Tweets and retweets.
Sales and revenue and reviews.
How many times have you put something out into the world and then waited—wishing, begging, pleading, really—for raving reviews and a viral reception?
Yeah, I thought so. And you're not alone.
All of us suffer from this need to be validated, especially pertaining to what we create.
What we need is boundaries.
The power of setting boundaries
First of all, let me be honest: boundaries is my new favorite word. Every time I talk to my bestie, she ends up saying:
"LOL. Boundaries again?!"
Yes. Boundaries. Again. Because they hold so much power. Allow me to explain...
You already know how to set boundaries. You've been doing it all your life. Here are a few examples you may identify with:
- Asking someone you love to stop teasing you
- Telling your romantic partner how often you'd like to spend quality time together
- Letting your friends know not to text you while you're having dinner
Setting boundaries is how you teach people how you want to be treated.
The same goes for what you make.
I love how blogger Mark Manson breaks it down:
"Healthy Personal Boundaries = Taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions, while NOT taking responsibility for the actions or emotions of others"
As makers, we seem to have forgotten what that looks like for our work. Sure, we take responsibility for making the thing—we make time for our writing, handlettering, photography, or whathaveyou—but we ALSO take responsibility for our followers and customers.
We fail with the last half of the healthy boundary equation.
My friend Justin Jackson wrote a wonderful post that I re-read every few weeks. In it, he writes:
"It’s hard to remember that creating isn’t about us. It’s our purpose to give; and a giver needs a receiver. The receiver is free to do whatever they want with the gift: they can reject it, return it, abuse it, or put it on a shelf."
You create to serve, to help, to teach. But you also create because what you have inside needs to be let out, to be set free, to be fully expressed.
You create for the sake of creating. Period.
So, the next time you start wondering (or fretting, let's be real here):
"Why didn't this picture get many likes?"
"How come this article didn't get as many replies as last week?"
You can't dictate how people respond to what you create.
And, homeslice? This comes from a place of must-remember-this, not of mastery. I'm learning this and practicing it every minute of every day. (Like now that I posted a photo to Instagram. Watch me not check how many likes it's gotten, just you watch!)
Give your creativity boundaries. Be responsible for your creative actions without making yourself responsible for the reaction of others.
PS. For more on this, I invite you to tune in to my podcast episode with Justin. I had so much fun recording it. And I hope it's as helpful to you as it was to me!