Tips + Techniques

How Creative Minds Manifest Good Vibes Only

July 15, 2020

By Katch Silva

© Katch Silva

This is the third article in a series on mental health, productivity, work/life balance and mindfulness for creatives. If you haven’t already, do your creative mind a favor and read the first article on why you should beware the productivity hustle and the second on why it’s okay to be in a rut.

Whether you want to have better work-life balance, or you just want to foster more equanimity in your daily life, creating the space for change is the first step. Your nervous system is likely overwhelmed and overworked, so you can’t expect results without first alleviating some of the pressures you put on yourself, your body and creative mind to perform.

[Read: “After a Year Off Social Media, I’m Back—Living an Uncurated Life”]

Damaging thought patterns impact your relationship with yourself, whether you realize it or not, through bias. These fully integrated automated responses are hinderances to your goals—they are damaging to your creative mind and they cause self-harming behavior—and, unfortunately, they often do their thing below a conscious level.

Bringing awareness to these habitual ways of thinking is the first step towards unlearning these paradigms, and ultimately towards creating space in our minds and lives for stillness and pleasure.

[Read: 12 Successful Wedding and Portrait Photographers Share Their Good Work/Life Habits]

Your creative mind often perpetuates these thought patterns because they seem to bring a limited form of satisfaction, but if you really pay attention to your internal landscape, you’ll learn that in the long-term, they’re quite damaging to your mental health.

Below are common damaging thought patterns to notice and try to let go of. Research shows that the best way to unlearn and detach from these tendencies is through increasing self-awareness and mindfulness practices. These are all self-limiting beliefs and thoughts, and the first step towards letting go of them is awareness.

1. Obsessing over things you can’t control.

donnie wilson illustration of creative mind obsessing over things you can't control
Illustrations by Donnie Wilson by Katch Silva

You can’t control everything. In fact, a majority of the things you anxiously obsess over are things over which you have zero control. Zero.

When you obsess over anything that happened in the past, you’re wasting your time. 

When you obsess over someone else’s thoughts, feelings or judgements, you’re wasting your time.

When you obsess over how something might turn out in the future, you’re wasting your time. (Unless, of course, you have sole control over this future scenario, but that’s almost never precisely the case.)

Instead, focus on what you can control, and let go of things on which you have no influence. Time is one of our most valuable resources, and a rather limited one, so let’s not waste any more of it going around in circles, mmk?

2. Obsessing over results.

Things won’t always go your way. No matter how much you plan, how much work you put in, or how much of yourself you sacrifice, there will always be unforeseen factors and unexpected outcomes. If you can accept this fact—truly accept it, not just vaguely acknowledge it while continuing to fight it—you’ll realize the joys of reveling in the process and the reward of the actual pursuit, not just the end result.

How can you stop your creative mind from obsessing over results? By focusing more on the present moment than the future goal. Take pleasure in the tiny joys of daily life, those positive tid-bits you find along the way, as you work toward whatever it is you’re working toward.

3. Letting negativity bias take over.

Evolution created scared little mammals that had to learn to avoid risk, because risk often meant death. So we learned to focus much more heavily on the negative aspects of our past and present, than on the positive ones. This is negativity bias, and you’re affected by it whether you’re consciously aware of it or not. Evolution meant for it to be a survival instinct, but now it has become a detriment.

Negativity bias is going on an amazing trip and letting a delayed flight ruin the experience. Or thinking of an ex-boyfriend and remembering the arguments and not the love. Or simply looking back on your day and flagging the troubling setbacks while disregarding the small victories.

An easy way to combat negativity bias is to tip the scale towards the positive by intentionally bringing attention to daily victories and delights. 

4. Carrying self-limiting narratives.

Your creative mind holds strong beliefs about who you are and how the world operates. These narratives have been written into you by a lifetime of repetition and reinforcement.

Your narratives may be extreme and fatalistic:
“I’m the least creative person—I might as well give up my dream of being a ______.”
“I’m never going to amount to anything.”
“I can’t trust anyone; everyone always lets me down.”
“I never have enough time.”

Some are more subtle and can be difficult to notice:
“Why would anyone want to date me? I’m a mess.”
“I didn’t get that promotion because I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not pretty enough.”
“I can’t dance.”

These stories don’t develop internally in isolation. They’re created by external stimuli: what you heard from parents and teachers, what your peers reinforced, what the media exposed you to and so on. Of course, we may see “evidence” of them in our lives, but more often than not, that “evidence” is simply confirmation bias coupled with self-fulfilling prophecies.

donnie wilson illustration of creative mind negative thoughts manifesting

For example, let’s talk about your stress response again. Research shows that belief in how damaging stress is for you is correlated with your measured physiological stress response. Basically, if you firmly believe that the stress you feel is extremely damaging to your health, then the stress you feel is more likely to actually be more damaging to your health. That’s called a negative stress mindset. Inversely, people with a more positive stress mindset tend to fulfill their own prophecies as well—their stress impacts their health a lot less, or in more positive ways.

5. Using self-reproach as a means of improvement rather than self-compassion.

I used to firmly believe that self-reproach was the best and only way to ensure my ego “learned the lesson.” But research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience has shown, time and time again, that self-compassion is a much more effective tool for self-improvement (and promotes higher well-being) than self-criticism.

“Ugh! I’m such an idiot!”
“I deserve to fail.”
“Just stop being so worthless!”
“If I can’t achieve X today, I don’t deserve dinner tonight.”

Inversely, self-compassion allows your ego a safe space to evaluate, without negative judgment, to find better and more creative ways to move forward. Self-compassion is about gently aiding your ego out of its shame.

Next time you realize you’re being harsh on yourself, take a pause, take a few deep breaths, and tell yourself, “This is all okay. You’re not a screw up.” Pretend a close friend, or your own child, is self-criticizing that harshly. What would you say to them? Speak to yourself with the same compassion and kindness you would to them, and then you’ll begin to dismantle your self-critic’s unrelenting disapproval.

Self-compassion is a less judgmental, kinder way to give yourself a push forward. It isn’t telling yourself, “You’re perfect just the way you are. You don’t need to change,” but rather, “You’re not perfect. Nobody is. It’s okay that you feel this way. You’re not a failure. Let’s try it again.”

The Takeaway

It is entirely possible to rewire your brain and challenge your very engrained negative self-thinking patterns. Through heightening self-awareness and mindfulness practices, you can begin to improve your relationship to the guardian of these damaging patterns: your inner critic. 

It will take commitment to put in the time and a lot of practice, but if you’re brave enough to persevere, you’ll find greater peace, a less cluttered mind, and a place where self-acceptance makes a well-balanced life more feasible. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Katch Silva is a wedding photographer and a Rangefinder 30 Rising Star of Wedding Photography in 2015. She has a psychology degree, and a mathematics degree, from the University of Pennsylvania. After living and shooting on the road in a van for three years, she settled in 29 Palms, CA, where she lives with her partner and two kittens. She has spent the last 10 years attempting to draw out and capture her couple’s genuine nature on camera. Psychology, the human mind, and our shared biology with the rest of nature are her biggest motivations and inspirations for both art and education, and she strives to share the knowledge she has gained through research, self exploration and therapy so that everyone may benefit. Her education can be found at