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Monday, March 08, 2010

11 Steps to Fight the 'God Complex'

11 Steps to Fight the God Complex
Photo Credit: Sebastian Bergmann


by Glen Stansberry

We're all awesome, right? Well, I mean we didn't create the world or anything like that, but I think most of us pretty much have it going on. However, there can be some negative aspects of being creative. Creative people can sometimes struggle with mild cases of the God Complex.

The God complex is defined as a psychological state of mind in which a person believes that they have supernatural powers or god-like abilities. The person generally believes they are above the rules of society and should be given special consideration.

Do we honestly think we're a deity, or even better than everyone? No. But some creative people are quite susceptible to picking up at least a few of the aspects of the God complex.

And who wouldn't?

Creatives spend all day creating. It's only natural that on occasion we become a bit too wrapped up in what we're developing and don't spend enough time thinking about our surroundings. Here are a few ways we might fall into thinking more like a God and less like the mere mortals we are.

[I should note that I based this article off of my own experience. You may not struggle with any of these traits of the God complex, and I applaud you. You're a better human than me.]


1. We get lost in our own little worlds

The ability to create something very unique and imaginative requires a special set of talents. However, these talents sometimes have negative side affects, and one of them being tunnel vision. More often than not, we're only focused on the project(s) we're working on, and nothing else.

Have you ever seen a kid playing with building blocks, totally consumed with what he's building? It's a lot like that. The outside world doesn't affect us when we're in "building" mode.

How to fix it:

The easiest way to fix this aspect of the God Complex is to make sure we're thinking about the 'bigger picture'. In the scope of life, what we're creating isn't as important as our families, friends, or our health for that matter. Focusing on the fact that there are other important things in life help with our perspective. Staying up-to-date with world new and politics helps as well.

Also, it's a great idea to think about things in this world (the one where everyone else lives) that are bigger than us. I find it very humbling to reflect on the size of planets, stars and galaxies. In the scope of creation, I'm a tiny speck of dust. If that.

Does the trick every time.


2. We sometimes think our idea is better than everyone else's

It's hard for creative people to believe there might be two solutions two a problem. Our ideas have to be the best because, well... we thought of them! Our ideas are like our babies. We couldn't imagine having anyone else's. Wrapping our minds around another, completely different solution can be quite hard.

How to fix it:

Having an open mind is the easiest possible solution, but it's also the hardest. Putting ourselves outside the situation and looking at another idea objectively is an almost impossible task. Instead, try thinking about how your solution could benefit from the other proposed idea. That way you're not giving up on your idea, the other idea is assisting yours.


3. We become frustrated because "people don't understand us"

Nearly every time I try to explain my ideas to other people, I get a blank stare. It's quite easy to take the negative attitude that "nobody understands me, so why should I try to understand them?" It can be a vicious cycle of bitterness between you and everyone involved.

How to fix it:

If nobody understands my ideas, is it because I'm bad at explaining them? Probably. But it's also because the other person didn't have the idea. That's what comes with the territory of being a creative person. Don't sweat it Jack! Sometimes it's just best to show someone a prototype of your idea to get the point across.


4. We have a constant desire to be enlightened

Sometimes creative folk tend to go a bit overboard with needing to know about everything. Constantly learning (and sometimes flaunting this new-found knowledge), is a way for us to feel more competent and secure in our abilities. It's more about feeding an insecurity than anything.

How to fix it:

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to constantly learn. Learning is a wonderful thing, and we should always be striving to learn and improve. That's what life is. However, becoming obsessed with knowledge can be damaging. We'll never be fully enlightened about anything, so why obsess? It's just a waste of time, and I'd rather spend it enjoying my friends and family.


5. We can be a bit too competitive.

In Greek mythology, the gods were always comparing themselves to each other and bickering amongst themselves (with the help of unlucky individuals on the earth). In this same respect, creative people might be a tad on the competitive side. Let's be honest: we compare ourselves to each other, either subconsciously or intentionally. It's kind of human nature. We want to be the best.

How to fix it:

Showing a little spunk and wanting to be competitive isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's when we take it a little too far and it turns into an obsession. Being able to take a step back and show some self-control is a hard thing to do sometimes. In order to cool an overly-competitive nature, take a step back and think about the scope of things. Is it worth being competitive over? Odds are it isn't.


