The Parenting Program changing lives for parents of tween and teen daughters.

TRANSCRIPT: EP. 8: Confidence + Creativity with Rachael Sarra



Tanya Meessmann: (00:00)
I’m Tanya Meessmann, and you’re listening to episode eight of the Raising Girl Shaped Flames podcast. It’s my fundamental belief that every girl has a fire in her belly and confidence is the oxygen to those flames. If you’re the parent of a teenage girl who could do with a confidence injection, listen in, as we deep dive into the relationship between confidence and areas of your daughter’s life that it directly impacts such as happiness, resilience, communication, connection, and much more. I aim to leave you inspired by new ways to build your daughter’s self belief and nurture her flame from a flicker to an inferno. Alright, alright. Enough of the fire puns already: let’s strike the match.

Tanya Meessmann: (00:49)
Hi, everyone. Welcome to episode eight. This week’s topic is the relationship between confidence and creativity. Now as a creative person myself, it’s actually been really powerful to reflect on the idea that confidence might actually impact something that’s perceived to be quite innate or natural within certain people and personalities. And as I was diving into it, I became interested to know what have you seen in your own daughter? So when her confidence is up, does her creativity flow, or do you see her using it to actually work through some of her emotions and personal challenges, whenever her confidence is low? I mean, have you seen her pull away from her creative expression as she’s moved into high school years, or is she throwing herself into it as she’s finding it harder to express herself? Honestly, this week’s discussion with my special guest, Rachael Sarra dives into exactly these things, as she opens up about her own confidence and creativity and how powerfully the two actually work together.

Tanya Meessmann: (01:57)
We talked about the support she’s received along her journey, the important role that her culture plays in how she connects with her artistic expression, and how unexpected professional experience has actually helped her find the right zone in which she now combines her emotionally charged creativity with running a really successful business. Then I’m super excited to say, Dr. Diane, Harner is back with an absolutely cracking “Nine minutes of neuroscience”. I hope you love nerding out with her as much as I do each episode, because this one is not going to disappoint. In our chat we dive into pretty much as many things as you actually can within nine minutes, but specifically this week, Diane takes us through busting the left brain, right brain myth, the three key neurological networks that play a role in creativity (I bet you didn’t know there were three), the impact stress, or even just reduced confidence can actually have on the creative brain function and what teenagers need in order to foster increased creativity.

Tanya Meessmann: (02:59)
And I’ll give you a hint: daydreaming is allowed and boredom is encouraged. So as always, there is a lot to get through. And as parents, it can be a rollercoaster of a ride watching your daughter either lose her creative confidence, or maybe she’s getting into it headfirst and sort of getting swallowed into it. And then it’s hard for you to know whether that’s a good thing or whether maybe it’s something you want to understand a bit better. Speaking of understanding parenting better : now feels like the perfect time to mention the “Courageous Parenting” interactive program that Dr. Harner and I have been developing and are launching to a very small group of just 15 parent participants. Bookings are opening up this week to our Raising Girl Shaped Flames Facebook group. So hint, hint, nudge, nudge. If you haven’t joined that group yet, pop over into the show notes, find the link and come on in, and then to the wider public from next week.

Tanya Meessmann: (03:54)
And then the eight week program actually kicks off on Monday the 31st of August with just those first 15 participants. Now, Diane and I are with the cohort every step of the way. And the online content takes you through seven key modules delivered by us. That covers everything from understanding your own parenting influences through to how to improve your relationship through better communication with your daughter and specific “confidence in action” steps that both yourself and your daughter can be taking to become more courageous in your parenting and her life. So if you’re interested head over to, but as always, I’ll pop it in the show notes to find out more. Okay, let’s get back to creativity and let’s get into our chat with this week’s very special guest, Rachael Sarra Now, Rachael and I actually go back to the very beginning of Girl Shaped Flames when she was one of the extraordinary women that I invited to come and speak with our group of girls about being a creative professional.


Tanya Meessmann: (04:57)
She is an extraordinary artist and designer whose creative style is feminine, fun and engaging, but is strongly drawn from her heritage and her role as an Aboriginal woman in a modern world. It’s immediately apparent that her work is an extension of her being, emotions and experiences. As a contemporary Aboriginal artists from Goreng Goreng country, Rachael uses art as a powerful tool in storytelling to educate and share Aboriginal culture and its evolution, and it often challenges and explores the themes of society’s perceptions of what Aboriginal art and identity actually is. It is so great to finally have you on the Raising Girl Shaped Flames podcast. Welcome, Rachael!

