering if it’s OK to focus on yourself: Yes, and … self-care is vital for me because it’s how my mind and body reconnect. It’s how I’m able to serve others, from a full bucket versus a few drops. In fact, is there anywhere that I’m feeling depleted? Where am I feeling good and calm and empowered? What do I need overall?
You want to explore your creativity, but you’re wondering if you can make that painting, poem, quilt or 3-course meal: Yes, and … I’ll try my best, but I won’t beat myself up about it, because creativity is a process. Because I’m just playing here. Because I want to savor the sweetness that is. In fact, do I really want to make what I’m about to make? If I do, how can I make this more enjoyable and stress-free? How can I let loose? If I don’t, how else can I play?
If it helps, make a list of several of your self-doubts. Then try to reframe them using Christensen’s technique. And if you’re having a hard time, write about that. Write about why you’re having a hard time and what might help. Maybe you ask a loved one to complete a “yes, and …” sentence for you. Maybe you help them complete a sentence they’re struggling with.
Whether this exercise works for you or not, the good news is that whatever your self-doubts are, you can push through anyway. You can act anyway. Remember that.
How can you use this technique to turn around a negative thought, an insecurity or something else you’re struggling with?