Identity is an inside job
Rogers famously wrote that the most fundamental condition of creativity is that the locus of evaluative judgment is internal. He believed that the value of the product is, for the creative person, established not by the praise or criticism of others, but by himself.
The artist asks, have I created something satisfying to me? Does it express a part of my own feeling, thought, pain or ecstasy? To psychologically healthy individuals, those are the only questions that matter. Because they’re driven more by inner necessity than social expectation.
And so, if you’re tired of competing and comparing and measuring your work against everybody else, consider shifting your locus of evaluative judgment from external to internal. Rogers actually developed a series of mantras, unintentionally, it seems, for this very transformation. I’ve used them for years. In his book on becoming a person, he counsels his patients to recite the following affirmations.
I am the center of my valuing process. I am the source towards which I substantiate my values. I am connected to the ground of my own being. I am trusting of myself as the primary source of evidence.
If that’s the story you start telling yourself, it won’t be long before the evidence of your worth will be supplied by your own sense. And not to imply complete independence from other people. Everyone still wants to be liked. And loved. And appreciated. And heard. And seen.
But remember, humans have a tendency to exaggerate the importance of other people’s acceptance. In the end, identity is an inside job.
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