Rachael Sarra: (05:41)
Thanks for having me.

Tanya Meessmann: (05:43)
I have been dying to have this chat since I started the podcast because you and I go back a couple of years now to really early Girl Shaped Flames days. And I loved being able to introduce you to a number of girls when we were talking about creativity in one of our very first events that we were running a couple of years ago. So when it came to thinking about creativity and how confidence affects creativity, you were absolutely my number one person that I wanted to talk to. I love following you on Insta. You’ve got such a fantastic voice, and I know that so many of our girls follow you, and I love the fact that they get to hear your voice and you’re very open and you share a lot of how you’re feeling.

And again, that’s why this conversation about confidence and creativity is so important because I personally, and a lot of people you share that with, have seen you in moments where your confidence does waiver and then see you in moments where it’s kind of back and it’s rearing to go. So I want to jump straight into it today. I’ve got a whole bunch of questions for you, but I like to always try to start at the beginning. And the beginning is really trying to understand what was your personal confidence level like when you were in high school? So when you think about that 14, 15 year old, what were you like from a confidence perspective?

Rachael Sarra: (07:01)
From a confidence perspective, like looking at it from an external perspective, I appeared to be very confident. I was always in group sports or had a lot of people around me. I always had, you know, people to sit with and people to talk with during lunch and, you know, I was really outgoing in the sense that I had really open conversations with teachers and some of them now my high school teachers have turned into friends that I keep in touch with. From an internal perspective though, there was always this kind of underlying thought of self doubt and isolation. Like I never really felt 100% like I belonged anywhere, you know? Team sport is really great for confidence, but it gets to the level where, okay, so I played basketball as an example, from starting five position.

Rachael Sarra: (08:04)
And then if I didn’t start the game, then it would take a blow to your confidence a little bit. And that might not have had anything to do with my performance, but in my head it had everything to do with my performance. So, in a similar sense, as you get older, you understand different ways that we think, and we learn and we interact with people. So any time that I felt like I didn’t belong, it might not necessarily have been because of anything that I’ve done and it might’ve been something another person was going through, but at the time it always felt like it was because of something I had done or something about me. So from an external perspective, yeah, I did a good job of seeming really confident seeming really outgoing, but I definitely had moments internally where I was questioning everything.

Tanya Meessmann: (09:01)
Hmm. And were there any key experiences that stick out in your mind, actual moments in time during high school, or even since high school, that have shaped your personal confidence from then, until now and whether that’s moments or even people that might’ve shaped it?

Rachael Sarra: (09:20)
Yeah. Well, again, I definitely think like team sports environments, they were huge, you win premierships together and it’d be really great, but then, you know, I was lucky enough to be selected in state camps and squads to play for Queensland. And I never once followed through with any of them. It used to be, you know, a whole day of training and I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before, because I’d be so anxious and nervous about the next day that I’d make up excuses. Like I didn’t want to be in the team. So I’d try to get out of training. And obviously mum tried to encourage me to do that. But at the same time, I, I just kind of put my foot down and I didn’t really push myself past that mental barrier to follow through with that.

Rachael Sarra: (10:17)
And then outside of high school moving into my first serious relationship or I would say probably my only serious relationship at this point. I was 21 and was dating someone who was nine years older than me. So at the time, obviously mum and dad would say that that wasn’t really a really good fit, but you know, when you’re dating someone, you’ve got rose coloured glasses on and everything they do is perfect. But, you know, looking back, at such a pivotal time for me to figure out who I was, I was kind of in an emotionally abusive relationship and I had no idea the effects that it was having on me, to the point where I did go on to anti-depressants and I was seeing a psychologist because I had no confidence.

I had no job, I had graduated from uni and didn’t think actually that I wanted to be a graphic designer, an artist. I didn’t want to do anything. All I wanted to do was be with this person who so clearly, really didn’t have the same feelings or opinion of me. And I think that journey of losing myself so drastically made me realise how important it was to find who I was and find what I stood for and and see what I could do, what my mind could do as an individual, rather than being with someone. So I’d say those sorts of situations were really pivotal in, you know, building confidence. And I think confidence is a connection of understanding who you are.

