I can't draw.
I can't sing.
I can't paint.
Sometime during my life, these ideas became beliefs.
Then the beliefs became truths, because they kept me from trying.
I grew up believing there's the gifted and there's the rest.
Some things you can learn, other things are based in talent.
In creativity, either you have a gift or you don't. If you don't have it, you don't do it.
That's what I believed.
Either you can or you can't.
If you're bad, you stop.
I decided that I wasn't gifted in music and visual creativity. I believed myself just a tad gifted in writing, so that I could keep doing. Not gifted enough to really go for it though, just enough to keep it as a small hobby. Eventually, the lack of belief made me stop writing altogether.
I decided the limits of my creative journey.
Not the stupid teachers who only graded and didn't teach, not the grown ups who were bitter that they didn't make it and said it's nearly impossible for regular people. Not the ones who said creativity is reserved for those who're born with a gift.
No, they weren't the ones who decided. They influenced me, they pushed me in a safe, uncreative direction, but they didn't make the choice. I did.
This is my limit. Whatever lies beyond isn't something I'm capable of. I won't go there, because I can't do it. That's just how it is.
Who would I have been if I hadn't made that decision?
Who could I be if I unmake it? If I start questioning my limits?
The power of breaking your limits
Have you ever done something you didn't think you could do?
If you have, you've broken your own limit. It's a powerful feeling.
There's been a significant moment in my life when I really started to question all of these beliefs I have, and it was when I worked for a student organization. Being bullied as a kid and growing up as a bit of a shy outsider in school, I never ever in a million years saw myself as being able to lead a bigger group.
Still, that's exactly what I did when my friends encouraged me to run for the position as the leader of the organization I was active in. Now, it wasn't the hardest job ever, and of course I wasn't a perfect leader, but I could lead. It worked. The organization didn't fall apart, I didn't fall apart and I had successfully proven one of my strongest beliefs wrong.
The question that stayed with me after my year as a leader was this:
What other beliefs of my limits are also wrong?
The trust in my doubtful voices was broken.
Last year, I took song lessons and discovered that I could probably get quite good (but it wasn't really my thing).
This year, I've gone on to break the belief that my English isn't good enough and that I can't draw.
What will I go on to break?
If you start trying to prove yourself wrong, you'll discover that a lot of our limits are just ideas based in a lack of confidence.
The thing we call learning
When we decide we can't do something, we disregard the fact that most things actually can be learned. No one start out really good. Maybe some have a bit of a head start for some annoying reason, but that doesn't mean the rest can't get just as good.
I believed creativity was mostly based in talent, but the more I create and read about other creative journeys, the more I understand how much of it is everything else. Practicing, getting help, working hard. Talent may be a nice start, but it alone doesn't get you far.
Most things can be learned, step by step. You just have to work for it.
What's your story?
I suspect you have a few things you think you can't do. To be clear, I'm not talking about extremely advanced acrobatics or doing things without any practice, or being a world champion. Naah, I'm talking about the smaller things. Beliefs like
- I'm bad at talking in front of others.
- I can't cook.
- I can't write fiction.
- I have no eye for color combinations.
- I have no good ideas.
I want you to think about what you tell yourself you can't do.
Then I want you to question those beliefs.
You probably have something you can call evidence, but is it updated? What have you learned since? What can you learn now? Is there something physically stopping you or is it actually just a skill you can develop over time?
Take a moment and think about this: what opportunities would open if you were wrong about your limits? What creative journey could you build?
Maybe you're completely uninterested in all of those things, but I think you can find something you're actually a bit curious about, something you wish you could do.
I can't tell you exactly how to do it, because I don't know what your thing is. You'll have to find that help somewhere else. Just know this: most things can be learned. And most skilled people are just regular humans who did something many many times and eventually started getting good.
So don't let your made up limits stop you.
If I can, you can too. I believe in you.