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Being a Worry Wart can Stifle Creativity

Don't Let Your Worries Get in the Way of What You Want to Do

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Person suffering from depression

We came across this quote (apologies, as we have been unable to find the author), “if you worry about being wrong, you will not create anything that is new”. We have posted it up in the office and doing so serves a few functions; it covers the hole in the wall made by the dog (loooong story) and it reminds us to keep our worry-wartitis in check, allowing us to continue working our way toward our goals.

Fear and worry about becoming or trying something new tends to cause us to leave our ambitions and dreams in the rear view mirror and creates this inner dialogue that keeps repeating; “I would do or be such and such, but I can’t because…” This is a waste of good neuronal activity and the more we repeat these messages, the more they become fact and reality, ultimately leaving us stuck with buckets full of wishful thinking.

While milling over the quote, we wondered why people think specific actions are “wrong” and why there is so much worry about such actions. It seems odd when we think about the process of invention for example, where we know it takes many tries and many wrong attempts to eventually create something new and miraculous. Take Patricia Bath as an example. She became the first African American female to complete a residency in ophthalmology in 1973. Two years later, she became the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. After hours upon hours in the lab (experiencing many “wrongs”), she invented the Laser Phacoprobe, a device used around the world to treat cataracts, for which she became the first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical device in 1988.

Why do we fuss so much about being wrong? Are we afraid we are a goofball, do we feel like an imposter, will we experience financial or relationship ruin? The sky is the limit when it comes to perceived wrongs that may occur when one is about to traverse the land of the “new”.  Granted some of these worries may be grounded in kernels of truth, but this is why it is so important to take some time to pick away at these worrisome wrongs and see if they truly are something to sport the worry warts for.

How do we do this?  Let’s take a look at the following chart below, with an example included to see how we can pick away at these worries:

What new thing/action do you want to create?I want to write a blog  
What are you worried about?I am not sure I am a good writer
I don’t think people will want to read my stuff
I do not know how to write a blog
What specifically could go wrong?I will embarrass myself
My friends will think I am out of my mind
I will feel disempowered
What can you change or challenge about the perceived wrong?I can learn how to write blogs
I can take the pressure off by realizing
I am writing for myself and not for others
I can focus on the process, not the final outcome and feel the power that comes with enjoying the process
I can talk to my friends, share my worries and ask for their support

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “do one thing everyday that scares you”. What a great practice to get in to, simple and ingenious and only you need to know you are doing it, but why the heck would we do this to ourselves? For the simple reason, it challenges our worry-wartitis and it helps us to gain confidence and competence, two key ingredients needed to make the worrying and the “wrongs” go away, or at least turn them into dull, imperceptible murmurs. A great example of this took place when Carling was learning how to drive. I think it is safe to say, we were both scared about the process of jumping into the car with her at the wheel. But we did it, albeit with a few hard stops and starts (and that was just Mom with her foot on the imaginary brake in the passenger seat). As the process went on, we grew in competence and confidence and it was an invigorating experience for both of us.  Obviously, if we excessively worried about what would go wrong, we would never have created this new, talented and empowered driver and Mom’s taxi service would have been way too much in demand!

We need to start small with our selection of something scary (only you will know what this is), but maybe it is calling up your internet provider to advocate for a lower rate, or saying hello to a secret crush, joining an advocacy group, or just even stepping outside the house for an hour – these may be small things for some, but absolutely big things for others. The point is, we need to have some successes with the scary things in order to build on them and to increase our belief in ourselves, which will in turn, reduce the worries about being wrong when trying and creating new things.

Let’s let Mrs. Roosevelt have the last word as she said, “a woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until she is in hot water”  (aka, until she is trying new things/experiencing challenges and shedding worries – warts and all).

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