Tanya Meessmann: (12:02)
And so that’s going to lead into the next question, because I’m going to move into our confidence and how it relates to creativity: during this journey when you were in school and you did have already sort of creative activities going on, and that’s why you went on to further study of graphic design and so on and so forth. How was confidence starting to show itself either affecting your creativity or your creativity affecting your confidence?

Rachael Sarra: (12:32)
In high school one of my favourite subjects was art. And I think that’s because of the environment that my senior art teacher provided for us. She’s very nurturing in the sense that creativity didn’t need to be a certain outcome. It could be wherever your mind went. And I think that was really important for me as well. I think that in grade 11 and 12, I had the same art teacher who now is still so supportive of me. I think that that ability to not put a boundary on your creativity really boosts your confidence. And I talk a lot about my, my work being an outlet for what’s going on, mentally and internally. And I think it shows confidence to be able to put that out there for people to view. And I think the important thing for me was at the beginning, I was doing it for me.

Rachael Sarra: (13:35)
I didn’t have that many eyes going across it. But it was an outlet that allowed me to process what was going on. And in that process, I was able to understand who I was, and it gave me confidence to talk about how I was feeling. And I think when we talk about confidence and creativity, for me, the confidence comes, and the creativity comes, from talking about how I’m feeling and over time, more and more people could resonate with what I was saying. And they could see themselves reflected in my journey, although it was my journey, they then could find parts that really reflected what they were going through. And as more and more people kind of connected with that, it gave me confidence to know that finally I was existing somewhere where I belonged with another person, with other people, you know?

Tanya Meessmann: (14:28)
Yeah, that’s really good. And that’s powerful. Does your personal confidence level ever affect how creative you can be? If you’re feeling more confident, do you get bursts of more creativity or is it if you’re feeling low in confidence, you turn to creativity in order to build that up?

Rachael Sarra: (14:45)
I think it varies When I think about low confidence, yes, it does produce that process of me unpacking what I’m going through, but there comes a point where my cup is too low. Then it is detrimental to my creativity, particularly around external feedback. And if that’s very harsh towards what I’m experiencing, it kind of in a way, when you have a presence on social media, everyone has the confidence to say whatever they want to, but dismisses the fact that you are a person and you are going through this. So some of the feedback sometimes, made me feel like my feelings weren’t valid or what I was going through wasn’t valid. And that definitely does affect your creativity. Cause you don’t want to put anything out there for people to have anything nasty to say.

Rachael Sarra: (15:41)
So yeah, if the cup’s to low and your creativity really drops but there’s a sweet spot where you’re going through something and you’re unpacking it and that process of unpacking it really sparks your creativity. And obviously in some instances the external feedback is good and it really validates you. It makes you feel great, that people love your work. You know, as an artist, it’s obviously subjective, so you’re going to have people hate it, but then you’re going to have people love it and that’s a special feeling to have, you know, when people really love your work. So in that process, again, it kind of boosts your creativity.

Tanya Meessmann: (16:27)
Also interesting is the other layer where your culture plays a significant role in your creative expression. And therefore you’re getting to share that in a way that not only people who are new to learning about the indigenous culture can start learning more and feel a bit more connected with it, but also for your own culture and your own people to see that being represented in such a positive way. Does the fact that your culture plays such a heavy role in your creative expression, does that make you feel more confident or more nervous when you’re being creative?

Rachael Sarra: (17:08)
I think both. I began to connect my culture to my creative sense and personality to really uncover who I was and connect and really grow in my identity through my work. Aboriginal people have always told stories through different creative outlets, whether it’s song, dance, that sort of thing. So that really allowed me to connect to my culture in a way that I felt confident knowing who I was for a long time. I didn’t know who I was, I would say even at 28, even now there’s moments where I don’t know who I am and you kind of lose that and your creativity does drop a little bit, but definitely connecting culture to my creativity is really key. Yeah. So I feel like when you don’t know who you are, that’s when your creativity drops, and culture has been such a huge kind of foundation for me to really grow my identity, understand my identity.

