When young women suffer hurt, many seek negative outlets for their pain: Self-criticism, self-harm, unhealthy habits like eating disorders, smoking and excessive drinking.
Perhaps surprisingly, creativity is both a protection from and a solution to healing those hurts. Creativity and self-esteem are directly linked. In her blog, Doorway-to-Self-Esteem.com, May Bleeker talks about some of the strengths creativity builds:
- The ability to quiet your inner critic. We all have that annoying inner voice, but immersing yourself in a creative act can turn down the volume.
- Self-acceptance. As Bleeker writes: “If you never let yourself emerge with any spontaneity, there can be no genuine acceptance of yourself.” Accepting and seeing the beauty in your original ideas helps you accept yourself. Self-acceptance is also a major step toward accepting and understanding others.
- Perseverance in the face of “failure” or “mistakes.” In the creative process, things that look like “failures” can be the breakthroughs that lead to success. Creative people will work on solving a problem longer than their less creative counterparts. Rather than feeling helpless, creative people feel empowered to solve problems. They have hope.
So creativity teaches us to be more compassionate towards ourselves and others, builds emotional resilience, and helps us persevere in the face of challenges. These are all qualities that young women need to live healthy and happy lives.
When we think of creativity and young girls, we tend to think about the arts – paintings, crafts, stories, music. The arts are absolutely a great starting point to build self-esteem.
Quoted on ArtsEdge.org, educational consultant Dory Kanter says: “The arts are a great leveler as we are all in the same boat, learning to create and succeed in new and unexpected ways. Children not only become appreciators of each other’s work, but also develop skills of self-reflection in the effort to bring their personal vision to fruition.”
But the arts are just one avenue of creativity. We can be much broader in our definitions of creativity. Maybe you’re a creative soccer player – practicing stealth moves to get the ball into goal. Maybe you know just the right thing to say to a friend who’s down. Maybe you’re inspired by numbers or you’re a great gift giver. The point is that when we express ourselves creatively in everyday life, what we’re doing is seeing things in fresh, original, authentic ways. We’re truly being ourselves. You’ve gotta love that – in yourself.
Creativity encourages not only personal growth, but teamwork. Initiative and teamwork are valuable skills at school and at work. Scratch the surface of any group brimming with ideas and you’ll find one full of confident problem solvers who trust their teammates. Encourage creativity by encouraging openness, a sense of humor and respect for everyone’s ideas. Leaders that can do that have generally learned early on – really early on – from their own mentors.
Our Girls’ Respect Groups Program encourages young women to say ‘Yes!’ to creativity and self-esteem. Working with your middle school friends and led by teams of kind-hearted teens, GRG provides a welcoming environment for preteens and teens to have fun learning about themselves and the value of respect in all your life decisions. The 6-week GRG curriculum is full of creativity – group games & “How well do you know yourself?” quizzes, journaling, problem solving, poetry, and sharing ideas in the safety of a nurturing and supportive group of girlfriends.
Your creativity may end up spreading further than you expected! Many successful artists in the music and entertainment industry say they felt like outsiders in middle school or high school. They channelled that creatively – bringing a fresh “outsider’s” perspective to their music, acting and writing.
It takes courage to express and share our creativity, but once we do, we unleash our imagination and our strength as women.
L Blumen, N Evans and A Rucchetto, Girls’ Respect Groups: An Innovative Program to Empower Young Women & Build Self-Esteem!, Camberley Press, 2009
M Bleeker, Self-Esteem & Creativity, Doorway-to-Self-Esteem.com, June 4, 2009
C Lock, What the Arts Can Do for Your Child, ArtsEdge.org