How to Use Your Flaws as Creative Inspiration

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ~Maya Angelou

I love my skin because not only does it protect and make me human, it also inspires me to make art.

Being an artist, I’m always finding inspiration in my day-to-day life. Well, ten years ago that came in the form of irritating and weird looking welts that appear on my skin when I barely scratch. It was so embarrassing when people would see the itchy welts and ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

I have dermatographia. It’s a skin condition in which histamine is released when the skin is lightly scratched, causing capillaries to dilate and welts to appear. While it’s not life threatening and doesn’t hurt, it sure can be uncomfortable and annoying when those red marks manifest.

Rather than let it get to me, I decided to make dermatographia beautiful by drawing patterns on my skin to photograph. At first I did it quietly, not showing anyone, then slowly I let others see what I’d been working on. People really liked the photographs, so I kept making them and eventually made a website.

Pretty soon the images spread online and I got emails from other dermatographics thanking me for helping them realize they’re not alone having weird skin. Now when people see the welts they say, “Your skin is so cool!”

By sharing something that was a source of shame, not only did I transform my own relationship to my skin, I also helped others feel more comfortable in their own skin. If I had kept this skin condition to myself I wouldn’t have been lucky enough to communicate with some of the 5% of the population that also has it.

Over the years I’ve learned that creativity comes from within, from exploring your own interests of course, but also from exploring what you dislike or find annoying about yourself and others. What might be considered a weakness can actually be your greatest strength!

Creative inspiration exists everywhere; you just have to pay attention.

Your body is a gift, your life is a gift, and we are meant to learn from all of it. Our ‘flaws’ teach us about self-acceptance and love. Every person is a miracle, including you. Shift your perception to see yourself as the beautiful, creative, and inspired person you are.

Here are some suggestions to transform something you may have considered a flaw into a source of inspiration:

1. Make a list of physical and/or emotional traits you consider to be strengths.

Identifying these can help you also identify weaknesses by adding contrast to the exercise. You may want to interview someone you trust, asking what they like and admire about you or what they consider to be your strengths.

2. Now make a list of things you consider to be weaknesses or flaws.

Pay attention to the things you dislike or find annoying about others. The world around us acts as a mirror, so if we see something in another that is bothersome, odds are there’s some of that in ourselves. Conversely, if you see something you admire, there’s some of that in you too.

3. Recognize how these flaws limit the way you show up in the world.

Are any of these weaknesses things you’ve told people about? Or do you tend to keep them to yourself or hide them? Really own up to what you may be ignoring or ashamed about, and what you may be trying to hide.

For instance, if you snort when you laugh maybe you try to contain it for fear of drawing attention to that sound. Or, perhaps you don’t like the shape of your legs so you always keep them covered. More than likely, if you feel there’s a ‘flaw,’ you’ll try to cover it up.

4. Now let your imagination run wild!

I like to call this free association brainstorming. No thought is too small or insignificant, so write down whatever comes to mind after doing the previous exercises.

Here are some things to consider:

How can you do something positive with this perceived flaw? What do you find compelling or beautiful about it that others would also find interesting? What might be possible if you stopped trying to hide it? What would you do differently if you believed this flaw to be a strength that makes you unique?

Try to write a little bit each day as more things come up based on your experience. This writing could be the source of a great big idea!

5. Choose a creative outlet that leverages your flaw.

Find a form that feels good to you, whatever medium that might be. It could be a blog post (start a blog if you haven’t already—it could be private for only select people to view), write a story or essay, make art (drawings, sculpture, photographs, paintings, etc.), or even just speak with your friends and family about what you consider to be a flaw, and how you’d like to transform it into something inspiring.

People you choose to share with may also have helpful input that can be further inspiration, and they will be touched by your willingness to share. They may even be moved to transform their own flaws because of you!

And above all, love your body, personality, and of course, your skin—because it loves you back.

What’s your flaw, and how can you use it as creative inspiration?

About Ariana Page Russell

Ariana Page Russell, author of Skin Tome, is an artist that explores the skin as a document of human experience.  Seeking to build community around skin and creativity, she makes art with her skin condition, finding inspiration in what might otherwise be seen as a flaw.

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