I talk a lot about being a light-skinned Aboriginal woman who’s grown up in Brisbane, which is a very obviously an urban scape. So it’s different to a lot of other people, and I think the role of creativity is kind of occupying a space and allowing creativity to share my personal journey and my personal intersect. Um, but then kind of allows other people, the permission, I think for a long time, we’ve lacked permission, whether that’s internal doubt or external systems, but we’ve lacked permission to be able to express ourselves as an individual, as a female, as an Aboriginal woman, as a creative. So, you know, that process of connecting art and culture really does take up space and permits other people to do the same.

Tanya Meessmann: (19:35)
Aspects that I love about your creativity and your creative expression, which I’ve been following for years now, is that you’re achieving exactly that. What you’re talking about is this intersect, in this combination of Rachael and indigenous culture and emotional expression and growth as a human being, while simultaneously bringing people joy because your artwork is very joyous and quite emotive, I would say, you know, I think that is being achieved time and time again with all of your pieces that are so powerful and that power is really coming from the fact that it’s coming from you and an experience that you’re going through which brings that to life.

Rachael Sarra: (20:28)
Thank you.

Tanya Meessmann: (20:32)
Listening to this podcast, generally we’ve got lots of parents out there with young girls who are dealing with different levels of confidence and that confidence is being affected by a lot of different aspects of their life. And I’m sure the parents dialling into this particular podcast will most likely have a daughter who is showing some sort of creative intentions and creativity that they really want to nurture and they want to help support. But we also know with creativity being such a subjective, as you said yourself earlier, it’s such a subjective expression of self that can basically put the girls in a situation of where they’re going to feel judged or they’re going to feel not accepted. So what have been some moments in time where you have felt like that and how have you gotten through it? Like how can parents support their daughters to get through those questioning moments in time that they know their creativity is no good or it has no right to be there?

Rachael Sarra: (21:38)
I think that’s a tough question. I have to admit I’m not a parent. So it would personally be from my perspective as a daughter. When it comes to like my relationship with my mum, it’s such a good relationship in that I’ve never really felt pressured to do anything that I didn’t want to do. The only time that I did feel a little pressure from her was the first year in uni at the same time I was going through a bad relationship. I didn’t actually want to do the degree I was doing. I didn’t want to be doing visual communication, design, anything like that. But at the same time, I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. So, you know, mum sort of encouraged me to, well, you’ve committed to this now, see it through.

Rachael Sarra: (22:40)
And even this is a hard balance because sometimes if it’s causing a lot of harm to your child, then obviously you don’t want to push them. But I think it was good to understand the context of what I was going through. I obviously had issues that weren’t related to this particular outlet. I think even now being a creative person and expressing, I think most artists tell a story through their work. And so I see creativity as an opportunity for parents to get to know their child in an unfiltered sense. There’s a lot of things that people would put on or in a painting or in a, in a song or in a film that they potentially wouldn’t have in a one on one conversation with their parents. So I think it’s a situation where if you can kind of read between the lines and really give you a child space to express themselves, that you’d actually get to know their true feelings a lot better.

Tanya Meessmann: (23:42)
Yeah, it is important. I know that I shared, in the very first podcast episode about the fact that I’d started a degree in advertising and marketing always had really passionate intentions around writing and filmmaking. And I took filmmaking 101 as one of my electives in my second last semester. And I was at Bond University and look, it’s not cheap. And I was there on a part scholarship and I called my mum and I was like, I found it. I found the thing I want to do for the rest of my life. And, Oh my goodness, I’m going to be a filmmaker. And my mum, bless her. She was very supportive because she knew I was a creative human being and she said, that’s so wonderful. That’s really great. Could you just finish this degree first? And then we can talk about you being a filmmaker.

Tanya Meessmann: (24:27)
And I was like, Hmm, okay. I was one and a half semesters away from graduating. So I was like fine, I finished that, went off and had an advertising career, but then about five, six years in advertising moved over into filmmaking eventually. And then went on my way. So when it comes to family, can you talk a little bit more about the role that family has played in developing or maintaining your creative confidence? And I’m sure that even expands a bit wider than just family into say, mentors throughout your life, how, what role have they played in helping that confidence be maintained with your creativity?

