Creative Women & The Guilt of Not Having a “Real Job”

In my work as a success coach to creative women I come across the limiting belief that creativity itself is inherently selfish. This comes out in deeper mindset sessions when I’m helping women creatives to tackle mindset blocks that stand in the way of their financial success.

I recognize this limitation right away in my clients because I suffered from it myself for years. Creatrixes (as I like to call creative women) experience conflicting pride and shame for not enjoying regular work.

You’d be amazed at how any times a week I hear my clients say to me, “I just feel really guilty about sitting down and painting. I feel like I should be doing real work like building my website.”

Gender and The Real Work Myth

Enjoyment can come with a price if you’re a woman.  Things we get pleasure from are described in terms of being “naughty” or “indulgent. Often we just keep them secret rather than explain ourselves. Creative women often double down on guilt because the creative work they do just doesn’t feel like work.

Messages from childhood tell us that creativity is not legitimate work

I’m from a creative family; my parents have made their living as artists all my life. Even so, creatrix guilt has stalked me when I least expected.  I can remember being 4 or 5 years old, sitting making clay animals on the step outside my parents’ pottery workshop. I hadn’t started school yet and my days were spent playing with clay or running around barefoot making tiny animals. On this one beautiful morning a policeman was passing by.  I must have caught his attention somehow, and he turned to me and said “Little girl, what are you doing playing there. Do some really work or I’ll take you to prison.”

I’m sure he was joking, but it didn’t feel that way to me. I felt scared and ashamed.  It was the first time I’d been exposed to the idea that some activities were wrong because they don’t count as real work. It was the first time I’d had a sense that there’s a man out there watching what you do to check if it’s allowed. Years later when I was unemployed, the incredulity of the unemployment officer I mirrored the tone of the policeman. The message: “Being creative is not allowed, not secure, not real work.”

Layered with Mum guilt, creative guilt is unbearable

For me guilt really took hold after I had children. I felt ashamed about spending time on my design business when I had a small child to look after.

If I chose to create, it always felt like I was neglecting someone or something. A voice would rise up in me and tell me to stop what I was doing and do household chores or life admin. I started to identify this irrational voice as “The Devil In The Dishwasher”. On the outside my design business appeared to be thriving. But in reality I was recycling ideas, feeling flat; I was afraid to create anything new.

The Tides Change

I began to lose touch with myself. It was like an unbearable fog in my mind.  My body suffered too; I began to get sick regularly with colds, frozen muscles, eye infections, digestive disorders, heart palpitations and other signs of stress.   When I couldn’t take it anymore I finally hired a coach to help me deal with “The Devil In The Dishwasher”. In the process of working with her, I realized that I was stuck in an archetype of servitude: choosing to be unhappy and overwhelmed instead of taking the risk that someone would think of me as selfish. We worked on my mindset and slowly things began to unblock.

As a result I reconnected with my creativity again. I put aside days to just draw and paint, which helps my well being and my product business. I can now give back more to my family because I’m grounded and happier.

 Passing on the Magic

Since I began to do my creative work without guilt I’ve started mentoring other women to thrive as creatrixes too. I‘ve been able to help other creative women to follow their passions and build incredibly successful businesses.  One client has even quit alcohol and started a community for sober artists. I’ve mentored hundreds of women to overcome the mindset blocks, challenges and setbacks. Many of them have increased their incomes by up to ten times and are living more fulfilled lives. Every day women tell me that I’m helping them to create truly abundant lives.

My tips for creatixes

  • It doesn’t matter if your passion makes you a living or not. But it can make you a very abundant living if you go all in.
  • Whoever you are, create space and time for your passions and interests. This is not selfish. It’s not too late.
  • Allow others to support you. It’s not cheating
  • If you are an artist, do your art consistently with passion and energy. This is not selfish. A dream costs nothing to dream.
  • If you’re not an artist, allow yourself to play and create anyway. This is not selfish.

You are not letting anyone down. Let go of the outcome and dive in.

Together We Rise

I encourage everyone to become part of the solution, join the crusade against creatrix guilt.

Here’s how:

  • Never underestimate the power of supporting other women artists and designers. You can make the world of difference to a creatrix by supporting her.
  • Make space for a friend or a family member to create.
  • Buy from her without asking for discounts
  • Leave her good reviews.
  • Never be that person who says “Get a proper job” or
  • Never be that person who says  “How much! That’s too expensive! I could get one of those cheaper” Seriously, never, ever, say that to a woman creative.
  • Encourage your friend who is artistic.  Celebrate with her.  

 When you become part of that beautiful cycle of creative encouragement, so much power is unleashed into the world. The creatrix wound is healed a little bit more and together we rise.