“I still have pretty much the same fears I had as a kid. I’m not sure I’d want to give them up; a lot of these insecurities fuel the movies I make.” Writer, producer, director Steven Spielberg
We can experience many flavors of insecurity, self-criticism, stress and anxiety related to being gifted, talented and creative.
Some experiences, such as a certain quality or motivating level of perfectionism, may help us enhance our talents.
Director Spielberg has also commented, “I think every film I make that puts characters in jeopardy is me purging my own fears, sadly only to re-engage with them shortly after the release of the picture. I’ll never make enough films to purge them all.” [imdb.com]
He has also been quoted about filmmaking in a book on dealing with fear:
“Fear is your ally. The minute you come onto a set and you’re no longer afraid, you are in big trouble.”
Another quote refers to the insecurity many talented people feel:
“I’m coming from a place of acting, so you’re never quite sure if you’re going to get the crew to even be on your side and you always have this great fear that they will discover that you’re an imposter and that you have no business being there.” — George Clooney
From book Mastering Fear: Harnessing Emotion to Achieve Excellence in Work, Health and Relationships, by Robert Maurer.
Related article: Overcome Impostor Syndrome Feelings.
But some anxieties – like an overbearing level of perfectionism – can interfere with our creative inspiration and expression, and be crippling in other areas of life.
Why would high ability and highly sensitive creative people be more susceptible to anxiety and stress?
Paula Prober, M.S., M.Ed., is a licensed counselor who works with adults to “heal unresolved issues from childhood and specializes in counseling and consulting with gifted adults, youth, and families.”
In an article (on her site) The More You Know, The More You Worry, she writes:
“Perhaps you thought that if you were smart, you wouldn’t be a worrier. If you were smart, you’d know all of the answers. You wouldn’t have to be anxious because you could think your way out of any problem.
“But, in fact, you may worry constantly. You worry when you’re sleeping. When you’re hiking. When you’re cooking. When you’re driving. When you’re not worrying.
“So what’s with that? Let me explain.
“Your very active rainforest mind is able to dream up so many things to worry about. Less complex minds may worry less because there isn’t as much thinking.
“With you, there’s lots of thinking.
“And if you’re highly creative? Watch out. Even more worries.”
Prober offers multiple suggestions under the amusing heading:
“What, then, can be done, when a lobotomy isn’t an option?”
Among them is “Read the research from the Heartmath Institute and see if you might want to try one of their devices to improve what they call your ‘heart rate variability’ and reduce your stress.”
See information and testimonials about this technology in my article
HeartMath Tools for Emotional Balance.
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Michele Kane, Ed.D., an Associate Professor and the President of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children, gave a presentation on Stress and Anxiety: Helping Gifted Kids Cope – which also has helpful perspectives for us adults.
She points out that stress is universal and experienced by everyone, and that “Being bright, talented, creative, motivated, smart, ambitious, and even good looking can add to the stress in your life.”
“Academic success and drive aren’t enough to make life manageable. The world is too complicated and intense, and it’s changing too fast.”
She notes “There are no easy answers, simple solutions, or quick fixes for managing stress” but says, “You can learn to understand why your life gets oppressive, depressive, stressed or otherwise unhealthy. You can learn to live in a new and better way.”
Here is more from her presentation:
Sources of Stress for Gifted People
- conflict between our values and the values of others (what is and what ought to be)
- interpersonal disharmony
- lack of intellectual stimulation or challenge
- challenges beyond our capability to respond
- threats to emotional or physical well-being
- lack of resources to accomplish a task
- time constraints
- setting excessively high standards for ourselves
- fear of failure
- fear of success
- negative self-talk
- emotionally loaded/highly evaluative beliefs about ourselves and our environment
- believing that everyone should love, respect, and praise us
- buying into others’ negative evaluations of us
- global concerns (e.g., nuclear disaster, war, poverty, world hunger, the environment, etc.)
- anger at fate
- need for meaning and purpose
Strategies to Help Gifted Kids with Stress
- Share resources for meditation and visualization; explain the effect on the body
- Explain the biology of stress; determine which how the body sends signals
- Encourage deep breathing and exercise to minimize personal stress
- Supply biographies of notables that were able to resolve personal situations
- Promote experiences in nature as a way to self-soothe
For much more, see the PDF of her presentation: Stress and Anxiety: Helping Gifted Kids Cope.
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More strategies to relieve stress and anxiety
n an interview about his book Mastering Creative Anxiety, creativity coach and psychologist Eric Maisel, PhD comments on why artists may be more vulnerable:
“First of all, so much is on the line. For someone who’s self-identified as a writer, painter, composer, scientist, inventor, and so on, [their] identity and ego are wrapped up in how well [they create] – and when what we do matters that much, we naturally get anxious.”
Dr. Maisel notes that in his book Mastering Creative Anxiety, he presents “a menu of twenty-two effective anxiety management tools, enough tools that everyone can find at least one or two that will work well.
“The simplest is to remember to breathe; a few deep cleansing breaths can do wonders for reducing anxiety.
“The most important anxiety management tool is probably cognitive work, where you change the things you say to yourself, turning anxious thoughts into calmer, more productive thoughts.
“And creating a lifestyle that supports calmness is also very important: if the way you live your life produces a lot of anxiety, that’s a tremendous extra burden on your nervous system.”
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Some of my related articles:
Even people with exceptional talents and accomplishments can feel insecure and struggle with low or unhealthy self-esteem.
Meryl Streep, for example, has said, “I have varying degrees of confidence and self-loathing….
“You can have a perfectly horrible day where you doubt your talent… Or that you’re boring and they’re going to find out that you don’t know what you’re doing.”
This is not an issue for only a few talented people.
Over the many years of researching creative people and reading many interviews with high ability people, I have often seen many quotes like Streep’s. See the article for a selection of these quotes.
Article: Creative intellect as a marker for genetic predisposition to high anxiety conditions, By Charles Linden – “Our data shows us that anxiety sufferers all share a superior level of creative intellect.”
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Mental Health – Emotional Health videos
on The Creative Mind YouTube channel.