Rachael Sarra: (25:02)
Mum and dad, obviously dad runs his own consultancy business, but he also does artwork on the side. When I was younger, I would see all of his different artworks around the house, mostly unfinished, but the sense that it was okay to kind of express your journey through art and, you know, mum wouldn’t say she’s a creative person, but she definitely is creative in the sense that she knows her way around a sewing machine, same with my grandma. My older brother did fashion at uni as well. So in terms of a creative kind of environment, we’ve always kind of had a little bit of flavour in the mix everywhere. But obviously being creative and then following that through into a career is, is different. It’s difficult. I think I’m probably lucky that I wanted to do it at the time that I was doing it.

Rachael Sarra: (26:06)
If I was 10 years earlier, I feel like it probably would have been less accepted and not a very good career move. I think now we’re acknowledging the role that art and design plays in the world. It communicate messages. It brings people together. You see bushfires. And the first thing we do to raise funds is to put on a concert. You know, we have posters that we’re selling. We have artists giving their time to bring together. And I think that’s the role that art and design can play in the world. It brings people together. It communicates in a way that it is not always or necessarily aggressive and off putting to people, but more in a way that it allows people to be on this journey in a way that appeals to a different type of person.

For a very long time we’ve been very systematic and a lot of the communications through books and words, and a book is a creative outlet, but in a different sense, art and design communicate to people. It allows people to be on this journey and you look around and even figuring out where the exits are,, where the bathrooms, where you need to go in an airport or art gallery, you know, design and art is telling us the way. And I think, you know, it’s not all fine art. There is a very commercial sense of creativity. And I think if you can put your creative mind, I think everyone personally has a creative mind, but it’s how much we kind of allow that to come out. And I think creativity is something to be encouraged because, you know, you might end up having a child who ends up to be, you know, an engineer or something that in our minds is not very creative.

Rachael Sarra: (28:18)
It’s very, very stressful. But the creativity of that is problem solving. You know, a lot of problem solving comes from creativity and about using that side of our brain. So I think that everyone should encourage not only yourself, because I think a lot of people, a lot of older people as well just put that aside, but creativity should be encouraged with everyone because it’s not just used in an arts degree , it’s used everywhere. I think just giving that space to express yourself, to figure things out, you learn skills that can be applied to all the aspects of life, like problem solving.

Tanya Meessmann: (29:07)
Because you’ve had a bit of experience in the actual corporate space of art and creative expression being used for corporate purposes. How did that help you or prepare you to now come out onto your own journey? What was the relationship there?

Rachael Sarra: (29:28)
I mean, the corporate world and the commercial world is quite difficult to navigate, you know, an Aboriginal woman. And as an Aboriginal creative it definitely taught me a lot because it taught me about these structures that exist, that actually aren’t designed for anyone’s benefit really. It allowed me to see from the inside out how it’s affecting community members and how detrimental it can be, but also if done correctly, how powerful it can be and how it can kind of influence key decision makers, and corporates, you know, CEOs to think differently, to learn differently, to be able to embed culture in a place that kind of closed its doors and wouldn’t let anything in. So it’s definitely powerful in that sense, but from this perspective of how to make money, how to make sure your job is within budget, is done the right way.

Rachael Sarra: (30:39)
Those sorts of things are really helpful now because you know, I know how people work and I know if someone’s low-balling me, if they’re like, Oh, sorry, we don’t have very much budget for this. And it’s also taught me that you think about like brand style guys. So you look out and you see, um, as an example, let’s use maybe like Woolworths or something. They have a very clear brand and it needs to kind of align to brand guidelines. But what we need to realise is our brand guidelines and the structures have been created without culture in mind. And so now it’s about breaking down these barriers and allowing culture come through and to start occupying spaces where it should have always been.

And so that creativity and that problem solving comes into really having to navigate the structures that exist and break down what we need to and allow us all to come through. And, you know, you can think of that as a cultural sense. You can think of that as a female perspective, you can think of that, you know, there’s different things and different people and how we identify that weren’t allowed in certain spaces previously, and now we’re figuring out how to occupy those spaces. And I think, yeah, creativity is the tool that I’ve chosen to do that.

