what a conversation with a seduction guru taught me about creativity




This week I wrote an article for a magazine. Which is an interesting development in itself, because I never saw myself as someone who wrote articles for a popular women’s magazine. I saw myself as someone who wrote fiction. Period. I was a novelist. Period. Nonfiction just hadn’t been woven into my DNA (never mind that I’d been blogging for five years, which is how this magazine discovered me in the first place). And why I ever thought this — well, who knows.

The research for this article involved a conversation with a “seduction guru”. (I’m not sure he would call himself that – in fact, he probably wouldn’t – but I get such a kick out of the term that I have to use it. I just really like the word ‘seduction’.)

He was as charming and engaging as I expected him to be – I would have been bewildered otherwise (this guy has built a 30 million dollar business on how to charm and engage).

One of the points he made was that human beings are lousy at predicting how they’ll feel in different situations, which is why it’s important to put yourself in as many new situations as possible.

Which reminded me of an idea I came across in a book by Sir Ken Robinson about creativity:

You don’t know who you are until you know what you can do.

Because we tend to have such a messed-up idea of ourselves. We rely on other people to reflect us back to ourselves — on how parents, teachers, friends, strangers react to us, and our interpretations of those reactions. Which is kind of like walking through a funhouse hall of mirrors. Some of those mirrors distort you more than others, but none of them are fully accurate.

And we internalize way too much crap.

My ex-husband used to tell me that I wasn’t funny. For years I accepted what he told me as gospel truth (I was gullible that way, but that’s a whole other article). But then I started noticing that, at dinner parties, I could…wait for it…say things that made people laugh. Sometimes I even managed to crack everybody up, so that a guy would have his forehead on the table, he was laughing so hard. And people started telling me that some of my blogging, my emails, were…wait for it…funny.

“Well, no,” I said, “I’m actually not. I’m not funny at all.”

Finally one night a male friend, who I kind of had an innocent crush on, said, “Justine, every time you start drinking you start saying things that are hilarious.”

“Quick-witted,” said someone else.

And I realized: when I had a drink, or two, I loosened up and started saying the stuff that was running through my head on a fairly constant basis. Which also made me realize that I was a lot more inhibited than I’d ever thought. It was as if I’d clamped down on my own personality in order to fit into this twisted definition of myself. And also, quite possibly, my marriage.

(And now a moment of silence for my marriage. Okay. Moving on.)

It’s not just that people reflect us badly, or at least incompletely, but that we get stuck in those reflections. Someone tells us something when we’re young and it is forever sealed into our sense of who we are, so much so that we seek out other people to tell us the exact same things (“you’re too stupid to try that”, “who do you think you are?”, “you’re a spoiled ungrateful brat”). It’s familiar, so it seems like home.

And because we keep telling ourselves we’re this way and not that way, we never put ourselves in certain situations that we would actually enjoy, or have a talent for; where we could even learn to excel.

Which means that we don’t allow ourselves to learn what we can truly do.

Which means that most of us don’t know who we are – who we really are.

It’s a very high price to pay, when you think about it. And for what, exactly?

Do you know who you are?

Is there something you want to do – feel yourself yearning toward – but won’t attempt — won’t even let yourself seriously consider? Maybe it’s that yearning that holds an important truth about your identity, and it’s the stuff holding you back, the reasons and justifications and ‘logical’ thinking, that’s bullshit.

Maybe you’re more of a shapeshifter than you ever realized.

And you could seriously surprise yourself, if you gave yourself a real chance. (A real chance, not a half-hearted, setting-yourself-up-to-self-sabotage chance, and I bet you know exactly what I mean.)

Something to think about.

Nov 24, 2010

16 comments · Add Yours

This article is so on point and timely for me it’s scary. Well, since I believe in going where coincidences take you, you have a new loyal follower. Thank you!


I love this, Justine. And the best line is this:

And you could seriously surprise yourself, if you gave yourself a real chance. (A real chance, not a half-hearted, setting-yourself-up-to-self-sabotage chance, and I bet you know exactly what I mean.)

I’ve run into so many people who take the first step, and when it doesn’t work out right away, give up and say, “See? I knew it could never work.” I’ve been guilty of it myself.

But we’re here to live our passions/dreams/whatever you want to call them; they’re our gifts to the world.

Thanks for another rockin’ post.

P.S. Can’t wait to read your article in the magazine!


“Someone tells us something when we’re young and it is forever sealed into our sense of who we are.”

So very very true.


I know who I would like to be; the problem is that the person I am doesn’t always agree with me. Do you think that it’s our desires or ‘yearnings’ that actually reflect who we are?

Great post, I’m enjoyed the introspection.


Dude, there is something about your posts- the topic and your voice- that make me click through each and every time. THIS one, however, wow. My ex husband (who i was with since 20) used to say similar stuff (“You’re not funny. That joke? You stole it from me, remember?”) The untold damage or warping is intangible, but boy, like you say, we have to get out there and do it first – to see if we even can. And once we do, maybe because of the shadow (of our other) that our real self used to live behind, it’s even that much more rewarding, emotional, and empowering. Keep going girl! You inspire.
Oritte aka Cougel


Justine, you just echoed many of my own thoughts and feelings about identity and our sense of our own limitations. I believe that it is hard to fully understand ourselves until we push ourselves, until we look to see what is beyond the horizon of what we thought we knew.

