HOW DO WE DEAL WITH OUR INNER NOISE AS CREATIVE & FREELANCE?
Anxiety, stress, impostor syndrome, lack of inspiration, isolation, financial problems.. Unfortunately, it's a common recipe and everyday inner Noise that people are too familiar with. It tends to affect our mental health, and talking about it has long been a taboo and fear in the creative industries. Lockdowns, social networks, economic and ecological crises are increasingly adding to those pains, which is why we decided to create an open space like Noise to speak up. For the past two years, I have personally experienced high levels of anxiety, stress and self-judgment, which actually contributed to physical health issues, and led me too many times to struggle to get out of bed. Starting the day by checking social networks, comparing myself to other designers, and judging that I’m not enough talented and hard working, really isn't the most positive habit.
As a creative person, to find balance in dealing with my mental health, I created a routine that mixes different things, from meditation and exercise to daily practice of gratitude and compassion, or turning off notifications, breaking up harmful friendships, and more importantly taking time off. In summary, simply developing a self-care routine where I am not just a creative but an human being above all.
So here are some things I’ve understood about mental health as a creative.
Noise in Mind
Being a creative freelance showed me how difficult it is to care for ourselves when we are faced with professional issues. As we are our worst judges, it is easy to fall into a self-judgement cycle even when the problem is out of our hands. Practicing compassion through meditation has been a great ally for me to better understand other people’s behaviours as well as mine. It taught me that we are just human beings with fears and emotions, and
we are allowed to have bad days, and to ask for help.
In the creative work we get, for whatever reason, bad days have an impact on our creativity and our emotions. As a result, we often face days when we blame our feelings for being less productive. Why being so rude to ourselves when things beyond our control impact our our personal and professional plans? And as we are not superheroes, we need collaboration to progress. So asking for help is not a sign of weakness but the power of knowing your own abilities and boundaries.
Failure is also part of the creative process, and if we don't fail, it means we don't try. Being a creative leads us to experiment so we need to embrace failure at the end. By bringing negativity into the creative process, it only short-circuits it. As a creative, maintaining good self-esteem is essential - while questioning our practice - starting each new project with mutual respect with our clients, understanding what boundaries we need between our personal and professional lives, thereby cultivating creativity. The more I apply empathy, self-care and time in my life, the more it reflects in my work.
As Pharrell said Gratitude is an exercise.
Gratitude is an exercise, you worked out today?— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) July 15, 2020
Practicing gratitude has also turned my daily negativity into fulfilment, no longer seeing what I haven't done, but what I've already accomplished by my own. It has brought amazing opportunities into my work life, brought me new ideas, and also increased my self-esteem and helped me build healthy relationships at work. We never know what other creatives went through to develop their amazing projects and get to the top, what the process was, so we need to remind that comparing ourselves with what we imagine from others is always unrealistic. Being grateful for what you’ve created and who you are is much more valuable than wishing for something you don’t know the pros and cons.
Neuroplasticity proved mindfulness and so Gratitude practice benefits as what we practice grows stronger. While shaping your cerebral architecture with positive thoughts you are also riding yourself off unhealthy pathways. By practicing positive thoughts just as a sport, about yourself and your environment, you’ll find a self-care routine with healthier behaviours and creativity. The question is: What do you really wanna grow in your life? Finding confidence in yourself, understanding you have entire legitimacy to be here, to work in the discipline you work in, to create what you wanna create.
Your home is your people
People say that you are a mix of the five people you spend the most time with. I'm so grateful that my gang is made up of amazing people. Choose your people so that you can have a space to talk openly about your mental health, struggles or client conflicts. You need a place where you can express yourself without any fear of judgement, where you feel listened to and legitimate, ask for advice, and where you know that what you feel is okay! Many people have gone through what you're going through - listening to them can be a huge relief. Surround yourself with the right people, friends or clients.
Prevention is better than cure
Social and anticipatory anxiety often leave me paralized. But I've learned to recognise the fear that actually hides behind it. A fear of insecurity, of failure, of not being appreciated by my peers, of not being "perfect". The truth is, no one is! So instead of fighting this anxiety tirelessly, trying to accept it and recognise it as the voice of our inner child is a kinder way to take care of ourselves. Stress is part of the creative process, so we need to balance it with kindness! Being in control of my time and schedule at work allows me to control my anxiety. The more I organise my calls, appointments, breaks, real holidays in advance, the less stressed I feel. Creating a balance between my personal and professional hours in the day - to breathe, read, run, walk, and recharge my creativity - has pushed me to set boundaries with my clients and respect my energy. Taking breaks is important for creativity and productivity - so it should be prioritised as much as work. Is your time at work not stressful enough? Here are notifications! Clients now love to sneak into our Whatsapp conversations and Instagram DMs, and as freelance we’re familiar with answering late calls and emails, no matter the hour. I started to hate the buzzing of my notifications and fear it like actual danger. I could never switch off, relax my brain or let my body feel that I was safe. Taking a step back from social media and turning off notifications as much as possible is everything!
The question is: What do you really wanna grow in your life? Finding confidence in yourself, understanding you have entire legitimacy to be here, to work in the discipline you work in, to create what you wanna create.
Your ideas do not define your talent
"How much should I charge? How much are my ideas worth?" We don't talk about those questions enough. No one should think a logo is worth 50€. As freelancers, we are on the same boat - it's not a competition, it's about thriving together! Schools don't teach us how to value our work after graduation. Hopefully, people in your community can help, like this really useful article from Intern Magazine.
I used to think the more hours I worked in the day, the more value my work had. That led me to work over weekends and nights, even if my creativity was gone. Quality is better than quantity, and in the end quality is what clients need. Also, an idea that isn't picked or an unsuccessful project doesn't mean you're not creative, it just means it doesn't fit here, but it will another time. Your thoughts do not define who you are as a person.
Let's talk about the word "No". During my first years as a freelancer, I was so afraid of it. I didn't want to miss any opportunity to make money. Even if my intuition told me not to take on a project, I'd say yes, and in the end I would always regret it. Saying no is the first step to self-care. When a project is not paying enough, or interesting enough, we are allowed to say no. And it doesn't mean we've missed the most important opportunity of our lives. A short note on self-worth: social apps can make you chase validation at the detriment of your art. Don't let a number of likes define how good your work is. Instead, create what you want to create, post what you want to post, not what an algorithm told you to because people seem to like a specific type of content.
Creativity is considered as a mystery thing we can invoke whenever we need. But we need to be clear with the fact there’s days without and it’s totally fine. We chose the creative path as we didn’t want a job where we would act like machines. Our daily work is made with lack of inspiration, lack of creativity, fears, stress, lots of emotions, and this whole mix just makes us human beings. So we are more equipped to understand people behaviours and values, and to translate it in a creative way. Just as anxiety, our creativity needs self care and empathy. And being honest with your feelings, admitting today can be a bad day doesn’t make you someone without talent. As we’re not machines the best way to invoke creativity is to get out of office, out of your laptop, and experience life, with walks, friends, exhibitions, whatever makes you happy will bring you new fresh ideas! I believe in a more respectful industry for creatives, where we can highlight weaknesses and failure as ingredients for creativity, where we can safety ask for help, where compassion is essential to bring a project on the table, and hopefully Noise will help in some way.
I believe in a more respectful industry for creatives, where we can highlight weaknesses and failure as ingredients for creativity, where we can safely ask for help, where compassion is essential to bring a project on the table, and hopefully Noise will help in some way.