Disallow Criticisms From Stifling Your Creativity

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.
– Vincent Van Gogh

Paint Quote by Vincent Van Gogh

Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a fashion designer. I filled my sketchbooks with pictures of women wearing clothes that I have designed.

I imagined what it would be like to have models walking down the catwalk, wearing my designs.

I imagined what it would be like to be popular because of my beautiful work.

Drawing these pictures allowed me escape the humdrum of school.

I was happy because I was in the creative flow.

Then, one fine day, I mustered enough courage. I showed my drawings to a girl who sat next to me in class. She had also been harboring the similar dream of being a fashion designer.

Well, she returned my drawings with plenty of comments on how I should have drawn them.

I could not remember if she meant them as criticisms but I certainly took them to be.

At first, I tried to make the necessary corrections for sketching but my drawings slowly dwindled to just a few strokes.

Eventually, I realized that I could not design anymore.

I gave up on the dream.

I went on to taking Accountancy in the University, a course that would put me in good stead in a country that is the financial capital of South East Asia.

I had long forgotten about this dream if not for a jolt in memory a few days ago. It happened when Rachel, a participant from my Vision Board Mastery Workshop, wrote me a follow-up email.

(During the workshop, I had done a “live” 5-minute demonstration of Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT. The demonstration was made to show how to unblock resistances that could be in the way of our vision and dreams. Rachel had gamely volunteered for me to work on her for the demonstration in front of the class.)

With her permission, I share what she has written in her email…

Hi Evelyn,

I would like to thank you for your help during the Vision Board Mastery Workshop.

If you can recall, I had shared with you that I was hurt when my art teacher threw my drawing on the floor. Even though this event had taken place 6 years ago, I had continued to feel the rejection, the pain and the hurt. That was why I cried during the EFT demonstration. After you helped me with releasing some of the pain, you mentioned that there could be an earlier incident. You said that it was typical to uncover early childhood events.

Hence, since the workshop, I tried to recall if in fact, there was an earlier incident prior to the one 6 years ago. I was not able to until today. I remembered that it happened when I was in Secondary One. I had taken up a drawing class. While I had no memory of who the teacher was, I could recall that it was a still life painting class.

Since I have had no previous skills on still life drawings, I drew a picture that was out of proportion. Well, the teacher gave me a F for it.

For the next 20 years, I had this belief that “I can’t draw well”. Then again, I had not realized that I had been holding on to this belief because I was scoring As in my Chinese, Mathematics and Science. My good performance in the other subjects obscured the subconscious fear.

However, when I eventually wanted to be a successful creative director, I found myself being hindered. It was when I began to realize how much this belief has been hindering me. I didn’t dare or most of the time I avoided drawing to my best ability.

I started illustration skills in Feb 2012. At first I was full of self-doubt, fear, and uncertainty. I had little clarity. I continued to draw despite having to face my own negativity. And so, my confidence from first drawing 10% of the complete image and then gradually, more and more. Slowly, I experienced greater joy, relaxation and confidence. Each stroke became easier and smoother as time went on.

So it was nice to completely release any remaining doubt during and after the workshop. I know that this belief no longer serves me. Now, I can say to myself confidently, “Yes, I can draw and I draw well”.

Thank you for your words of wisdom. Although it is just a few words, your guidance has helped me to overcome my fear.

– Rachel

Never Be Held Back by Criticisms

Now, how many of us cause ourselves to be held back by the criticisms that took place long time ago? The thing is that the same voice of disapproval still echoes in our subconscious mind. Because of it, we are not able to go all out for our dream. And so we settle for something else or dream a smaller dream.

Mind you, the comments provided by others might have been constructive. It could be true that we needed to improve on my drawing skills. But what is essentially more important is how we perceive the comments. Based on what was said to us, do we then conclude that we will never make it, will never succeed or will forever be doomed for life? The thing is that the mind has a tendency to blow up our fears to catastrophic proportions and mostly, the fears are not even true to begin with.

