In all of my work with INFJs, INFPs, and Highly Sensitive People—all of who are also writers and artists and empaths—I run up against the same creative block again and again. It’s the problem that won’t go away for us. The thing that haunts us at every turn. It is arguably the most destructive and self-sabotaging limiting belief in the whole grand universe of limiting beliefs.
It’s low self esteem.
The causes are varied, and all of them run deep. Childhood trauma is the biggie that comes up, in all of its insidious forms. Some of us were abused, some suffered neglect, and a lot of us were bullied. You name it, we’ve gone through it.
So, now, as sensitive intuitive adults who are finally beginning to understand our gifts—and finally beginning to think about actually using them—those old wounds come roaring back to the surface every time we even imagine stepping into our own power. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a call with a client when they ask me the million-dollar question that always inevitably shows up:
How do I make myself feel worthy?
Or, in other words…
How do I find and possess that ever-elusive Holy Grail of what is known as “high self esteem”?
This is a tricky question, and a big topic to explore. It’s tricky because my views on it differ a bit from the mainstream opinion on the issue. It’s a big topic because there are quite literally hundreds of self-help books out there dedicated to this very subject, and they all come with some sort of attached promises that if you follow the method, do the work, and affirm your ass off, you too will one day be the proud owner of a shiny new set of high self esteem tools.
Well, I’m not saying that’s not possible. I’m an avid reader of self-help books and I truly do believe that we create our own realities based on the thoughts we think and the intentions we put out into the Universe. But I also know that the quest for high self esteem can be a long hard road, and it can take years of traveling to make even the tiniest amount of progress at all.
However, what I’ve noticed with my clients is that it’s not really the low self esteem that’s holding them back. It’s the belief that they need high self esteem before they can start doing the work that they know deep in their hearts is their soul’s calling.
I struggle with this myself. For years, I’ve worked with challenges around money. Making money was hard for me for many years, and now managing money is the present riddle I keep trying to solve in my financial life. For a long time I thought, “If only I could win the lottery, then all my money problems would be solved. If I had a million dollars then I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Now, while it would be exciting to win that amount of money, what I’ve discovered in the past couple of years (after doing a lot of really deep soul-searching money work) is that winning the lottery would actually NOT solve my money problems. Yes, it would alleviate certain short-term cash flow problems, but the real problems would still be there. The truth about me and my relationship to money would still be there. Like, the fact that I have a bunch of hang-ups around having money and I tend to try to get rid of it as fast as I can when I do have it so that I don’t have to experience the fear that comes up for me around financial flow. That—oh yes THAT—would still be there for sure.
In fact, it would only be amplified. One million dollars would increase the way I feel about ONE dollar one million times.
Looking at it that way, my fantasy of winning the lottery tends to dissolve pretty quickly.
The reason the fantasy is so enticing though is because in the fantasy I am a different person. Receiving and holding a million dollars magically transforms me—instantly of course—into a competent money manager with no self-worth issues who knows how to expertly save and invest.
We all have these fantasies. If you struggle with weight some part of you believes that if you could only drop 30 pounds everything would be better and your body issues would disappear. If your all-consuming dream is to find an agent and a publisher, your brain tends to gloss over the fact that signing a book deal will bring with it a whole new set of challenges for you to learn your way through. Every person has this “if only” scenario that plays like a movie inside our minds, a movie that always ends with “happily ever after.”
The fantasy of achieving high self esteem is just a different form of this same tried-and-true fantasy.
So, for those of us who have always, our whole life long, struggled with not feeling “good enough” it’s very common to hold the belief that one day we will have high self esteem. And when that one day comes THEN we can start writing, or painting, or drawing. THEN we can join that writers’ group or go to that writers’ conference. THEN we can contact that list of agents and send out the manuscript we have hidden in the drawer. It will be easy THEN, of course, because we will have high self esteem. We will know what to do. We won’t have any fear of talking to strangers, or studying legal paperwork, or learning how to market our books, or getting up in front of a group of people and talking about our work. We will have high self esteem and it will be effortless and easy. Or at least, a bit more effortless and easy than it is now.
The big scary secret truth behind this fantasy is that no matter what happens to you, whether it’s winning a million dollars or signing a ten-book deal to write the next amazing YA fantasy series, you will still be you. You will still doubt yourself, feel like an idiot, get tongue-tied, and not do the thing you were supposed to do that everyone else already knows how to do but you don’t because it’s your first time and you just didn’t know.
Think of it like this: You’ve been waiting and waiting for a package of high self esteem to show up in the mail. You’ve been putting off running errands and getting things done because you’re convinced that sometime in the near future the postal guy is going to show up with your package. But the package isn’t coming. It’s been lost in transit. The best thing you can do is reconcile yourself to the fact that it ain’t comin’. Get dressed, get your things together, and get out into the world. Move forward ANYWAY without that package. If it shows up later, great. If not, then that’s okay too. Because what you’ll learn is that you never needed high self esteem to use the gifts you were born into this world with. You only needed to accept yourself as you are and show up in the world as your true honest self.
And THAT is the writer that other people are going to want to read.