Life Lessons: Having Faith in Your Own Way When You Don’t Fit In

Life Lessons: Having Faith in Your Own Way When You Don’t Fit In

I’ve spent so many years taking apart my mind in regards to my mental health (anxiety and depression), but it’s taken me so long to realize some of the other aspects of my mind, despite my introspection.

I’m a creative person, but I faced many difficulties through school and at some of my jobs as well. I knew deep within that I had the skills and talent, but in certain situations my skills felt like they would sometimes become almost totally blocked.

The competition in design school was also fierce, with having many design school colleagues who were super talented and ahead of me in certain ways. Although I had a thick skin, I still felt my self-confidence in my design was already much lower as a result of me comparing myself to them.

I wasn’t even fully aware of this problem until a few years ago. However I was at least clued in on it about 10 years ago, when a manager at a startup I had worked for said he noticed I suffered in some of the design or coding projects where there were a lot of restrictions placed. So when I had to design things in a certain way and with a certain style, I was always trying to adhere to this concept of what people were looking for, rather than what I felt was best. Many people work fine under this structure, but I struggled.

The manager noticing this difficulty I had with restrictions was news to me and I also didn’t agree with their management style, so I chalked it all up to having a poor work environment (though I’m sure this was part of it too).

I also grew up with years of private piano and flute lessons. My flute teacher in particular noticed that I didn’t do well with structure imposed on me, but could sometimes easily outperform others when adhering to my own structure. She then adjusted her typical teaching style for me based on that. Even then though, I was so young and didn’t really think much of it.

Because I was always an at least average student in school and I didn’t have any obvious learning disabilities, this was a difficult thing for me to really notice for most of my life. I was good at adapting and fitting into situations I felt I needed to fit into. I wasn’t like some people who just said “fuck it” and dropped out of everything and found my own way. Sometimes I wish I had!

I still am not sure how to get around working creatively within restrictions. However, because I was always good at following my soul and listening to myself, I made sure not to stay in a job where I was unhappy or where I wasn’t performing my best. For the last 7-8 years I have worked in a place where I set my own structure and had much more creative freedom, and I have done well with this, while conversely some people struggle in an environment where there isn’t enough structure.

One of the reasons I wanted to bring this up is that like most of us know, there still isn’t enough room in the educational system for people like me. Education definitely is not a one-size-fits-all solution in terms of how it’s structured. This used to be the case for the workforce as well, but with the rise of the gig economy and new, creative ways of making money online and elsewhere, people are beginning to have new kinds of opportunities that allow them more freedom in that way.

I’ve discovered for me that it’s a must. I need to be in a position where I am paving my own path and I don’t have someone setting the structure for my life.

The moral of the story is: Never feel lesser if you feel like your life path isn’t working for you in one way or another, or if you’re comparing yourself to others and you don’t feel you match up. It really is about figuring out what’s compatible for YOU, and that can take a really, really long time to figure out — especially if you are working within a system or a society that isn’t acknowledging differences so much in that particular way, or is looking down on people who don’t “fit” with the current value standard.

7 Blocks To Creative Thinking And How To Solve Them

7 Blocks To Creative Thinking And How To Solve Them

Each of us has the power to be creative. It’s part of our natural makeup as human beings. The trouble is that, too often, we block our natural creativity and end up making errors in thinking and give ourselves more problems than we should.

Here are 7 ways to open up your natural creativity and keep the channels unblocked:

1. Don’t Make Assumptions.
Assumptions are essentially examples of lazy thinking. We simply don’t wait to get all the information we need to come to the right conclusions. There is the story of the customer at the bank who after cashing a check and turning to leave, returns and says: “Excuse me, I think you made a mistake.” The cashier responds, “I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do. You should have counted it. Once you walk away we are no longer responsible.” Whereupon the customer replies: “Well, okay. Thanks for the extra $20.”
Tip: Try to notice your own mind when you begin wanting to draw conclusions, and remind yourself to just wait until you have all the information.

2. Remember to Try to See Things From Other Points Of View. A truly open mind is willing to accept that, not only do other people have other just as valid points of view from theirs, but that these other points of view could potentially be more valid. A story is told that the modernist painter Pablo Picasso was once traveling on a train across Spain when he got into conversation with a rich businessman who was dismissive of modern art. As evidence that modern art didn’t properly represent reality, he took out a photo of his wife from his wallet and said: “This is how my wife should look, not in some silly stylized representation.” Picasso took the photo, studied it for a few moments and asked: “This is your wife?” The businessman proudly nodded. “She’s very small,” observed Picasso wryly.
Tip: Don’t have a monopoly on how things are. Things aren’t always what they seem.

3. Avoid Yo-Yo Thinking. Some people tend to have a tendency to swing from a highly positive mood one minute to a highly negative one the next, all because of what they see in front of them. It’s like a yo-yo: up one minute, down the next. It’s far more healthy to stay neutral and not let emotions get the better of you.
Tip: Remember that things are rarely as good – or as bad – as you think they are.

4. Get Rid Of Lazy Thinking Habits. Habit can be a major stumbling block to clear thinking and another example of laziness. Try this experiment: Write down the Scottish surnames Macdonald, Macpherson, and Macdougall and ask someone to pronounce them. Now follow these with the word Machinery and see what happens. Most people are likely to mispronounce it. This is because we tend to think in habitual ways and don’t like what doesn’t fit.
Tip: Don’t think that, just because things happened in a certain way once before, that they will happen like that again.

