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Art in a sketchbook that has phrase “Just say thanks” stamped in marker and crayon.

How to Appropriately Own Your Creative Gifts

How do you own your creative gifts without seeming unauthentic, or worse like you’re bragging? How do you reply to compliments without deflecting or seeming ungrateful or dismissive? I struggled with this all the time and would totally deflect or even worse, I would argue that it wasn’t me. After thinking about it, I think there’s a simple way you can value, acknowledge, and reply in a totally appropriate way. Here’s how to appropriately own your creative gifts.

How do you handle praise?

What do you usually say when someone tells you they really think you’re awesome or you made something amazing? Does it make you uncomfortable? I kind of have a HUGE problem with compliments but didn’t really think about how my issue with praise affects others.

Here’s how a friend called me out on this.

The “truth” we tell ourselves

So it happened just the other day, I thought I was being honest and a little funny when I told a friend that God made it very clear that he wanted me to do what I’m doing, because I am completely unfit for anything else.

Can’t sing, can’t do math, can’t speak in public, can’t…. well the list goes on and on, but the one thing I tell myself that really stings is I can’t hold down a normal job. I’ve tried. But I don’t seem to work that way. I have depression with side of manic and a sprinkle of seasonal affective disorder. A 9 to 5 corporate culture would steamroll me in a minute flat.

So part of me figures I’m an artist because I can’t do anything else. I know I’ve thought in the past that I wasn’t doing anything big, or important, or necessary to the world. I make pretty things.

And I wonder if you think that too. Is that what you see as your sum total? Do you feel like that’s all that you have to give, and oops, sorry if it isn’t enough?

The friend I was talking to stopped, and had a kind of fierce look on her face as she turned to me and said, “what did you just say?” I carelessly repeated myself. “I think God really wanted me to be an artist, because I legit can’t do anything else, and he must have known I’d need a big billboard with a flashing arrow to figure out what he’d created me for.”

The exact words escape me, but the firestorm of derision mixed with encouragement was pretty definite. And it was the reality check I needed to stop putting myself down.

Are you pointing towards another or away from yourself.

I tell everyone all day and everyday that to be creative is a gift God’s given us. That you should own your creative gifts, because they are part of being made in the image of our Creator and one way we can reflect Him.

But yet when someone introduces me as being the person who did all the cool stuff at __________. I deflect, and say “it’s not a big deal. I just like to make stuff.” Or I’ll say, “Thanks, but it’s not me. I had _______ do the work and I just supervised.”

“It’s not me – it’s God working through me.”

That last one is the truth. But over the years it’s become less about pointing to him, and more about pointing away from me. I’m an introvert. I’m uncomfortable being praised, or even being seen. It’s gotten to the point that I’d much rather design something and then let others actually make it, so I can give them the credit for it. I figure then they feel good, because they made something awesome, but truthfully it’s also another way to deflect the attention away from me.

Know what you’re really saying.

The problem with that really hit home the other day when I was chattering to my husband about one of our pastors stopping me in the coffee shop and introducing me as the person who did all the cool decorations around us. I mentioned my response; and at that point my husband interrupted the endless flow of narrative and said, “Why do you do that? Why do you disagree with someone when they’re introducing you as an artist. Or as the person who did something cool, or the person responsible for decorating something awesome? You always do that. Why?”

( Again- he’s right. I totally do.)

He went on, “You know that by disagreeing with what they’re saying about you, you’re making it seem like they don’t know what they’re talking about, or worse – that they’re lying?”

(Yeah, never really thought about it like that.)

It’s true though. I guess that is kind of what I’m saying. “You’re wrong. You don’t know. Thanks for the praise, but no thanks.”

Do you do this too? A friend messaged me a quote yesterday. It said,

Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate, and the desire to hide.

-D.W. Winnicott

Keep it simple and sincere.

Maybe we just stop right here and now – both you and I. We own up to our creative gifts. And we practice saying it out loud, “Thank you for the compliment. I appreciate it.” Suddenly, it’s done. No more awkward qualifying, or deflecting. Just a “Thanks. That’s nice of you to say.”

What’s your response?

I’d love to know if you identified with any of this. What do you say when people compliment your work? Do you hide the hours you pour into a project, because you don’t want the attention that may come from it? Do you deflect compliments out of habit, or always make it about someone else and not yourself?

The danger in that is we start to believe our own narrative.

What we should and shouldn’t believe

Which is why it kind of shamed me a little to realize that I don’t value my own talents. I don’t think I’m all that gifted. I do tell people that being an artist is the only thing I can do and imply that they’re lucky they don’t suck as much as I do. Which makes me question how can I authentically tell you how wondrously made you are, and how incredibly gifted, if I don’t believe it about myself. So I guess I’ve a little soul searching to do.

Because I do believe, with all my heart, that creativity is a gift God’s given you. I believe it’s just as valuable in this world as any other set of skills or abilities. And I believe that there is a kingdom purpose for the creativity you were given (which is why I created this blog). You now know how to appropriately own your creative gifts.

And so do I.

Love me a freebie! Or two…

Because I thought this quote was so true I made a PDF file you can print out. I also made an .svg file for use with a cutting machine like a cricut or cameo so you can make a wall art piece. Use it as a reminder that although it’s natural to hide your creativity, done authentically it’s totally appropriate to own them. Find them in my free Creative Resource Library! The password is instantly sent to you when you subscribe below!

wellcraftedtstudio | Jen Swift

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How to Own Your Creative Gifts (in a totally appropriate way) | Creative Inspiration | Motivation | Creativity
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5 thoughts on “How to Appropriately Own Your Creative Gifts”

  1. Julie C. Rumsey

    So so true, Jen! We’ve been taught to be modest but this can get carried too far. People who give compliments are trying to give a gift of appreciation. It’s kinder accept it than deflect it. Thanks for writing this so eloquently!

    1. Jennifer Swift

      Thanks Julie!!! I love that you commented on this. I know you totally get me, and appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

    1. Jennifer Swift

      Aw- thanks Polly!!! I love hearing from you!!! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I really really appreciate it!

  2. Oh, honey, it is so in your genes, your dad’s really good at it too and Grandma Jo, wonderful as she was, was always very concerned that Connie and I not think too highly of ourselves. I probably passed that down as well. You are amazing and I can not be more proud of you!
    ❤️ Mom

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