Human beings are capable of doing a great many things but we are so easily caught in the trappings of doubt that sometimes we don’t even realize we’re standing still.

Terrific post.


This line caused me to laugh hard enough to wake people up:

“(And now a moment of silence for my marriage. Okay. Moving on.)”

Thanks. I needed that. Sending this article out to people and bookmarking it so I can play off it in a piece about belief deconstruction and stretching limits. I mean, if that is okay with you, your majesty.


We need more people to encourage people to greatness, not to put down and make themselves somewhat superior in their head. Thanks for the great post, among the others. Definitely a break through barriers one right there.. Happy Thanksgiving


You don’t need me to tell you, of course, but YOU ROCK, Justine. Thank you for sharing your wisdom — it makes my heart smile.


I wish someone could have delivered this post to me in a time-traveling letter back in the late 1970s. It would have saved a lot of years where I held myself back because I was convinced I wasn’t worthy. Thankfully, those years are over. While I have tried to raise my sons to reject the stories others tell them about themselves, I think I need to send them a link to this post, just to be on the safe side.

Thank you.


I love all your posts, but this one has been bookmarked for future re-reads.

We all inhabit various incarnations of ourselves – masks that we wear for different situations. We are taught early on which masks are appropriate for which interactions and we learn through trial and error what happens if – gasp! – we let the mask slip away in front of the wrong crowd. We let other people create our masks, and sit obediently while they tie them securely on – obscuring our true nature and passion under layers of alternate identities.

There’s no doubt that most of us need to learn to live with the masks. They become tools, skillsets. They reflect a level of self-restraint and decorum that allows us to blend with society, to move forward along the proscribed path. The trouble with these versions of ourselves is that they tend to stick. It’s like how your mom used to say, “Watch out or your face will freeze like that.” We wear these masks, and eventually find that we’ve forgotten how to take them off. Worse still, we can’t remember what we look like underneath all the dressing and stage makeup. We have become these characters we play. We become unhappy and confused, but we don’t know why.

… until the day that we, either by accident or desperation, manage to slip out from behind the mask … and it feels good. We suddenly remember who we were … who we still are. We expose ourselves in front of someone or a group of people who love what they see. They prefer our truth to the politically correct mask. They encourage us to show more, and we want to see more, too.

And that’s when life really begins.


Funny… like this:

(And now a moment of silence for my marriage. Okay. Moving on.)


Hello again, Justine!

I love when you write about human nature. It sparks a mining of thoughts. This one tunnels deep into the soul and I’d like to dig around a bit with you in there.

First, I agree with all you’ve said here. But it begs the question, why do so many of us feel so reluctant to explore new experiences? Most of the answers have been discussed a thousands times before: Human nature tends to keep us centered within the familiar, Fear of Failure keeps experimentation to a minimum, negative parental conditioning builds psychological barriers, and then there’s the Mother of all Traps: we get caught in a restrictive marriage (which many times is a extension of a restricted childhood.)

Okay, we know these boxes. How do we bust our of them? First, we have to WANT to. But a lot of us don’t. It’s too scary out there, in that world of uncertainty. And for the reluctant ones, conservative choices fit the bill…for them. (I have to keep reminding myself of that. I tend to use my own internal drives as a benchmark for judging another lifestyles. That’s unfair.)

But since you and I agree that Evolution is the most precious game in town, and that a controlling partner can shut it down, I’d like to affirm that we cannot, MUST NOT, choose a life partner who restricts and controls our growth. Yet so many of us accept a manipulating partner. Why? Because our need for security, love, certainty and validation lays so much on the line, that we trade away our person freedom to lock in the rest of our wish list, and in the end, we get the fun house mirrors: a distorted concept of who we are. Consequently the “love” we seek is directed toward the person we are made to be. Not us.

Gee Justine, there’s soooooo much work to do when it comes to growing up and preparing for those super life-decisions, like marriage and raising kids and getting confidence in place. If we could get a 100 year life extention and spend our first fifty years figuring out the world, I think we’d all be better off. Until then, I’ll keep reading your blog.



How horrible and wonderful, the power of words! ~Karen


I was always told that I was shy. I grew up thinking that I was shy and that I couldn’t make friends and that I was intimidated by social situations. But then I realized I was never shy. I just thought the people I met as a child were too stupid to talk to, lol. When I grew up and met people who were interested in the same things I am I found that I was no longer shy. That I, too, could make people crack up. That I could take the lead and decide what we were going to do for fun today.

And I had no idea about any of this for 26 years. Weird.


I know, two weeks behind the post but wanted to say I thought it was a Great post.
I know for a fact we all tend to sell ourselves short and as others have said this was “Dead On”.

Thanks for the Chuckle
(referencing the LONNNGGGG pause/ “moment of silence” for your marriage)


Add your comment