5. Don’t Think Like An Older Person, Think Like A Child. Research shows that the number of synapses, or connections, in the brain is greater in a child of two than in an average adult. The reason for this is that, while a child of two has no limiting world view, as adults we do. It’s like a sculptor who starts off with a large block of clay, more than he needs, and then gradually removes the clay as he molds his sculpture. If we use our brain like a child, accepting everything without judgment, we can actually halt and reverse the brain aging process.
Tip: Don’t worry about the myth of age! With the right stimulus and a passion for learning, you can actually improve your brain’s powers.

6. Try to See The Detail As Well As The Big Picture. You may know the poem by John Godfrey Saxe called “The Blind Men and the Elephant”. This tells how six blind men of Indostan (an ancient Indian subcontinent) go to see an elephant and each try to work out what it is from touching it. One blind man touches the tusk, another the trunk, another the tail, and so on. Of course, not being able to see the whole elephant, they come to wildly different conclusions.
Tip: Try to keep the big picture in front of you while looking at details. It will help to put everything in its proper place and context.

7. Think For Yourself. Taking time out to think is still frowned on in many organizations that prize activity over creativity. People who work in creativity-constrained organizations are likely to think the way they are supposed to think, or as others think, or as has always been the way to think. It’s like the blinkered thinking that Hans Christian Anderson describes in his story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Everyone in the land refuses to see that the emperor is naked and has been duped into believing he is wearing a splendid costume for his coronation. Only a young boy who has been ill and not party to the cultural brainwashing can see the truth and cries out: “Look, everyone, the Emperor is wearing no clothes!”
Tip: Don’t let others tell you how to think. When others ask your opinion, tell it to them straight.


Creative Thinking — It’s Something You Can Learn!

Creative Thinking — It’s Something You Can Learn!

I’m one of those people that have always been considered a creative type — because I have always been interested in art/graphic design, writing, music, and many other creative ventures over my lifetime. But even for me, creative thinking itself doesn’t always come naturally or automatically.

In 2011 I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and landed a job as a Web Designer/UI Analyst. Although I had no question that I was a creative person (with an overactive imagination), on the job they would often have brainstorming sessions and expect me to be throwing out ideas right and left for any given project they’d be working on.

This particular way of being creative didn’t necessarily suit me at the time. I wasn’t comfortable being put on the spot and expecting great ideas to just shoot out of me rapid-fire style. I’m a more methodical, strategic type that prefers time by myself to think over the best approach.

Additionally, it was very clear that they were expecting something very specific out of me and out of any given project we were working on, and I was expected to match that. This ended up causing a mental block for me — I felt like I didn’t have any room to really be fully creative and was rather overly focused on meeting their expectations.

Creative Frustration

That being said, I started to lose my confidence in my abilities to some degree. I felt like I wasn’t living up to what they expected, and I felt like there was something wrong with the way I did things, because they didn’t seem to understand it either.

I kept thinking, “maybe I’m only sort-of creative in certain ways, but have an issue when it comes to being pressured to having something to show for it.”

Over time I also learned that that particular job just wasn’t a great fit for me for a number of reasons (not in the work I was doing, but more in the environment), and feeling like an outsider there to some degree also didn’t really help me to be creative.

Understanding the Nature of My Creativity

Some time later, I found an online class that was entirely centered around developing creative thinking. I learned that even those who weren’t born to be a “creative type” could learn creative thinking strategies that would help them come up with creative ideas; and the more you practiced it the more efficient you would become at doing this.

I took it because I felt vulnerable due to my experience at the job, and felt like this would help me regain some of my confidence. Maybe it would even help me adapt to situations where I was expected to come up with ideas on the fly.

The class really helped, and showed me that developing your creative mind really is like a muscle. It also helped me realize that I wasn’t lacking, but that I worked best in a specific way and there was nothing wrong with that.

So in addition to understanding how creative thinking could be developed, I gained more self-awareness about how my own brain worked and what stimulates my creativity rather than hinders it.

Some Strategies for Creative Thinking

  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, as the saying goes. Get out of your comfort zone. Doing this is extraordinarily valuable in how it can open your mind and teach you things.
  • Learn to embrace your own “weirdness” and what makes you unique. Don’t suppress or deny any parts of you just because you think they might be looked at in a negative way. This will help you embrace all of your traits and expand your limits.
  • To think of something unique, practice thinking of two or more unrelated things and putting them together to make something entirely new (for example, an “air conditioning monster”).
  • Take a project that’s already been done or somebody you’re inspired by and put your own spin on it.
  • And most importantly, read this super awesome article from one of my favorite entrepreneurs James Altucher. He talks about making a habit of coming up with 10 ideas a day and how this consistent habit can seriously change your life over time.

He also mentions the following:

Perfectionism is the ENEMY of the idea muscle. Perfectionism is your brain trying to protect you from harm. From coming up with an idea that is embarrassing and stupid and could cause you to suffer pain.

We like the brain. But you have to shut the brain off to come up with ideas.

This explanation is exactly what happened to me on the job. Not fitting into their method of coming up with ideas and the loss of confidence in myself as a result further debilitated me from being able to function in a creative way.

Perhaps if I had focused on not caring what ideas came out of my head (whether good or bad) or if they matched what I thought their expectations were, I would have actually come up with some pretty awesome stuff.

Hopefully if you’re having (or have had) an experience similar to mine, this will inspire you to regain confidence in yourself even if you’re experiencing a creative muscle block, and not to fear if it happens!

It doesn’t mean you’re not actually creative, you just have to learn and work with how your brain works best.

Skip to content
This Website is committed to ensuring digital accessibility for people with disabilitiesWe are continually improving the user experience for everyone, and applying the relevant accessibility standards.
Conformance status