Visit highlysensitiverefuge.com , 21 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person, author Jenn Granneman Dec. 12 2019 .
Disclaimer: I am not giving professional advice here. These are my opinions. That said…
Signs 17 and 18
17: Conflict is your poison
18: Criticism is a dagger.
Oh, the twin killers of creativity.
17. Conflict is your poison. Yes it is!
“Some highly sensitive people become conflict-avoidant…because conflict hurts so much, ” often to the point of feeling physically ill.
Making the matter worse, many non-HS people simply can’t understand this and show no tolerance or respect. “Oh just suck it up!”
And you can. But there is a cost. A cost non-HS People don’t have to pay.
For HS Persons who have the energy and desire to engage in conflict, that conflict will always take its toll, emotionally and physically, far beyond what others experience. There will be a cost and the HS Person will have to decide if it was worth whatever the results were.
This is why everything can seem to be going absolutely fine, your work is great, and then you have to deliver, or deal with a person, or make a call and suddenly you are thrown into black cold panic.
This is why HSP Creatives burn out. They may thrive in school, but at the graduate level just can’t take the criticism, the judging and the competitiveness. In employment they may expend so much energy trying to appease bosses and dealing with a toxic work environment that no reward is worth the cost. Or they may find that marketing their work takes so much time and emotional energy with such poor returns, its easier to get a good paying job and not try to sell their work.
In relationships they may find their partners stimulating, even exciting, but if this comes from conflict, at some point the HS Person will realize this life is just too disruptive. A roller coaster.
The same is not true for others. Some people actually thrive on conflict…always needing excitement or distraction, always needing to come out ahead, loving when they get a better deal, winning regardless of who is hurt. Conflict energizes them. Look at our poster boy for the Alpha-Artist, Pablo Picasso.
This aversion to conflict will drastically shape the lives of HSP Creatives, in the choice of life partner, business relationships, how far they can go in education, where and how they can work, how aggressively they can market their creative output or skills.
But this does not mean that HSP Creatives don’t like success, don’t want to earn respect and admiration, don’t want to compete, don’t want to be loved. They do!
This is why most HSPs love competition, as opposed to conflict.
Like anything else in life, the downside is when a love of competition becomes a dead end. A diversion from the more serious business of life.
Even HSP Creatives have limits where further education is unwarranted or another juried show is pointless, or being the best at an online game is no longer “letting off steam.” Winning a dozen regional Arts competitions makes your Ego feel like it’s king of the art world, but does not translate into steady sales in London and New York.
Competitive environments feel so good to HSPs because conflict is personal, a direct desire to wound the other, while competition replaces the physical and emotional assault with impersonal rules and order. Chess sublimates waring royal factions with symbols of people and strict rules. You don’t win by punching your opponent in the face.
The HSP then participates presuming the rules will be honored by all players and referees. This is even true in personal relationships, where the parties have tacitly worked out ‘the rules’. And the HSP will feel violated – deeply wounded – if those rules are breached.
The good news is that HSP Creatives can use their talents in education, commerce, business, politics, research and industry…wherever a regulated environment exists. The ‘trick’ is to find a positive and rewarding place to work that’s right for you.
So HS Persons are not wimps. They like to compete.
Relationships are where HSPs are at their most vulnerable and possibly the most critical part of an HSP Creative’s life. Our partners absolutely MUST understand and respect how sensitive we are and how easily disruptive they can be. It is very easy for the conflict sensitive HSP Creative to have their mojo derailed…to be emotionally deflated or put off track. Sometimes just a word or two, sometimes a negative response or even subtle lack of support can deflate the Creative person.
You may know this already from your family. You may have grown up with family members who were secretly, if not overtly, envious or resentful of any talent you may have shown, and use conflict and drama to keep you ‘derailed’.
Your entire community may have no idea, no acceptance of who you are.
When you move on from your family, you may realize that rather than helping you, teaching you life skills so you can manage and grow your talent, your family has done the opposite. They have undermined you. And not only do you enter adulthood much less prepared (than those Creatives whose families had mentored them), you also have poor relationship models to help you find a suitable partner.
