The value of self-esteem in the creative process

What’s the difference between having the skill and confidence to create brilliant work versus placing emphasis on our own ideas and our own ways?


In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we see the importance of self-esteem in that it directly supports self-actualization which is critical to creative pursuits. In creative work, strong contributors often bring a strong sense of self-esteem to the table. They believe in their value to the team and create with intention.

The value of self esteem - Believe in your value. Create with intention.

“There is a vast chasm between confidence in your abilities, and an over-inflated ego. Ego says “I can do no wrong”, whereas confidence says “I can get this right.” Confidence says “I’m valuable”… This is a critical difference in mindset. Be aware when you are generally contributing and when you are simply trying to protect the status quo.” ~ Todd Henry in Get Over Yourself: How Your Ego Sabotages Your Creativity

Changing the status quo

So why develop your self-esteem? Why is it important to shore up your confidence (not your ego)? Think about any time you’ve had to work with others to look at different ways of doing things – whether that’s among work colleagues, business partners or clients. You may encounter people who drive for positive, purposeful change or initiate ideas that challenge current practices based on research and sufficient anecdotal evidence. If the intention of an idea is strategic and aligns with your group’s goals, it could be beneficial to nurture it into development and implementation through collaboration and diligence by each team member.

The value of self esteem - To change the status quo, seek to understand

On the other hand, you may find team members who challenge ideas in a way that stalls creativity and progress. While this can be positioned as intellectual dialogue or considered critical thinking, it can also be a roadblock to achieving better quality results or moving beyond the status quo.

A key differentiator in how self-esteem manifests itself compared lies in asking questions with a spirit of helpfulness to broaden your understanding. Seeking to understand someone else’s intention first has a beneficial effect of opening a constructive discussion and affirming the contributions of others. That approach also removes our own ego from the process and diminishes what we may be trying to prove or disprove about our own strengths and weaknesses.

“Arrogance [ego] is overcompensating for a known weakness; confidence is knowing your strengths but also knowing your weaknesses, that way you can improve them.” ~ Sam Thomas Davies in The Ego Vs. Self-Esteem

Here are a couple of questions to ask ourselves as we work on creative projects with other people – either for business or pleasure:

As a group, as a team, do we have a defined goal and are we focused on it?

Am I being intentional and helpful with my contributions toward the end goal?

Challenge: Are you working on a project with a group right now? How can you use this thinking to adjust your contributions? How do you question in a way that values the contribution of your colleagues?

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