Luckily for me, even though I did not become a fashion designer, I have found a way to carve out work that is based on creativity. Having forgotten my childhood dream, it took me a long time to realize that art was in my soul. It did not even occur to me at a time when I was taking a whole string of part-time classes after office hours in quick succession: pottery, graphic design, folk art painting, and jewelry design.

So now I channel my creativity through making vision boards and holding classes, as well as creating inspirational banners for my Facebook Page or Pinterest almost every other day. Even though I may not win any award or competition, it is still great to turn out art with a purpose. Aligning art and purpose makes me come alive!

However, just imagine if the reverse is true. If I continue to be held back by the same disapproving voice, I do not think I would have come this far. It would be the same for Rachel or any of us too. We remain stuck because of the belief that has been formed out of someone’s comments.

Also, to be creative is not just about producing artistic works alone. Creativity is an innate soul desire for physical expression. We like being creative because we enjoy making a difference to the world. Creativity helps us connect the dots and see meaning in life.

So……what is the way forward for you?

Well, if you have once been told that you cannot do something, consider overcoming your self-doubt.

Investigate what your limiting beliefs are.

Remove your blocks to creativity.

Do the very thing that has been causing you to feel powerless.

Most definitely, either go for your dream or find a way that will help you create work that you love!

Abundance Always,

fbprofilemktg-2evelyn lim signature
Author. Adventurer. Life Coach. More About Me.

P.S. Thank you, Rachel, for allowing me to publish your email.

Share Your Story
Were you ever held back by what someone else has said? What did you do next? What happened?

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The Vizier - March 23, 2012 Reply

Hi Evelyn,

This email that Rachel has shared clears the nagging curiosity I have been having about the incident I mentioned. I am glad to see you had no problems dealing with it. It is also wonderful to see that it has turned out to be an inspiration for an article on a topic that many people struggle with.

I too have had experiences where comments and criticisms by others haunt me longer than they should. Criticisms can lift us up or bring us down. It is vital to manage them well because there might just be useful gems hidden within that could aid us to achieve our goals.

I believe the key is to examine each criticism we receive closely to see if they are valid. It is not prudent to follow them blindly and change for the sake of it. We would be no different from a blade of grass swaying in the wind. But if changes are necessary, then we should do so quickly.

Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

Irving the Vizier


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Irving,

It is true that many of us struggle because of what someone else has said to us in the past. Criticisms can haunt us for a very long time. It is up to us to take charge and break free. And yes, if we are able to unearth the hidden gems, we would have a way to becoming more empowered.

Abundance always,


Carol Ova - March 23, 2012 Reply

Reading this article on criticism from others, gave me new courage not to give up on getting “better”. I’ve been struggling for years with many “walls” preventing me from living a successful life or rather a happy one. I decided to look inside me for the answers and so started a journey of first finding peace and forgiveness. Thanks Evelyn for your work and sharing your wisdom with others. I have an appointment with my land lord in less then an hour to discuss my late payments on my office rent and renewing my lease for another year; guess what; I choose to not be fearful! (^^,)


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Carol,

It is brave of you to even admit that you have got many walls that prevent you from having a more successful life. The walls can be collapsed. I believe that it is possible for anyone so long as one commits to the path towards greater awareness, love and peace.

I wish you success in living fearlessly. I hope all works out well for you!

Love and abundance always,


Vidya Sury - March 24, 2012 Reply

Very inspiring post, Evelyn! I am so glad you silenced that negative stuff. We all go through a phase when we allow others to take over our thoughts and decide on our abilities. It is ironic that people laughed at me when I said I wanted to make a living writing….decades ago….and then I eventually worked in sales and marketing. 🙂 Oddly enough, priorities changed when my son came along – and now – I do make a living writing. Discouragement is easy to do and accept. Crazy but true. I don’t know why we’re so ready to listen when someone tries to pull us down.

Loved the post.