Sure, you may eventually work all this out on your own, but what you lose is time. What if it takes you twenty years of floundering around making a mess of your relationships and creative talent before building the life you need? Or, what if you ignore the signs, pretend all is cool, work like a demon, “Look at the amazing art I’m making”, meanwhile using heroine (or some other powerful drug) to blot out the pain you’re going through, and end up like Jean-Michel Basquiat, dead at the age of 27?
It does not help that the ‘Art World’ is a wild west, an every man for himself world, with tremendous freedom but also few securities or guarantees.
Even selling your art directly is more difficult for the HSP Creative because of the pain rejection brings. It is not a fear of success but a fear of the cost of success that stops HSP Creatives from getting their work ‘out there’.
Even setting up a booth at an Art Fair exposes the HSP Creative to feel repeatedly rejected. But to non-sensitive Creatives the people who don’t buy are inconsequential. Sure it hurts not to sell your work, but that just means adjusting your marketing plan, right? Besides, your work is out there and you’re meeting people. Sometimes people have to see your stuff two or three times before they decide to buy. It’s marketing! Nothing personal.
Is there an answer to this?
Yes. Once again, know yourself. Realize that the Western world, at least, allows the Creative person tremendous freedom. Use that freedom to discover what works for you. Keep working as honestly as you can, be professional with your work so you can part with it, and find the way you can be comfortable marketing your work or skills. Don’t give up.
18. Criticism is a dagger.
“Criticism can feel like a dagger, and negativity is toxic to the highly sensitive person’s finely-tuned system”.
Hand in hand with conflict, criticism is a weapon used by our adversaries. Avoid exposing yourself to it. Avoid negative, downer people, even when their focus is on other people or events.
When you are in the performing arts, criticism will never stop. I have no answers. We feel fantastic with good reviews and happy clients and collectors. Nothing feels better. But there will always be detractors. Bad reviews. Flops and failures. People who say your work is overpriced. “I just don’t like it.” Are offended. This negativity drives a lot of HSP Creatives to work behind the scenes, or not even try to sell their work at all, or simply quit.
It is so very very easy to have a ‘thin skin’. But Highly Sensitive Creatives really really REALLY must fight this. You have gifts that others can only dream of, but these gifts come with a cost, and sensitivity to conflict and criticism are one of them.
Do everything you can to protect yourself from negativity.
Sensitive or not, the HSP Creative needs to adopt the persona of the Professional Creative. This ‘protective shell of professionalism’ can go a long way to shielding your creative side. There are tricks to this.
The best advice I’ve ever heard on this problem, of criticism and conflict and self defeating, is given by Steven Pressfield in his book, The War of Art. Buy it, read it. Several times.
Steve says that when it comes to the business of being an Artist, you must act like a business person, not as the creative person. He took his queue from other screenwriters who had incorporated themselves. They thus worked for a corporation. The corporation got the jobs, hired the writer, and sold the writer’s output. Steve did this even before it was a tax saving.
He could then stand behind the Corporation of Pressfield. When talking about money, he was representing the business, not himself the Creative. His work, at this point, was just the commodity the Corporation was selling.
In this way he could insist that he and his work be treated with respect. Without an emotional attachment to the work, it was easier for him to stick to his marketing plans. It was easier to part with the work.
The HSP Creative needs to learn how to do this too. How to separate the Artist from the Commerce. How to pass the work on to the business side and then market it. (Or have someone else help you…gallery owner, spouse, business partner, artistic group you have formed…).
In a future blog I will show how to calculate how much to charge for your creative output so that you have a business case for prices you put on your skills or creations.
This is part of being a professional. This formal business persona and fact based pricing scheme is a shield between your very sensitive creative self and the harsh realities of producing work and then making a living selling it. Easier than it sounds, maybe. But the best advice I’ve heard in a long time. Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles”.
It seems to be the single most important problem new artists are trying to solve today.
And you certainly don’t want to be the next Albert Pinkham Ryder.