Tanya Meessmann: (32:03)
Yeah. Excellent. You’ve got some great partnerships. We don’t have time to go through them all now, but you know, you’ve got ongoing partnerships and fantastic, fantastic partnerships who have been doing exactly that starting to pay attention to something that is long overdue. Okay. This has been fantastic, but we are reaching at the end here. And the way we wrap up, a lot of these discussions is on a little mini reflection that I ask each of our guests to do. And for you, it’s not that far ago compared to myself and some other guests. But what like to know is if you could go back and say something, any piece of advice, or it could be anything to your 15 year old self, what would you say to Rach at 15?

Rachael Sarra: (32:54)
Don’t get bangs…..don’t let your brother convince you to get a fringe. But also chill out, you’ll figure out who you are. Don’t put pressure on yourself to think that you need to know everything all at once. You don’t need to know, what you want to do. School puts a bit of pressure on you to go to uni and to know what you want to do straight away. And some people are lucky to know that and some people aren’t, but you know, you’re allowed to evolve as a person you’re allowed to explore different outlets, different industries, different hobbies. Um, and you’ll know when it’s right, like you just have this feeling and your energy will be lifted without even trying. And you’ll know you’re on the right path. I think just take time to figure out who you are and where your energy is coming from and just like allow yourself to feel that, which would be my advice.

Tanya Meessmann: (34:07)
And specifically for the parents listening, who are nurturing a young, creative potential, who might see herself following a pathway not dissimilar to yours, what’s one thing that a parent could do this today, who are listening to this podcast. What’s one thing that they could do that would really help and support their creative daughter.

Rachael Sarra: (34:30)
Being able to be open with yourself, sets an example for your child to be open with herself. So it’s probably less about what you do in regards to your child, or like what you do for yourself that then kind of filters out to help your child, I would say.

Tanya Meessmann: (34:51)
You’re absolutely right. I think a lot of conversations we bring our own bias into when it comes to, particularly when we think about futures and security and pathways, we’ve all had our own experiences and that’s the thing that we were quickest to draw on. And so, and it can be frightening because creative pathways while they can be incredibly joyous and incredibly rewarding, they can also be incredibly emotional. It becomes embedded in you when you become a parent, that you will do anything in your power to protect that child from emotional or physical distress. And so if we look at those pathways and think, Oh gosh, that might be a very distressing pathway for them to go through. I don’t them to have to do that. But I think yours is a journey and is an exact demonstration of how, yeah. You know, what, it can be emotional and it can be up and down and they can be a lot of challenges. But if you’re utilising the creativity inside you properly and effectively, then it plays its own role in helping you whether though that journey over those years. Alright. Well, I’m going to put in the show notes, the fact that every person listening needs to go over and find you on social media, under @sar.ra__

Tanya Meessmann: (36:16)
Okay. I’m going to put in the show notes. So it’s an easy click, but everyone go and follow. Rachael has some wonderful, uh, different creative pieces. You also do bespoke pieces as well, don’t you?

Rachael Sarra: (36:27)
Yep. Commission and bespoke.

Tanya Meessmann: (36:29)
And particularly if you are around Queensland, you will often catch some of her amazing work on public display, across a lot of different mediums, which is wonderful. So thank you so much for your time today and for sharing your journey of confidence and creativity with us.

Rachael Sarra: (36:47)
Thanks for having me

Tanya Meessmann: (36:49)
Such a fantastic chat with Rachael. I love hanging out with her. And as I mentioned at the end there, if you aren’t yet following her on Instagram, I really implore to do so. She has a wonderful voice, both for yourselves and for your daughters When it comes to so many different personal challenges that she faces, as well as cultural challenges and artistic and creative challenges. So head on over to the show notes, grab that link and make sure that you are following her on Instagram ASAP. Now we want to dig into a little bit more about this impact that confidence has on creativity. And as you know, there is no one that I love more digging into the depths of confidence and the teenage brain with than with our resident neuroscientist and adolescent counsellor, Dr. Diane Harner, who is back for our “Nine minutes of neuroscience”. Welcome!


Dr. Diane Harner: (37:44)
Hey, It’s been a nice little break, but I’m back in, I’m ready to talk neuroscience.

Tanya Meessmann: (37:52)
Oh, and this is a good one. Creativity and the brain and how that all works is really fascinating. So I’m very excited to dive into that today. So where do we start when it comes to creativity in the brain? I mean, I would say that my naivety would lend itself to thinking the only thing I know about creativity in the brain is that that’s your right side of your brain and your left side of your brain is your organised side of your brain. And that’s kind of the extent of my knowledge. So fill me in!