Evelyn Reply:

Hi Vidya,

It is so nice to know that you have been fulfilling your dream. It is great that a writing career is giving you the time and flexibility that you need because of family needs. I attribute the root cause to to a case of low self-love and esteem when we are so ready to listen to others instead of our own inner guidance.

Love and abundance always,


Andi-Roo - March 24, 2012 Reply

In elementary school I was always too slow at finishing arts projects (perfectionist at heart), so I always got bad grades since they were seldom complete. This led me to believe I was bad at art, so that in high school when I was forced to take an art class, I had an anxiety attack and threw my paint all over my picture because I just knew what I had drawn was horrific. I am 36 and still haunted by this. I only just began scrapbooking with my sister a couple years ago, & discovered that I actually DO have a creative side. Now I’m branching out, eager to dabble in new mediums, see if I’m not so bad as I always thought. I assumed I was the only person who ever felt scared to try because of childhood art issues. Thank you for sharing this story because I am so relieved to know I’m not alone. I’m going to try some painting lessons via youtube in the near future. My family is dying of shock at my fearless change toward art. 🙂


Evelyn Reply:

Hi Andi-Roo,

Thank you for sharing your story. It sure sounds like you had formed limiting beliefs around art when you were young with an anxiety attack and all.

Hey, I enjoy scrapbooking too. I took it up because it goes very well with my interest in vision boards.

It is great that you are branching out. You should. There is nothing to fear. And so what even if the art that we produce is not winning awards or receiving praise?! Art is, after all, very subjective. The best part is that it heals. It is nice to know that your family members are very shocked with the new but very bold you.

To infinity and beyond,


Talib H Khan - March 24, 2012 Reply

kindly suggest me how to start writing a book.And list of your books on life inspiration. regards.


Evelyn Reply:

How to start writing a book? Well, start a blog and practice practice practice. Starting a blog is also a good idea because it helps you build your audience and also determine what people like to read.

You also need to have an idea for what book you wish to write on. After which, from a page, write a chapter and then a few chapters…..and soon, it becomes a book.

There are so many books that inspire me. Also much depends on what your book is about.

Thanks for your questions,


Julie | A Clear Sign - March 25, 2012 Reply


Oh, this is close to my heart! Right now my son is 7 years old, and I see this happening to him – the influence of others crushing his little heart and what was boundless enthusiasm.

He has some serious struggles in school because of a learning disability that affects his writing, but the one thing he does easily, his “gift”, is to read and actually comprehend at a college level. This year his teacher told him to stop reading the chapter books because they weren’t “at his Lexile level and were emotionally too mature – he’d enjoy them more when he was older.” So he started reading comic books. I tried to explain,”Don’t listen to the teacher! You read what you want to read!” but it stopped him cold in his tracks – and even after the teacher said to him that she was not trying to discourage him, her initial words stuck.

So to us adults, we need to remember when things like this happened to us and REJECT them. Let’s not let anyone tell us who we are or what we are capable of!


Evelyn Reply:

Hi Julie,

Thank you for sharing your story. I feel sad reading about how he chose to listen to his teacher initial words but at the same time, I can understand his confusion and doubt. Still, it is nice that you would be able to help guide your son towards finding his own way, trusting his own instincts and voice eventually.

And yes, with awareness, we are in a better position to choose positive beliefs over limiting ones.

Love and abundance always,


Noch Noch | be me. be natural. - March 26, 2012 Reply

i’m reading the book “The Artist’s Way” by Judith CAmeron. The first lesson was to get rid of criticisms – to distance ourselves from criticisms and those who criticize us for not being able to do what we want to do, esp in the creative arts. And to stop criticizing ourselves. That’s how we start to let our inner creativity bud through

Noch Noch


Fran Sorin - March 28, 2012 Reply


I think most of us can identify with ‘not drawing again’ because we let any criticism….even constructive in a lot of cases…fuel our self doubt and go to the place of ‘I can’t’ rather than ‘Ah….I see why my fear is full blown and I want to quit BUT that is exactly the reason why I shouldn’t’.

