You know that moment? You suddenly realise exactly what it is you have to do. And just how you’re going to do it.
You push away the pile of how-to books, shut down that expensive ‘mastery’ course, and gasp, maybe even politely fire your coach.
Your direction has become so three-dimensionally clear that you can’t imagine how you never saw it before.
You’ve just stepped into the full realisation of yourself at the Third Level of your creative life.
Level 3: Individuation
Level 3 of the 7 Level model we’ve been looking at as a way to assess the needs of our creative business or career, is about our desire to stand out and be acknowledged by our peers.
It is about developing the self-confidence and self-esteem to self-define and say “This is who I am. I am valuable.” And going on to demonstrate how.
It is about consciously ditching all those ‘shoulds’ in favour of honouring our own inner light.
Level three is the fire energy that enables us to see clearly and to act.
It is about autonomy, but also about enjoyment and enthusiasm. It is about positivity, proactivity, the refusal to be bogged down by obstacles, the willingness to engage with challenge and the will that says, “I will…”
It is the power that is self-em-power-ment rather than the wielding of power over someone else.
Recognising you’re one of a kind
At Level 2 we saw the need to take risks in order to develop our creative identity, and to overcome our blocks by digging into our subconscious and trusting the process, rather than relying purely on outward validation.
If we have done this work throughly, at Level 3 we are able to differentiate ourselves from the crowd and to take action with confidence and self-esteem.
At this level that we are truly able to use our unique creative voice to express who we are, to summon the power to act from our deepest desires, and to define whom - and how - we wish to be in our creative career.
Embodying our power
When balance is created at the third level, we are able to use our will power to transcend the blocks we struggle with at Level 2, and actively notice when we’re getting side-tracked or sinking into our dark side.
We can function optimally both as a team player and a solo flyer - meaning that we can embrace opportunities such as collective exhibitions without our ego getting in the way of seeing what’s best for the show as a whole but, when the situation demands it, we can act assertively in favour of our own best interests.
Pleasing everyone but ourselves
When the third level is not balanced, however, we behave as people-pleasers - or what Gretchen Rubin calls Obligers - allowing other people’s needs to always come before our own, feeling guilty if we say no yet often inwardly resisting and resentful.
This secret resentment provokes us to behave childishly - throwing tantrums if we don’t get our way in group situations, and failing to carry through on commitments either to ourselves or others by showing up late, or not at all, or doing our work without due care.
Our obsessive need to please others can cause us to create always with one eye on the reception the work will receive, rather than working from our deepest self - which either leads us to produce work that doesn’t resonate with our audience, or work that achieves commercial success but leaves us feeling creatively unfulfilled.
Imbalance at this level can also cause us not to value ourselves - not taking credit for our achievements, downplaying our strengths, not charging enough for our services and/or giving them away.
Conversely, in an attempt to cover up our sense of inadequacy, it can cause us to appear arrogant, competitive, nit-pickingly perfectionist or excessively ambitious.
Imbalance at the third level has its roots in being shamed.
When our creative work is met with a lack of understanding or downright disapproval, it takes away our power.
We start to distrust our abilities and fear the consequences of our own actions. To avoid exposure to shame, we become constrained and self-conscious. We lose our spontaneity and playfulness. The energy required to maintain ourselves in this hyper-vigilant state robs us - and our creative work - of vitality.
As artists this shame gets sublimated into our inner critic - the internal voice that continually tells us that we’re worthless. If we let our inner critic run rampage, it leads us to passive-aggressive self-sabotage - such as procrastination - or binge behaviour such as making art obsessively and then not making any art at all, rather than developing a stable, regular practice.
Balancing Level 3
Balancing the third level begins with embracing your responsibility for the progress and success of your own creative career or business. No more pointing the finger at others - whether to signal their ‘unmerited’ success, or to blame them for your lack of it.
It also really helps to work on persuading your undermining Inner Critic to transform him/herself into your significantly more useful Critical Faculty and to remind and reassure yourself that mistakes are essential for growth.
“How can we reach and grow if we can’t make mistakes? And without growth, how can we develop a sense of our own power?”
Finally, setting yourself a doable goal and single-mindedly follow through on it, is key to building the self-esteem and self-belief you need to thrive at the third level.
Let your mantra be:
’There is no right way of doing things, only the right way for me.’
Then set about creating the kind of career that is closest to your heart.
Level 3 Health Check
How is your Level 3 balance?
Do you please others before yourself? Is your Inner Critic rampant? Or have you learnt to embody your particular brand of creative expression without compunction?
Share in the comments!