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Working in a toxic creative space? Here’s to pushing out the bad vibes

There might be nothing worse than working in a toxic creative space…

Toxicity is the quality of being toxic, very harmful, and unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way. It happens to be a slow burn that we all face in our lives.

Whether from exterior influences or if it is coming from inside ourselves, toxicity will, in due time, take over your mind and body while hindering you from reaching your creative potential.

Everything from the crabs-in-a-bucket mentality to the haters-gonna-hate, scenarios we find relatable. Self-deprecation is also considered a toxic thought process and not the reality check we think it is. 

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These are key drivers of a toxic creative space. We have expectations of our lives as much as someone has expectations of us, and often creating an infrequency between the groups and the individuals.

Toxicity comes from more than one place in our lives.

Bodying the toxic work space

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In a survey conducted by Fierce Conversations in 2019, they found that 44 percent of respondents said the number one response is to ignore toxic co-workers.

Although 50% agreed in 2017, the downturn fails to suggest enough to cancel out toxicity. The survey also concluded the 72% of respondents wish their employers were less tolerant of toxic employees. 

Stacey Engle, President of Fierce Conversations, says, “the fact that confronting problematic employees directly is people’s third choice of action should be concerning to all organizational leaders. The amount of time and energy that can be saved by providing employees the skills and empowerment to address issues head-on.”

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The fact is, there will always be someone who will want to see you in a subordinate position to them, or in no position at all. And you may think you haven’t received a fair shot at life. But dissidence will not help you get ahead in life and reach our creative goals. 

When the toxicity stems from a superior or an equal counterpart, the result will lead to failure if the communication doesn’t change.

Ignoring the toxicity will not help while addressing the matter head-on creates anxiety. Believe that change will come from how you perceive your situation, and you will be able to work through it.

Overcoming your own toxic headspace

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Subconsciously, most fall victim to comparison scenarios in relationship to hyper-connectivity. This constant distraction from social media like Instagram and our smartphones discredits our livelihood and our accomplishments. 

It’s difficult to acknowledge the obstacles we have conquered for the possible privileges afforded by others in this condition. A constant rundown of why someone else is where they are and why you remain where you are, holds you back, hindering creativity and adding toxicity.

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard sums this feeling as, “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” The anxiety you feel is letting you know that something about you can change your environment.

Other factors included jadedness, becoming overwhelmed, and even “gassing” yourself up to believe you are owed something you hardly worked for yet. These are the telling signs of creative toxicity within ourselves. 

A life not grounded in reality but floating high in a proverbial castle is how we may craft our self-image. American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said:

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Henry David Thoreau

He encourages the “big idea” creative to take the small, consistent steps of brick-by-brick construction of your vision.

If self-doubt of your abilities comes from “thinking big” and the anxiety and the inability to take the first steps – in any direction – you may want to narrow your perspective on the idea.

Ease the creative process by doing the little jobs that get you closer to your goals. You want to drown out that toxicity with small actions in “building that castle.”

Navigating the toxic shared space

Beyond the hype of creativity and creating the world around us is social engagement and community upbringing.

Alliances with like-minds and same or adjacent skillsets bring creatives together to achieve common goals. Within that lies an enormous amount of altruistic individuals who support other participants of the group and their creative endeavors. 

Harvard Biologist E.O. Wilson outlined this way of thinking as “eusocial” behavior during a talk at the Geological Lecture hall at Harvard University.

Human social behavior evolved through competition with groups of related and unrelated individuals, working selflessly to benefit the group and not for selfish gain. 

Facts or nah?

Eusocial behavior is responsible for the survival of the smallest creatures like ants and mole rats in Africa, as well as evident in human cultures.

If you are a supporter of creativity from others and seek to benefit the group, you gain positive ground, reducing the creative toxicity by changing your environment. Eusocial communities are in sync with one another and are reluctant to extend themselves outside of the group, though. 

This external push is often what social and working environments use to protect and grow their creative space. This group will avoid toxicity for the benefit of preserving their environment and creativity.

The creative toxicity you experience may be from being in the wrong group. But you may not be presenting yourself as related to another group. You may be holding on to past thoughts and emotions of inadequacies. 

Reliving past moments or trying to correct something you have no control over stunt your evolution as a creative. It won’t help with the toxicity in your environment, rather keep you in the thick of it. 

Seeking to change who we believe we are with who we want to become creates harmony. Especially within our creative space, although it may be anxiety-filled as well. If the past has you stuck, the growth you seek, and the future of your creativity is at stake.

Changing up your space

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What has to change is your attitude toward toxicity and how we perceive ourselves. Disconnect from that toxic creative space and recognize that it is a place to create. Realize your worth as a creative and transform those defeating thoughts. 

Change in perspective happens when we pivot from defending ourselves from the toxic creative space to accepting who we are and change. We have an opportunity to elevate our vantage point to where our goals are always visible, and we move toward them earnestly.

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.