6. We might look down on others

This might be just my own personal experience, (and I hate to admit it), but if I'm honest I sometimes find myself looking down on others. It's not necessarily a conscious thing, but sometimes thoughts tend to creep into my head about how much better I am at something than Average Joe. If I can compare myself to someone else and point out their faults and superior I am to them, I'll feel better. It's awful, but it's true.

How to fix it:

The first step is to become aware that we're looking down on others. It really can be an automatic, subconscious thing. Stopping the comparison in it's tracks before it starts is the most effective fix. There isn't a hard-and-fast rule on how to fix it, other than starting to become aware of the problem. Once we're aware, then we can start thinking of ways to change how we think about other people.


7. We sometimes compare ourselves

Much like looking down on others, creative people can sometimes struggle with comparing ourselves to others. "I've got more hair than that dude. Oh, I'm skinnier than that girl. My designs are so much cooler than his." etc., etc., etc. Comparisons help prove that we are, in fact, superior to nearly everyone else in some way.

How to fix it:

This again falls into the "self-esteem" category. We're all different. We all have completely different strengths and weaknesses. Trying to point out our differences only helps pacify our insecurities. We just have to keep the mindset that we're all different, and we're all awesome. Period.


8. We can take our creations too seriously

I'm especially guilty of this one. Like we said earlier, our creations are like our children. We created them. There's a special bond, (even between something as seemingly insignificant as a bit of code), to something that you've personally created. When people criticize it or make fun of it, it cuts deep. Deep. Also, we sometimes find ourselves thinking that our creations are more important than they really are. Being a creator can make us very susceptible to the God complex.

How to fix it:

A great method is ask other close friends as to what they think of the idea or project. You need the input of someone you trust who's not emotionally attached to the project. Their opinion will really help you gauge how good the idea or concept really is. The more you practice this, the more it becomes less painful when someone doesn't like your idea. But ultimately, it's your idea. If you think it will work regardless, just do it. Sometimes people just won't understand your idea until you've put it into practice.


9. We can be bad at listening to others

This is generally because we get caught up in our own little worlds (#1) or we think our idea is better than the rest (#2). Regardless of the reason, sometimes creatives just plain suck at listening to other people (myself included). Talking to a creative person can sometimes seem like it's all about them.

How to fix it:

When we create things all day, it is usually all about us. It's about our abilities, talents, problem solving skills, and not anyone else. However, when we're around other people, we have to be extra careful of listening to others and including them in the conversation.


10. We feel unappreciated

Sometimes it feels that nobody understands or appreciates what I do on a daily basis. Being creative doesn't necessarily mean I have much to show for it either. So how do you explain to people the significance of what you do, if it's not pulling in a whole bunch of money?

How to fix it:

Creatives like me need to realize that people in our lives do appreciate us, they just don't always understand us or what we do. In fact, throughout history most people didn't understand anything creative people like Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell did until years later.

I wouldn't do what I do if it was about making truck loads of money. We create because we love creating. That's where our affirmation really comes from.


11. We excuse our eccentricities

Yes, believe it or not, sometimes creative people are a tad eccentric. (I can already hear readers getting upset and ruffling their feathers.) Don't worry! It's not a bad thing! However, if we know about our eccentricities and don't try to correct them, it can be a negative thing. We can't think that we're above correction because of our creative minds. Sure, Einstein was extremely eccentric and brilliant, but he never made excuses for it.

How to fix it:

We have to take responsibilities for our shortcomings, and stop blaming them on things like creativity. A personal example: I used to claim that I "wasn't good with money because my brain doesn't think that way." I would say that to myself so I didn't have to take any accountability for my terrible bookkeeping. But I realized that I was just using it as a crutch. I've since gotten help and use financial advising to keep me on the right track.


Conclusions

A culmination of the above 11 points can turn a someone into a downright bitter person if they're not careful. Because we're mostly so focused on ourselves and our abilities while we're being creative, it's easy to start thinking inwardly and become consumed with our creations. Keeping ourselves in-check with reality is the best way to stay grounded and from adopting traits of the God complex.

It turns out we are but mere men.


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Glen StansberryGlen Stansberry writes at LifeDev, a blog that helps people make their ideas happen. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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