There’s a common misconception that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be creative. We have this romantic notion of the depressed author who taps into humanity’s despair. Or a painter whose mental illness gives them access to an unusual way of seeing things.
The truth, however, is that mental illness doesn’t make you more creative, and nor does creativity lead to mental illness. On the contrary, finding a creative outlet is an important step for many people fighting mental illness.
Many people today suffering from mental illness cite the monotony of a work schedule and their inability to find meaning in their jobs as a major challenge. Since so much emphasis is put on achieving at work, it becomes first and foremost in their lives, yet provides them with no sense of personal validation.
This is why finding a creative outlet is so important.
Self-expression and validation
All creativity is obviously a form of self-expression. You’re creating something that reflects who you are, how you think, or what you feel. That’s really crucial to your sense of validation, but there’s more to it than what you produce.
Taking time to pursue your creative outlet is a statement of self-validation. The reason a career-oriented life can be so demoralizing is that anything not serving your career goals becomes unimportant. We think about “hobbies” as something self-indulgent, that you can pick up on weekends or after you retire.
Therefore, putting time and effort into your creativity is an act of self-love. You are doing something that may only matter to you, that is not for the purpose of making money or advancing your career in any way. It’s a powerful statement.
At first, you will likely feel some shame and guilt surrounding it. But if you acknowledge those feelings and let them go, you will soon start experiencing the fulfillment that comes from commiting to your own self-expression. You will start to reap the rewards of your own self-love.
What if you’re not creative?
One pervasive myth is that some people are creative and some people are not. The truth is that everyone is creative. Not everyone is as imaginative or naturally talented as those who make a living out of their creativity, but everyone has something they want to express. You don’t have to create a perfect product in order to do so.
Think about music as it was hundreds of years ago. People would pick up an instrument and play, drum on the table, or simply sing. They did not specify that one or another person was a musician. Only today, when we place all the emphasis on the final product, do we limit ourselves by what we can or cannot produce.
All creativity is like this. Forget about the product. Focus on how the act of expressive creativity makes you feel. For those of us struggling with mental health problems, the self-expression and validation that comes from creativity is well worth the time and effort.