When you go to an art class, does your gremlin go with you? If you read this blog, you know that a gremlin is the negative self-talk that accompanies us when we start a new art project.
That gremlin comes with me to most new classes, and it takes an ugly shape. I walk in and feel, courtesy of my gremlin, that I am the stupidest person in the room. Everyone else is nicer, more talented, and more lovable.
When the teacher comes in, I instantly believe that she/he will dislike me, not help me, think I am stupid. Given a minute’s worth of time, I will embellish this enormously to “prove” I am right.
“See? She’s asking that woman how she discovered the class. She doesn’t care about me!” In the shortest of time, I am five years old again, pouting. The teacher suddenly becomes my angry, demanding mother who just wants me to not associate with her. I’d like to point out that I’m a life- and creativity coach, and I know exactly what is happening, and it still happens.
What to do? It’s a trick I learned at coaching school. It’s called “self-management.” Yelling at yourself that this is stupid behavior is not going to fix it. That’s turning to the gremlin for help. And the gremlin, that beast of negative self-talk, will make you feel more guilty and stupid.
Here are some tips in getting calming yourself so you can enjoy class.
1. Breathe. This great exercise is something you can do anytime anywhere. Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a second, then let it out through your mouth. Do this deliberately paying attention to relaxing your shoulders. You will immediately feel lighter.
2. Add a thought to your breathing. While you are breathing, think, “I expect nothing.” It’s a way to crank down your neediness. It’s also a way to detach yourself from the outcome. When you are detached from the outcome, for example “making the best journal cover in the class,” you are free to simply learn a skill, to enjoy learning.
3. Jot down, quickly, your worst thoughts. Do this on a scrap of paper, not in your journal or on the class notes. Go ahead, write them down. “The teacher hates me already.” “I am not going to like her.” “Who does she think she is?” Whatever that thought is, write it down. Look at it. You will feel a pang of guilt and recognition. Now, circle the entire list, put a big “X” through it, and write over it, “I’m going to have a good time.” Your brain “gets” the crossing out and the idea to have a good time. Your brain will help you out, as long as you tell it what to do.
4. Think of something nice that will happen. “I will have a good time.” “I will learn something fun.” “There are nice people in this class.” Again, your brain helps you out with what you are thinking. Give it something good to work on.
5. Smile at your neighbor and ask a question. “Is this the first class you’ve taken from this teacher?” “How did you find this class?” Getting into a conversation with someone else keeps your mind focused on something other than your own rampant imagination.
The gremlin is a powerful force and will go to most classes with you, but you don’t have to make space for him next to you at the class.
--Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who teaches business communications and journal writing.