I'm going to be honest. Acknowledging my imperfections used to be torturrrrre!
There! I admit it! Woo. I have to say. It's a relief to get that off my chest.
Can you relate to this?
I used to want, no, I used to need to be perfect. It sounds crazy, but in my world to be imperfect meant punishment. I grew up in a performance household. Imperfection could mean being questioned, scolded, judged, or insulted. In my worst mistakes I could have been hit (or chased by my brother who I'm sure would have killed me if he'd caught me. I'm sure of it.) After the impact and the stress of anticipating it, I'd be left alone feeling hurt and confused, all while learning the false narrative that I was stupid, a screw up and that it was dangerous to be wrong, fail, or to in any way be imperfect. I am now an avid workaholic (and so is my brother).
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
These reactions came from several different people in my life who really didn't intend to have such an intense impact on me, but they did. They were all measuring me against their individual preferences and standards of perfection. Even though I didn't agree to them I was being measured against the expectations of others. The cost of disappointing them was (in the eyes of a child) their love, my acceptance and my security as a person.
Dang! That's intense!
Obviously there was no way I could please one person 100% o the time, let alone everyone.
The result for me was anxiety, an underlying need to please others, and a loss of courage to take healthy risks. What if someone saw me fail? Failure was dangerous for that child, remember?
So I played small, let other people make my big decisions and only took my risks alone where no one could see them. But along the way from childhood through high school and into adulthood, I could still feel my scrappy, feisty self beneath the relatively well behaved surface.
Eventually I hit a breaking point.
In 2012 I began to systematically sort through the unhelpful and disruptive patterns that seemed to be stalking me in my relationships, personal thought patterns, career, family life, health — all of it. I noticed that changing boyfriends, friends, social groups, jobs, diets, and workouts didn't change the overarching themes of friction in my life.
The same types of problems kept coming back with new people, new details and new circumstances. Details changes but the problems remained the same. A common one for me was this: A situation would arise in which I didn't feel worthy or safe enough to ask for what I needed. Often I would struggle to set boundaries for fear of hurting or upsetting the other person. Over time it would snowball: I wouldn't say enough here, which meant I compensated by saying too much there, which meant I blamed this person for my displeasure, and resented that obligation for forcing me to stay in a situation I didn't want to be in, and eventually I abandoned the scene entirely or if I stayed I exploded. It was just easier to be alone... but eventually I would want connection and the cycle would continue.
I'll admit I have tried cutting out relationships. While it makes things easier in some ways, it's not really a solution. We're wired for connection and research shows that we're healthier and have a stronger survival rate when we have healthy relationships, just ask google. It wasn't wise or helpful to remain alone and it was also too uncomfortable for me to stay in the same old patterns blaming the world for my problems. As familiar as the problems were I had take ownership of them, say "Yup. Those are my issues." and brave new territory as I explored ways of interacting with the world from a different script.
Ready to Upgrade
Fast forward several years and I am now continually eager to discover new ways of improving myself. It's been 8 years of doing the work and unraveling my old programs in a thousand brutally blissful ways. This means noticing when my thoughts and behaviors are based on a beliefs, assumption or reactions that is not sourced from the present moment.
For example, if I grew up with my parents telling me that all people who ________ are bad and not to be trusted, then when I encounter one of these people I'm likely to treat them as though they are bad and not to be trusted, despite evidence and facts demonstrating that they are good and trustworthy. In this case, I'd be acting based on a belief and assumption that stems from a program given to me by my parents. It is not, however, my sincere belief but one I chose to adhere to as a young child in order to gain the acceptance of my parents. It was a survival technique and it was part of the world order that I initially learned when I was learning what it meant to be human, in this body, culture, country and so on. They'd been playing the game of life longer so I expected them to share the correct rules with me. Turns out, parents share their rules, which include their biases and preferences and don't necessarily empower kids to discover their own answers, morals, or values — at least not initially. They do their best, wherever that lands.
Dismantling these types of biases and preferences is done in an effort to discover what we really believe based on the truth of the moment. It is a process of identifying where we have outsourced responsibility for our thoughts and actions and reclaim that ownership.
Can you relate to what I've found:
The Personal Growth Accelerator
(a.k.a. The Exhilarator :)
When I notice a personal skill I want to develop, whether it's to learn a more effective way of communicating during confrontation or learning to use a new computer program, I choose to grow.
The Personal Growth Exhilarator is a method of expanding awareness into an abundance mindset by expecting to receive exactly what you need. By activating this belief, or this understanding, you will take on all roles of the creative and abundance process and become that which you want and need. Here's how I do it:
Growth is only painful when our ego believes it's dying. That's right. Dying. The ego is soooo dramatic...and so are we! Our drama level is actually the perfect indicator of our ego involvement or rather, our resistance to just pausing and saying "... oh. Yeah, I could have done that better. Instead of making excuses let's see how I can improve so this can be easier next time." Saves a lot of energy and time. Often the results turn out differently than I imagine or plan, and the result is a novel surprise which leads to pleasure, sparking even more inspiration. Fuel for the next creative possibility.
Imperfection is the gateway, not the enemy.
