Responding to the question: “What kills creativity?”, actor Gillian Anderson once replied succinctly, “Ego.”
One sense of this word “ego” is a distorted self-regard, what psychologist Carl Jung referred to as “inflated consciousness… hypnotized by itself.”
Many people recognize the need to modulate this kind of ego in order to facilitate the creative process. But we need to be careful about labeling attitudes as “egotistical” or “narcissistic.”
Creativity teacher and writer Julia Cameron has commented, “We tend to think, or at least fear, that creative dreams are egotistical… This thinking must be undone.”
Our self-concept, positive self-regard and simply confidence, are key influences on how fully we realize our talents. We do need to know ourselves, and feel good about who we are, to passionately pursue our ambitions and abilities.
But a new study led by San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge [titled “Egos Inflating Over Time”] warns that years of school self-esteem programs and media that “promotes the self relentlessly” could cause distortions in self-regard, and lead to significant personal and social problems, especially for people reaching adulthood.
There’s more about this research in my post Can self-esteem distort our personal development?
Actor Giovanni Ribisi had an interesting – and I think very valid – take on self concept and self-regard.
He said, “I just want to keep honing my craft. Not that I’m taking myself too seriously, but every artist should consider himself Picasso. Otherwise, you’re doing yourself an injustice.” [Quote from his imdb.com bio]
Realizing exceptional talents may mean you should take yourself seriously, in the sense of really acknowledging your abilities, and look for inspiration such as role models that can activate those abilities.
And not be contemptuous of being exceptional.
Actor Gillian Anderson also commented [on imdb] :
“When I think of normal, I think of mediocrity… and mediocrity scares the **** out of me!”
There are plenty of examples of mediocrity in mainstream media, and it is worth reminding ourselves that who and what can inspire us toward excellence – such as outstanding artists – may not be found in mass media, and may need to be actively sought.
In an interview about his book Life The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, Neal Gabler noted, “Serious literature, serious art, serious ideas, serious people are given nowhere near the attention and receive nowhere near the respect that they would deserve if the basis of attention and respect were one’s contribution rather than one’s entertainment value.”
Ribisi’s comment about Picasso also implies using role models as examples and for inspiration.
[See many books about exceptional people on the page: Books: biographies.]
Another actor, Tilda Swinton, notes she is “generally interested in identity” and “constantly fascinated with the idea of being able to know what anybody else’s experience is, and how misleading all informatives, like appearance, can be.”
[Quotes from the page Identity]
And director James Mangold warned in an interview about not relying on others to define yourself:
“I think the biggest struggle we all have sometime.. is to be what you are instead of what you want to be. I’m not talking about being an actor or a director or whatever, but rather about the pressure we put on ourselves to be the kind of movie director or kind of actor or rock singer that inspired us, because you’ll never quite be that person – you’re always you…
“The people who are really happy always seem to know exactly what they are.”
[From my Inner Actor post Being truly what you are, not some false idea.]
John Lennon kind of summed it up :
“Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty… You’re just left with yourself all the time, whatever you do anyway. You’ve got to get down to your own God in your own temple. It’s all down to you, mate.”
From article: Talented and Insecure (an excerpt from my main book).
[Photo at top: ‘Ray’ by William Wegman, from his site.]