Conditioning for Anxiety or Creativity ?

Gardening, woodworking, jewelry making, painting, 3-D printing, writing, and music making – these are just a few of the hobbies that my immediate family pursues.

Lately, I have spent some time pondering personality traits. For instance, I think that we condition ourselves and our children for anxiety. Sometimes we, as parents, set up unnecessary and unreasonable expectations for ourselves and our children. Why not just use the old adage of try your best and let it go at that? Sometimes, best is achieved – if  the stars align, hard work is pursued, anxiety is low, and confidence is high. And, then we want more “best” and pressure ourselves and our children to be number one, get 100% on that exam, win the race, stand out, and more.  Can you tell it is college admission time and scholarship application time for my third child? There comes a time to think about how we condition ourselves and our children for anxiety.

I’ve written before about how I am a naturally anxious person. Being a first born, I am also a perfectionist. I see some of the expectations my own parents had of me being passed on in how I parent my children. The high expectations AND the ability to achieve them are both a blessing and a curse, just like perfectionism. And, anxiety. Anxiety, in low doses, allows you to accomplish, perform, exceed, excel, move on, move up, and challenge oneself. On the other hand, anxiety in higher amounts tends to shut one down, hinder, cause self-doubt, regret, and can paralyze one’s capacity. I have seen each happen. I’ve experienced one more than the other, and believe a slight amount of anxiety has been good for my productivity and capacity, both.

Creativity, in my experience, does the opposite. Creativity allows one to grow in ways that anxiety does not. I was far into adulthood (almost 40 years old) before I realized my need to create. In recent weeks, out of necessity, I have cut back on my creativity – my desire to make new pieces of jewelry, taking the time to write a blog piece, or wander about and take photographs of my yard. But, my sons and husband have all ramped it up.

Now that school is out, one is using the 3-D printer and the CNC machine to make new, innovative products to try and sell. His skills on these machines have been completely self taught.  Having time to tinker, invent, and create just does not exist on a highly pressured college campus. These skills bolster his self confidence, his motivation and drive, and even his perseverance and desire to learn something new. These are all side effects of creativity. None of them are paralyzing or hindering, only positive. Even when there is a malfunction or the piece does not turn out as planned, re-designing and relearning take place not only because they are needed but also desired. I wish we could bottle this process and deliver it to schools. It learning without the pressure of grades, or extraneous labels can be so positive. Just learning to learn can be highly motivating when the conditions are right.

My youngest son is painting up a storm. He’s decided to try to earn his summer living by painting shoes and portraits for the summer. This isn’t a new gig, he’s been doing it for a few years, but is motivated enough (and talented enough) to try and make his summer earnings by doing something he loves. Again, motivation, drive, desire, and persistence all play into the success of his creativity.  He is his own worst critic and will use that self-reflection to hone his skills and become better at his artistic gifts. Again, we have seen it happen and are assured it will continue.

Although I shut my Etsy shop last month, I am still producing jewelry and ordering components to make new pieces. I enjoy the creative experience, the ability to produce something from nothing and the ability to self critique my work. Like my sons, I am my own worst critic. No one needs to tell me what’s wrong with a piece because I see it! Still, I like the fact my writing, my photography, and my jewelry making bring out a creative side of my personality. I can feel good that I have an idea and can see it through as I see fit, and whether it works or not is, is all my responsibility. Currently,  I am looking into other places to sell my pieces other than the art gallery in Iowa in which I have sold creations during the past five tourist seasons.

And my husband, who has usually not been an anxious person over the last 35 years, excels at creativity. He recently retired and is completely happy creating made to order custom furniture. Although his most recent pieces are not exactly to his liking in style or color, he realizes they are still creative and take him out of his comfort zone which leads to learning and growing. Creations are also easier to sell if you make what people want.

Two of eight custom-made dining chairs and match a Bavarian style table, 2019.

Yes, I’d take creativity over anxiety any day. There are many more positive side effects!

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday! Thanks to for hosting!


2 thoughts

  1. Lots to think about here. When I am anxious, I also find that playing the piano or knitting calms me. I think there is something in our brains that craves the creative experience. I wish you and your family the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to the first-born-perfectionist drive and a big dose of anxiety makes me feel like I must be productive at all times. Sigh. I’m glad you and your family have found a creative outlets. So many great creative pursuits at your house!

    Liked by 1 person

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