After years of self-flagellation I've put the whip down. Doubt, failure and imperfection are a beautiful part of the process. They are so uniquely messy, I love them like my babies. So onward I climb. Step by step. Stumble by stumble. It may not always be smooth, but at least it will be exhilarating.
Creative blocks are that feeling you get when the pleasure of your creative genius, those brilliant choices and your exquisite care for each nuance of your experience, suddenly runs dry. The tank is empty, the juice has run out, and your momentum is going ... going... gone.
As mysterious as they seem, creative blocks have some logic behind them as well as some practical solutions. This article lays out the causes, the solutions, and a few helpful writing/pondering prompts to kickstart your momentum again. I've even included a few quick stories to prove that there is hope! You will live to create another day, and here's how.
A creative block often represents a desire to be in a different or more productive phase of the creative process. The creative process includes a spectrum of productivity ranging from seeking to releasing, assertive to receptive, and from highly active to integrative and still. Although stillness can seem stagnant and is often judged in our culture as being "not enough" or even lazy, slow paces and stillness are equally as useful as the more active doing. Like it or not, slowing and stilling are essential aspects of the creative experience.
Creative blocks are caused by:
Although creative blocks suck, a block is most often just good information telling you that it's time to adjust. The question is, how?
What's the fix?
We need to stop labeling blocks as wrong and simply call them what they are - stagnant energy. The creative force is flowing though you, or at least that's what we want. Creativity is an energy and if it stagnates with you, that's on you. But hey, you're human so it's bound to happen eventually. The good news is that you have direct access to the solution.
Step 1. Accept
Accept that you are preferring a different experience than the one you're having. #nojudgement. Then accept where you are and make friends with it.
Step 2. Identify
Identify how you need to adjust your flow. In other words, do you need to increase or slow your activity. This will look different for everyone and will depend on your specific creation. Regardless of the details, the concept is universally applicable. (Hint: you'll benefit from the opposite or compliment of the state you're currently feeling uncomfortable in. Overwhelm needs to chill, stagnation needs a fire lit under that fine fanny.)
Step 3. Adjust
Adjust your pace by considering 4 levels of experience: physical, emotional, intellectual, and energetic. For example...
To slow your pace you can:
It sounds simple and it works, but this process of behavioral repatterning can also take time to develop organically and authentically. Don't rush. Be patient. Consider it an ongoing work in progress and luxuriate in the power you have to play with it.
Here is another way to look at it. When raising a child, does a parent just execute Operation Adult and ask the child every day "Why aren't you a mature adult yet?". No! Ideally a parent will savor the time they get to spend with their child and in that same way you want to enjoy these special moments with your creation. Whether you're celebrating those magical first steps or wishing you had a hazmat suit as you clean up another epic blowout, these moments are totally unique to your personal growing process and to that of your creation. Kids remember the care you give them and your creations remember too. These moments only happen once, and they are precious.
Creation is an expression of matter forming and transforming through time. So, it takes time. Put on your patient pants. It's time to get cozy.
Creation isn't a race, it's evolution. Give yourself the breathing room you need to play the long game.
Questions to ask yourself.
When you're ready to overcome your creative block use these prompts for journaling or contemplation. Answer what feels alive for you and ignore what feels irrelevant:
I'm going to be real with you.
We all get stuck. Those who remain stuck are likely the ones blaming others for their issues, which is lame but true. No one wants to be the blamer because eventually we all see through them and they're not going anywhere (plus they're a drag to be around).
Those who get unstuck are the ones who claim their opportunity and ability to create a new outcome for the same old blocks. It takes effort but it's worth it, I promise.
Happy creating. See you out there.
Did you know that I'm a Creativity Guide?
What?! Yes! Creativity Guide! Whether you're wanting to go deeper or make a change in your personal relationships, your artistic projects, your career, or simply how you do life I have a trek bag for you. I have a map, I have tools, I have a sincere interest in listening to where you want to go, where you're ready to go, what your concerns are, what your aspirations are and from there we will chart a course and ensure you're ready for the adventure.
I work with clients who want to be more creative with their life. (No, put the hair dye away. That's not what I mean). These are people who want to live their lives as though they are doing it on purpose. They want to create their world and then step into it fully alive and ready to take part in a fresh and updated way.
In other words, you're ready for change and you'd like to have a say in it. To that I say, hell yeah! Let's begin right here.
The filters that block us.
How do you see your Self?
What roles, values, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, and stories do you identify with?
Our minds and bodies are programmed en utero, at birth, and throughout childhood with the multifaceted perceptual baseline. This is our default of how we receive the world, and how we express ourselves into the world consciously and unconsciously. These are our natural personalities, that are then layered with familial patterns, preferences, biases, belief systems and fears, that are then sprinkled with any traumas large and small that we've endured in life.
By the time we're 18 and supposedly ready to adult, how we express ourselves into the world is really only a fragment of who we authentically are. The true self with it's truest needs and wants ends up being filtered through externally influenced desires, interests, dreams, concerns, fears, expectations, agendas, motivation etc.. Welcome to the labyrinth of detours and dead ends. But we do this for survival. It's a primal instinct that gives us a sense of belonging as we find patterns of acceptable behavior amongst those we desire to be accepted by. We Adjust who we are to adapt to circumstances.