I LOVE your strategy for creating inspirational banners of your social media….what a great idea! 🙂 Fran


Fran Sorin - March 28, 2012 Reply


I think most of us can identify with ‘not drawing again’ because we let any criticism….even constructive in a lot of cases…fuel our self doubt and go to the place of ‘I can’t’ rather than ‘Ah….I see why my fear is full blown and I want to quit BUT that is exactly the reason why I shouldn’t’.

I LOVE your strategy for creating inspirational banners of your social media….what a great idea! 🙂 Fran


Jan - March 30, 2012 Reply

I struggled to be who I was and who I could be. Like you I longed to be a fashion designer when I was a teenager – I even came third in a national teenage magazine design competition in the early 70’s. I remember hoping that school friends would not see it because I knew they would be critical and laugh at me for wanting to be a designer and they did and all the joy went out of the moment. I loved art, it was the only thing I got decent grades in. I also loved to write and still do. But there was always someone who critisised, someone who put my dreams down, my mother (an artist who gave it all up for a family) was the main one. This FEAR of being judged was so great it held me back for many years. Up until recently I couldn’t even speak in public, any more than three people listening to what I was saying freaked me out and I would stumble over words and forget what I was saying. Just recently on two occassions I spoke out about something I believed in at a meeting, I did have doubts about what would be thought of me but I let them go,
After many years crafting and using my own designs I decided out of the blue to send my designs to a craft magazine, then promptly forgot about it – they would never want my designs, I’m just not good enough what on earth was I thinking. Two months later I got an excited phone call from the editor who absolutely loved them and could I do more. While waiting for the magazines to come out I spent weeks letting the self doubt creep in – people are going to think the designs silly, they will think they are not good enough etc etc etc. I avoided people I knew in case they had seen the magazine and they were judging me. Then I got a few phone calls from all over the country, people saying how much they loved the designs and it was good to see new work. I inspired a few other people on the craft forum I belonged to to do the same and now they have their own craft successful businesses.
After a while the old doubts crept back in and I stopped submitting my designs, I hit a few major potholes on my path – widowhood, nearly losing my home and then my own life. All the time these deep rooted beliefs that I wasn’t good enough stopping me from getting back my creativity. I was introduced to EFT a few months after my heart attack and by-pass op, it was the best thing I have ever learnt, I also did at the same time a guided meditation that takes you deep into your subconscious to find the things that hold you back and then to release them. All the critisism and put downs that had been aimed at me in the past and their perpetrators were forgiven.
Whenever I get that self doubt that I am not good enough I EFT, sometimes I only have to do the whole sequence just the once, sometimes I just tap my sore spot and thats all thats needed. I used to be the queen of self-sabatage now perhaps I’m a lowly minor royal way down the chain of command. I do occassionaly have my self doubt moments and I allow myself to have them but I don’t beat myself up over them. I accept them.
I have hit a slump now though, mainly because my life has had so many new people, new experiences, new opportunities (be careful what you wish for LOL) coming in to it I just don’t have the time to allow my creativity to come through. I am on week 6 of The Artists Way and finding it another great tool in rediscovering my creativity.
I occassionally wonder what my life would have been like if I had praise and encouragement in my younger years rather the the put-downs. But then I look at my life now and all the wonderful experiences I have had and the ones that are yet to come and my wonderful family (who I encourage in all that they do) and I am happy.


Kimberly Jacinto - March 31, 2012 Reply

Hi Evelyn.

This is such a warm post, I enjoy it a lot! I think channeling our creativity is one of the greatest gifts we can use and I’m happy you can do that through vision boards and Pinterest. We seem to both be very visual people =)


sherill - September 14, 2015 Reply

Hi, This is so beautiful and very inspiring. I’ll definitely share this with my social network friends. Thanks for sharing. Great Read,.


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