One of the most common challenges I come across in speaking to a range of creative introverts in my coaching , or in my online community or just out and about: is lack of support.
It’s actually the one that’s surprised me most, even though I can 100% relate. It surprised me, because I assumed for the longest time, that as introverts we don’t need support.
We are intrinsically motivated, we are captains of our ship and we have no need for crew mates.
How wrong I was.
For one, our need for support starts from the day we’re born and whilst it lessens greatly throughout our life, I don’t believe we ever fully lose the need for external support. How much of it we need can vary greatly between people, and my assumption here is that it all stems from those early years.
Did we get the support we needed in those early days, enough that we felt reassured enough to go out in the world alone, and tackle it with confidence? Or were we taught the world is a dangerous place? And maybe we became too reliant on external support?
These are arguably issues that only a therapist can truly cover, but on a lighter note, I think we can cover a lot of ground today, especially in how support systems can help us in overcoming inner resistance to creative work.
Ok so, lets start with some of the stories we’re told as creatives, ones that may have come from people who care about us and want the best for us, but arguably have no fucking clue what they’re talking about.
When I was wee, I knew from around age 4 that drawing was my thing, and that there were people out there whose job it was to be artists and make pictures for a living. So that’s what I wanted to be, an artist.
But then I was told that artists mostly don’t make very much money, and some go crazy and cut off their ear.
So, I decided that I could be an illustrator, like my hero EH Shepherd. But then I was told that lots of people want to be illustrators,and that print was dying and there were only so many things out there to be illustrated.
In fact, if I wanted to get a job, I had better learn how to design websites.
Whilst everything kind of worked out, and I still enjoy designing websites from time to time, I do wonder what would have happened if I had followed my dreams and become a real artist.
Sure, I picked up illustration again at a later age, but by this time I lacked confidence in my abilities in the competitive industry. What might have been possible had I had the support from those around me? Family or teachers who cared about my wellbeing, but couldn’t give the support I needed because they lacked faith, maybe because their dreams hadn’t been supported either.
So maybe you’ve experienced this in your own creative career. May be it’s from friends, family, teachers, professors. People telling you that what you want to do is too hard or too risky or too competitive.
And maybe they have a point. The best jobs in life are more difficult to get because other wise everyone would be doing them! But why in goods name can’t you be one of the ones who gets to do it?
And before you start giving me reasons why you can’t, let me stop you there. Yes, there will be sacrifices. Yes there will be bumps in the road. But it’s in these moments that you most need support from those around you. You can borrow their faith in you, and use it to push through those days of doubt.
I didn’t realise how powerful this was until I had my first ever coaching session. This was with a gentleman named Martin Stellar,whose interview you’ll find back on episode 08 of the podcast.
Basically, I had no idea what to expect from this basic stranger,nor what coaching really was.
But the thing that convinced me that coaching was incredibly useful for creatives, and the thing that stuck with me, was Martins belief in me.
Again, he didn’t really know me, but regardless, he gave me such faith in myself and my ability to follow this journey, this journey to my wildest dreams, and I believed him. I still do. And when i am having those moments of self-doubt, I think back to those kind words. More so, I think back to the feeling behind it, which magically carried through Skype,and which I felt too.
Note that I’m not suggesting all you need is someone to tell you you’re great no matter what
There’s a difference between mindless support that grandma gives you, and the support from someone who believes in you, but who’ll call you on your bullshit. Who, in times when you’re scared of taking the next step, who won’t tell you “that’s ok honey, go lie on the spa and I’ll bake you cookies” but who’ll tell you actually, you CAN do that thing you’re scared of because I believe in you.
Or yes you can do that scary thing because I’ve been there before and yes I was scared but I went and did it and didn’t die.
Ok so, what does this mean, do you all need to work with a coach who’ll give you on-tap support and encouragement?
But there are other sources of support I recommend you explore.
Ok, ok, I know: you’re an introvert! Community sounds like a whole lot of people. Technically, it is. But it doesn’t mean you have to hang out with them all at once.
I feel like I’ve taped into an incredibly supportive creative community here in Brighton, and have felt that way since about 6 months in. It’s now been two years, and I still don’t go to many events with lots of strangers, instead, I’ve got a shortlist of besties who I can see, mostly only one or two at a time. People I can rely on to help me if I need some moral support, or just to bitch about the perils of self employment. Or people who can recommend me to their friends, who might also be creative introverts.
Now, this is a different community to what I was used to back in London. Friends there, as much as I love them, know a different version of me. One that’s mostly unconnected to my work, and who I’m not interested in discussing my work with, and vice versa.
What my point is, is that you might need to go out and make some new friends. Some creative cronies. Not that you need to abandon your old buds,but that in a fresh friendship, with someone with similar goals to you, that can be all the support you need.
So, I won’t lie, the idea of making new friends sounds awfully un introvert friendly, but trust me, if I can do it you can do it. (See? Support!)
Meetup.com was my saving grace.I’ll be honest, existing meetups were not my jam, so I started one, 100% on my terms on a Saturday morning, which attracted people like me. Fellow creative introverts who weren’t going there to pick up a date, but who wanted to spend their Saturday morning on their creativity, rather than in their bed, hungover.
Of course, you don’t have to go anywhere physically, especially if you don’t live in a particularly diverse city, you might be lucky enough to live out in the sticks somewhere.
In this case, I’m going to recommend really investing some time and some faith into online communities.
I’ll be honest, free groups or forums are naturally going to attract more. ..crazies. just like online dating, I think we all know there’s a difference in calibre to the relationships formed on a free platform that on a paid platform, there just is a different level of commitment and emotional investment in the paid options.
Of course, is be remiss not to mention my own online community, the League of Creative introverts,who are a stellar mix of supportive, generous, big hearted souls, even if I’m biased,and who know the value of getting support as well as giving it.
More info about the league can be found at catroseastrology.com/lci
l also want to let you know, that nothing can beat inner support. We really do require both inner & outer support, and neither one can make up for the lack of the other.
So, how to cultivate inner support? Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to yell words of affirmation at yourself in the mirror. This inner support is quiet, really quiet. And subtle. It’s the little voice that sparks the brilliant, bold idea in the first place. The problem is, that we stop listening to it when our fears, or our inner critic shows up. lt doesn’t help when external critics show up either.
But we can come back to that little voice, and coax it out with gentle reminders like remembering past accomplishments. Things you’ve overcome, fears you’ve faced. And this is also why I recommend scaring yourself – just a little bit – regularly to build up that resume of challenging things you didn’t die doing.
It’s why I get on stage as much as someone lets me. It’s not for pure pleasure, or even the adrenaline rush: it’s for my Fear CV. The thing I can whip out when I need a bit of support. It means I have an ongoing, always growing, reminder of what I can do: and a hint of what I could do.
My final words are that is ok to admit you need a bit of support and encouragement from time to time. Following your dreams isn’t the easiest thing to do, in fact it might very well be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. And you don’t have to go the journey alone.
There are many, so many, who have gone before you, and are going with you, you just need to look for them and ask, do you reckon we can do this? I do.