I’ve always been an enthusiastic Halloween Mom, decorating the house for parties, sewing elaborate costumes, hosting my kids’ friends for pizza before trick-or-treating, and inviting all the “spirited souls” (young and old) to join the fun. Sometimes, I even go over-the-top! Halloween Night when my son was 11 years old, he was the last of my kids to have friends over before trick-or-treating. His older sisters had moved on from the “childish” fantasies at our house to boy-girl parties and their teenage realities. Jackson thought he and his friends should trick-or-treat alone, but his friends’ moms were not on board with that approach. I sided with them, but didn’t want to totally squash their fun by escorting them around. Also, wanting to fulfill my own Halloween spirit, I decided to dress up like a cat and ride a scooter around the neighborhood to keep up with their parade. It was a cold night, so I donned black leggings, a faux fur hat, and a possum fur vest from the 80s that I found in the back of my closet. With ears and a tail, I was ready to rock and roll. The scooter allowed me to give them space, but easily catch up if necessary. I stopped and chatted with other groups of trick-or-treaters, then zoomed up on Jackson’s crowd periodically to make sure they were OK. I thought it was an elegant plan, but Jackson was horrified! He told me in no uncertain terms that I had ruined his Halloween. And for a while, it seemed like he had ruined my Halloween. But when I crawled into bed, I found a note from Jackson on my pillow, “I’m sorry I got a little rude tonight … I really had a spectacular Halloween, and I hope you did too. I just wanted to say ‘Happy Halloween, sorry, and I love you.’ P.S. The scooter was actually a really good idea. I was just thinking too much.” Last night as we reminisced about this episode from six years ago, Jackson chuckled affectionately “Mom, you have to admit it was a little unusual. But it was creative.”
Adolescents have a knack for making others feel out of place. Inhibitions that stem from their own self-doubt get projected to their friends, parents, and siblings. While we outgrow the excruciating pain of adolescent peer pressure, most of us take some inhibitions into adulthood and – whether we intend to or not – project them onto others.
Overcome some common pitfalls that might stifle your creativity:
- Step Out of the Norm – If you always try to fit in with everyone else, you’ll never be comfortable expressing an original idea. People who have original ideas can face suspicion or – horror of horrors – criticism and dislike by the majority. Take a risk of being on the “wrong side” and be willing to rock the boat in order to explore your creative side. Jackson wanted to be like the other kids and therefore would have preferred that I behave like other moms. But in the end, he got over his horror and embraced the novelty.
- Go Beyond to What’s Secure – If you want consistency, go with the “tried and true” but if you want a novel outcome, you must let go of the “same old.” Once you start entertaining innovative thoughts, you may find that what you’ve been doing all these years isn’t as good as you thought. That’s scary and risky, but it might alter your habits or change your viewpoint for the better. I could have dressed in normal clothes and walked instead of ride a scooter, but it wouldn’t have been as fun or memorable.
- Ignore the Nay-Sayers – Take constructive feedback, even from your detractors, but don’t let them force you into conformity and let your creative ideas wither on the vine. Many paths to victory have been paved with predictions of failure – CopyBlogger, Brian Clark, has collected historical quotes that prove this point. I’m glad that I didn’t let Jackson’s resistance dissuade me from expressing my Halloween spirit, but it would have been easy to cave-in to his pre-teen pressure.
- Question Authorities – We sometimes assume that the people in charge must know what they are doing, or they wouldn’t hold the positions they do. Always doing exactly as you are told in order to avoid disapproval from authorities is a safe, but limiting, path. Some rules have outgrown their usefulness. And others only exist in our minds. Respecting authority is smart, but blind trust in authorities inhibits creative thinking. Who decided that it’s normal for kids to dress up on Halloween, but adults are weird if they do?
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Stupid Questions – Let yourself be curious and ask the questions that pique your interest. When your inner critic starts to filter and judge your curiosity-driven questions, it’s time to turn off your own inhibitions. Chances are that someone else is wondering the same thing and your listeners will applaud your courage for speaking up. Your questions may upset the status quo, but the status quo doesn’t produce creativity.
Have you ever limited yourself because of someone else’s inhibitions? How did that make you feel and what was the outcome? Have you ever defied someone’s negative vibe and followed your heart? What came from that choice?