Dr. Diane Harner: (38:20)
That is exactly where we will start, because I want to dispel that myth. So it’s not true. It is not true. So creativity does not sit in the right side of your brain. In fact, it actually requires multiple areas of your brain to work together in order to be creative.

Tanya Meessmann: (38:41)
Where did it come from then that your right side was creative?

Dr. Diane Harner: (38:44)
There’s so many brain myths going around the place, but this one in particular, there are parts of the brain on the right hand side, which do light up more when you are being creative. So that’s probably where it came from. But as our technology is able to look at our brains more effectively when we are doing different sorts of tasks, it really shows that there are multiple areas of the brain involved in creativity, and it’s actually networks that are involved. And there’s three main networks that we talk about when we talk about creativity. So the first one is called the default mode network. So it’s also sometimes called the imagination network. And this is the network that is active when we are in that kind of mind wandering day dreamy state when we’re not on task, when we’re not actively doing something. And it’s in the default mode network that we have our spontaneous thoughts, that we have our moments of insight, that we have our ideas. So, and that is where creativity comes from. It’s when we join two pieces of information together, or we look at something in a different way, and we have those new thoughts and new ideas.

Dr. Diane Harner: (40:05)
The second network that’s involved is the network that is active when we are on task. When we are thinking about something and we’re focusing on something and that’s called the executive control network. And so this is the network that is active when we’re paying attention, when we’re making decisions, when we’re being details focused.

Tanya Meessmann: (40:32)
And does that kick in when you spend some time in that default, your imagination mode, and then you settle upon a particular thought or a particular idea, is it like you move into that executive network stage?

Dr. Diane Harner: (40:45)
Yeah, that’s exactly right. And the third network is what enables you to do that. So the third network is called the salience network. So the salience network decides what is important and what we should be paying attention to. So let me give you an example. If you were being really creative and you were writing a song, for example. When you’re in default mode network, you’re kind of trying to think up the melody and, you know, you’ll have a few tries at it. And then all of a sudden you’ll come up with a melody that sounds good. And your salience network will go, yes, that’s the one, let’s work on that. So what it does is it switches you over to your executive network and it’s your executive network that then flushes out the idea and it writes down the notes and comes up with the lyrics. So creativity actually relies on those three networks being really well connected and switching really quickly between each other and the speed at which they connect is has been linked to our level of creativity,

Tanya Meessmann: (41:48)
Right? Oh my Lord. That’s way more complex than I think I appreciated where creative thoughts come from and how you evolve them. So in light of the topic that we’ve been discussing with Rachael earlier around the relationship between confidence and creativity, where does confidence play its role or its part of what affects these three networks working together in order to have them work harmoniously sort of together?

Dr. Diane Harner: (42:16)
Yeah. So you’ll probably agree when you feel confident, that’s usually associated with sort of positive emotions and you sort of feel good. When you lack confidence, that can be associated with feeling stressed or anxious or some kind of negative emotion. So when we lack confidence and we do have those negative emotions, what happens is we tend to use top down or cognitive strategies to manage those emotions. And in order to do that in order to regulate those emotions, we actually switch on our executive network. And we know that when our executive network is switched on that, our default mode network reduces its activity. So as soon as we get stressed and we use those cognitive strategies, like counting to 10 or distracting ourselves, or getting really into a task, as soon as we do that, we switch on the executive network, which switches off the default mode network. And therefore our creativity will go down.

Tanya Meessmann: (43:28)
So does this play its way out with teenagers? Is this the same in teenagers or is it different for them?

Dr. Diane Harner: (43:34)
So it’s interesting to look at the research about the activity of the default mode network in teenagers. So as teenagers get older, the activity in the default mode network seems to go down and the activity in the executive network seems to go up. And we think that is associated with the fact that they are becoming more task focused and they are becoming more attentive because the things that they’re learning at school are becoming more complex and more attention is required for that. So that’s one reason why we see, the imagination and the wonderful world that young kids create gradually disappear as our daughters get older. But the other thing for the modern day teenager that makes it very, very tricky is that they are often on task with devices, so whenever they are looking at a device, whether it’s chatting with friends or watching a video, they are on task, which means they have their executive network activated. And we know that when their executive network is activated, the default mode network is not activated and that’s where they need to be to be creative. So they’re actually getting less time in that lovely mind wandering daydreamy space that will allow them to be creative.