But if your adjustments are starting to feel uncomfortable or unbearable, then you're probably trying to adapt to a situation that is not aligned with who you naturally are.
Pause for panic attack. Breathe. Keep reading. I have good news when you're done.
What if you could fly from your authentic center out into the world without having to monitor yourself for appropriateness, accuracy, or acceptability? How would you feel? Like, really close your eyes and imagine how this would feel. I'll wait...
Would you be free? Free to be the safe parts and the sometimes hidden parts of yourself in your relationships, free to toss your voice and vision into projects, free to celebrate the crap out of yourself for the successes and even the missteps, because at least you learned that lesson.
Are you getting my picture? I want you to be all of yourself and I believe that you can be all of yourself without burning the place to the ground and starting over.
I'm here to give you a map that will provide a template for the Creations YOU are living. My job is to help you to see where you are now, and to open yourself to discovering where you sincerely want to go.
This is a turning point in your life. Slow the pace. Don't make any brash decisions. Listen, and make the choices that are truly calling to you.
Why work with Anna?
In 2016 I got a severe injury that forced me into a meditation. In an instant I got a message that it was time to "turn my ship around. Return to your art. That is where your medicine is."
That week I released all of my clients and began my return to art. I ended up divorcing my husband and moving across the country to start over. Today I feel more like myself than ever before. I'm blending my studies in conscious development and energy medicine with my lifelong path and career as an artist. The combined expertise is over 45 years.
I've changed. I've walked the transition and I'm here to send a map out to those who are ready for their own change, and who want to do it with clarity. Spastic changes produce change, but they can cause damage. I want to assist in creating intentional and generative change, not destructive change.
That's why my first questions are
What do you want to create in your life?
What do you want to build together?
I spent a beautiful week in the red rocks of Sedona AZ and the Grand Canyon. Tea and coffee with sunrises. Painting with daylight. Smoke with sunsets. Colors crescendoed all around from subtlety to fanfare and back again.
While the golden mountains stopped me in my tracks, it was in the luminescent blues and purples of their shadows where I just lost myself. I just handed myself over and said "Take me." What more could I do? The shadows were exquisite, as though the sky were reaching into the land to swaddle the rocks forgotten by the sun. Those dark nooks and crannies lured me into their mystery, and my own.
In many spiritual practices, there is something called shadow work. Shadow work is a practice of facing and transforming the parts of ourselves that are operating from a wound, or a "dark" place. When we operate from a wound or trauma we are living through unsupportive patterns and dynamics. It feels awful, or at the very least, uncomfortable. It can feel like darkness. But where there is darkness there is room for the light to enter.
Creation yields vulnerability. As I type that word I can feel the collective cringe. Vulnerability is a hard state to be in, regardless of whether it's witnessed within oneself or by an audience. It requires tremendous courage, bravery and trust to allow oneself to be seen when vulnerable. I admire those who can lay themselves bare, raw, and open.
Many see vulnerability as an absence of power, as a victimhood. However it takes a powerful individual to be so open, and an equally powerful individual to hold the vulnerability of others with gentleness and compassion. This power is an innately feminine energy, a divergence from our predominantly masculine understanding of power as dominance. (I'm not talking men v. women, I'm talking specifically about the energy of the feminine and masculine that we all have within us.)
Many people despise vulnerability. They reject it in others as they reject it within themselves. Many subscribe to beliefs that tears make you weak, compromise is submission, and susceptibility to pain makes you inferior. I do not subscribe to this disempowering belief system.
I believe in the power of the feminine; that tears are as valuable as diamonds, compromise is an act of service and creation, and pain is fuel for empathy and passion.
I believe that vulnerability can be powerful.
Since arriving at my residency at Art Hub 2 weeks ago, I've acknowledged tremendous changes occurring within myself and my life. I've oscillated between overt strength and tender vulnerability. I've been flooded with intensity; laughter, anger, sadness, guilt, glee and more. As a result, I've also flooded with tremendous soft power. I'm not talking about the muscle-through-it resilience against the odds, I'm talking about a power that stands firmly yet gently, and needs no permission to curl up and care for itself when needed.
This power has found color in my work. My technique is the courage to feel.
On Thursday I sat in the studio.
I'm hitting the road and rolling 'cross country to Kingman Arizona!
September through December I'll be one of the Artists in Residence at the Art Hub Residency. As a resident I'll have a living and studio space to call my own for three months! I'll offer 3 workshops in addition to dedicating myself to to personal creative works.
What will that personal work be? I'm not telling! (because I don't know yet.) Check back to find out! In the meantime, follow my creative adventures here and on Instagram @AnnaFoxRyan. Knowing me, it will be a cocktail of beauty, spirit and oddities. Cheers.
While I'm in Arizona I'll also be traveling to give oil painting lectures for Gamblin Artist Colors. Check out my workshop page to see when and where you can catch the presentations.
But before any of this happens, I'm packing the bus and road tripping to Arizona with my friend (and yoga teacher extraordinaire) Vic. Fire ceremonies all the way! See you on Instagram!