Be Your Authentic Creative Self

“Only when you find your Authentic Self can you find true happiness”


The most memorable (and successful) brands or designers are those with their own distinct point of view. Not content to follow the crowd or ape anyone’s else’s vibe – they blaze their own unique trail.

Orla Kiely for example, has redefined Mid Century prints for a 21st Century generation with her instantly recognisable, strong aesthetic.


                                                                                                                                  Orla Kiely House



In my quest for Creative Rejuvenation, I’ve explored various methods and last week came across the Buddist assertion; that only when you find your true Authentic Self can you find true happiness.

As a commercial designer, there is usually a degree of compromise within the process – design by committee – which somewhat dilutes the vision of the designer, who is at the mercy of the client.

Developing personal style can be instinctive, but is sometimes it’s difficult to find. This might be because after a career being creative to the beat of someone else’s drum, you can be marching down a totally different road away from where you want to be.

In the fast pace of the modern world, distraction is only an iPhone away. We are constantly bombarded with an array of visuals. Actually stopping and searching for our Authentic Selves seems like a lot of work.


It’s far easier to distract ourselves with an endless array of visually dazzling “stuff”. Easier to momentarily lose ourself in someone else’s “reality”, than it is to try to tap into something – ultimately more satisfying and rewarding – which is hidden deep within ourselves.



Poster by Anthony Burrill



We don’t ever need to be bored; waiting for a train, in a doctor’s waiting room or on a school pick up – we can always distract ourselves and dive into someone else’s reality.  We don’t ever need to think. A fantasy land where everyone is more beautiful, creative and exciting than we are is right there in our hand.

Kids these days rarely have time to be bored. Screens of all sizes hypnotise them into a trance like state, feeding off an endless diet of fast moving ideas and visuals, they never need to use an ounce of imagination. My worry is that we are evolving AWAY from fully developing our imagination, due the fact that we never “Get Bored”.

Boredom is a great tool to the artist or designer. My eldest won’t read books “too boring”. Despite my encouragement that they take you into other Worlds of other people’s imaginations, which then inspires your own.

Something that the newly elected Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child agrees with:


“The pressure on parents to keep filling their children with information and experiences is too much,” she added  “Being bored is how you create things.”                                               Lauren Child


So back to the search for the elusive Authentic Self.

In Japan, this is called Ikigai – a sense of purpose, a reason to be. The Japanese believe everyone has it, but finding it requires a deep and lengthy search into oneself. Seen as an essential journey to be taken in life, it says that finding this ellusive true self gives life purpose and meaning.

10 years ago I went to Tokyo and was struck by the way people strive to be individual and that society was very non-judgemental, so people weren’t afraid to be themselves or look different. It seemed relaxed; that there is no need to visually conform.

“Finding this ellusive true self gives life purpose and meaning”


In the recent – and excellent – The Art of Japanese Life series on BBC4, in his programme, The Idea of Japan, the artist Ryan Gander notes that in Harajuku at least, there’s a “Collective idea of individuality. This idea of people not thinking the same”.

If this sensibility is ingrained in Japanese Culture, where both respect for a rich historical culture sits easily with the constant thirst for novelty and innovation – how do we find it in the West?


Photo by Florian Kauer

Sit Here and Don’t Move Until You’ve Thought of a Brilliant Idea!



A few months ago, the artist Marina Abramovic was interviewed by Jarvis Cocker on his BBC 6 Music Sunday Service programme (no longer on iPlayer sadly, though I have searched), where she talked about a similar concept of connecting with the inner true self.

She was talking about energy and how with performers this can be overwhelming when they come off stage, buzzing and euphoric but there is nowhere to channel it. She said that is why so many turn to drink and drugs because they cannot handle the vibrations…

Abramovic said the way to handle it was to reconnect with the self. To centre the self in order to calm the vibrations.

She said there was a simple exercise that everyone could do to achieve inner peace and connect with one’s true self. All ears, both Cocker and myself leaned in ready for this epoch changing lesson. The artist then said, you have to sit on a chair, in the quiet. For 6 hours. Yes, 6 whole hours, with nothing but your thoughts. What?!

Abramovic turned this concept into an art form in her famous 2010 performance art show The Artist is Present ,where she sat for 8 hours a day while members of the public could sit opposite her as she passively observed their various reactions.

Somewhat astonished, Jarvis questioned whether or not this worked. In her smooth Serbian, Abramovic merely proffered a knowing “try it”.


I have yet to, but this idea did bring to mind a similar piece of advice I’d heard from Dr Stephen R Covey in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Dr Covey describes a friend who is suffering from a mysterious “malaise”. This man visits a Doctor who gives him various prescriptions; the first is to visit the place where he was most happy as a child – The Beach.

When there, he had to sit for 3 hours and Listen Carefully –  just “Be”. No phone, book or anything to write on, just listen and observe to what was going on around him.

He then had to Try Reaching Back, to the past, think of happier times, what they were, who was important, who influenced him.

Thirdly, he was asked to Re-Examine His Motives. To redefine and reconnect with his mission, what was his goal, what was important to him.

It turned out Dr Covey’s friend was not ill, but he did have a “disease of the spirit”.  In other words he was bored, had no desires, no aims, no motives. So he had to find new ones  – use his imagination to create a renewed focus on the future….

I think this is very powerful. It’s very easy to get so caught up in life, that we lose sight of what it is that we really want and the person we want to become.

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, says the same thing:


“Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.”


Simple then! Just do work you love and work hard. Don’t pay attention to what others are doing – this only serves as a distraction. And maybe sit alone, just “being” whenever things aren’t going well, it doesn’t have to be for 6 or even 3 hours – even 20 minutes will do.

Tap into your inner self by going to your happy place (either physically or in your mind – for me that place is the beach), then get to it and WORK HARD!



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