Tanya Meessmann: (45:02)
HSo, and I think I know where we’re headed with this. What can parents of young girls do to help foster that creative thought and foster that creativity? What could they actually be doing on a daily basis?

Dr. Diane Harner: (45:17)
We need to give them the space in order to step into that default default mode network. And we also need to encourage them to take risks, to engage in new experiences, to be spontaneous because we know all of those things increase creativity. So it could be things like going for a walk or going for a drive and asking them to leave their devices at home or, or switch them off. Because I know that usually when we’re driving anywhere, these days, all the kids have their devices in their face. So it’s about leaving the devices at home and actually being present and allowing their mind to wander. But this actually also brings us back to confidence a little bit because we know that if girls have a lack of confidence, they will be less inclined to engage in risk taking behaviours or to experiment with new ideas. So actually encouraging them to do those sorts of things will in turn impact their creativity as well.

Tanya Meessmann: (46:28)
It’s a fine line, isn’t it? Because on the one hand, obviously I’m the world’s biggest champion of new experiences, getting out of the comfort zone and risk-taking but alternatively, as you said before, it’s also about something that you and I have spoken about, it’s about being bored. But bored in the good way, not the punishment way. Actually in the understanding the richness of just existing and just being in a moment without being stimulated all the time. And trying to walk that line, I think as a parent is quite challenging,

Dr. Diane Harner: (47:11)
It is actually one of the greatest stimulators for creativity. But you know, our kids don’t get bored these days. Because there’s always something to look at. There’s always something to engage with. And so they’re missing out on that space where they can let their mind wander and come up with new creative ideas, for games or interacting with others.

Tanya Meessmann: (47:36)
Maybe we need to start up our next slogan T-shirt “Bring boredom back”

Dr. Diane Harner: (47:41)
I love it.

Tanya Meessmann: (47:42)
Just nice and snappy. Alright. That was fantastic. So first things first, your right brain is not the creative side of the brain necessarily there are multiple networks that are required in order to come together so that creativity can be fostered. Now let me try and remember this, the default mode network, which is your imagination, the salience network, which grabs your idea and says, this is the one that you need to look at and then the executive network, which helps you then knuckle down and focus in on that idea and really bring it to life. Got it, got it. Woo. Got it in three. Fantastic. That’s amazing. Thank you again for taking us into the depth of the brain and our “Nine minutes of neuroscience”.

Tanya Meessmann: (48:25)
That was so insightful about the relationship between confidence and creativity and really looking forward to the next one. See you then.


Tanya Meessmann: (48:34)
And there you have it, another incredibly comprehensive, deep dive from Dr. Diane Harner and such a wonderful chat with our Girl Shaped Flames extraordinary woman, Rachael Sarra. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s episode and if you have, I would absolutely love it if you pass it on, tell a friend, let them know that the Raising Girl Shaped Flames podcast is here and coming to you with some more fantastic special guests and “Nine minutes of neuroscience” in future episodes. In the meantime, don’t forget our “Courageous parenting” interactive program is launching this week, starting at the end of August eight weeks of myself and Dr. Diane Harner, taking you through step by step the fundamentals to becoming a courageous parent, raising a confident, empowered, and resilient daughter, head over to the show notes, all the links that you need are there.

Tanya Meessmann: (49:31)
And of course, we want to see you over in the Raising Girl Shaped Flames Facebook group. So if you’re not a member yet, come on in and join. We’ve got some fantastic conversations going on there as well. Coming up in our next episode, we have an incredibly inspiring young woman by the name of Jackie Bell, who’s actually an ultra marathon runner and the youngest to have completed seven ultra marathons across seven different continents. And with her, we’re going to be speaking about the role that confidence plays in commitment. And if you are a parent of a young girl who is in any way, struggling to commit to a goal or a challenge, to find that motivation, to move yourself forward, and to persist through difficult times while she’s doing so then I, 100% recommend you tune into our next episode of the Raising Girl Shaped Flames podcast. Until then, you know the drill, keep fanning those flames.

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