A while ago I put a call out for your creative questions and today I thought I would tackle one that I know a lot of creatives struggle with...
"Did you have any fear/anxiety about making art? If so, how did you get over that obstacle?"
The answer is… Absolutely. I have fear and anxiety about making art, running a business, sharing my thoughts on this blog... I've actually had this post written for a while now but haven't shared it out of fear, What if someone judges me?! I'm not a professional councillor, who am I to talk about this? Clearly, I haven’t gotten over fear, I'm not sure that's something anyone can do, but I am slowly learning to embrace the uncomfortableness as a normal part of the process of growth and creation.
I’ve avoided doing so many things in my life that I wanted to do because they made me uncomfortable. I told myself, that’s just not my thing. If it was my thing it would come naturally, it would make me happy. The problem with that is that a happy life is not necessarily a fulfilled life and I spent a long time coasting along, looking for fulfilment in all of my comfortable places and not coming up with much. I was recently listening to an episode of the Life Coach School podcast with Brooke Castillo called Aliveness (Episode 363). In it, she suggests that the point of being human is not to be happy, but to learn, grow and evolve. What a concept! Progress requires action and true happiness will come through the willingness and determination to push through uncomfortable moments in order to chase after your dreams.
It’s okay and totally normal to be fearful of the unknown. It’s how we protect ourselves from danger. There was a time when those unknown things might literally jump out and eat us. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to worry so much about wild animals lurking about our creative work spaces but our fear is still on full attention. It’s there, ready to warn us of the next thing that might take us down, like showing our face in Instagram stories, or doing a Facebook live, Gah! Or…dare I say…sharing our work online for the first time. Unfortunately for us it’s often not the big scary things like lions, tigers and social media that end up taking us down. It’s fear. It has taken me down many times and although it’s easy to hide away with fear. It isn’t fun and it isn’t fulfilling.
When faced with fear it can be helpful to break down exactly what’s going on and tackle each of those things head on. For example, I’ve thought about teaching online for a few years now but kept brushing it off. When I took the time to think about it, I realized that I was actually terrified of filming myself. So I took an online video challenge and learned to get comfortable on camera in a safe and encouraging environment. I’m still not totally confident with being on video but I did make enough progress that I now feel comfortable enough to film a course. That was huge progress for me and I was able to get there by taking small, approachable steps.
I think, as creatives, a lot of us also fear judgement of our work. We put so much of ourselves into our work that it can become difficult to separate where we end and it begins. Yes, there might be the occasional troll, but in general it’s important to remember, that a critique on your work is not a critique on you as a person. It’s an opportunity for clarity and can help you get closer to your desired outcome. When it comes to art, having an open mind to critical thinking is a huge part of being able to grow and develop our skills. It’s a cornerstone of success in my opinion. Yes it can be scary to put ourselves and our work out into the world but showing vulnerability is incredibly resonating, it forms the biggest connections, and has the biggest impact on others as well as ourselves.
In order to grow we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. If we’re not feeling at least a bit of fear or discomfort, we’re probably not doing it right. When our bodies are preparing themselves to take on a challenge our hearts start pumping faster, our palms get sweaty, and we fill with adrenaline. Is it fear? Is it excitement? Maybe, it’s both. Either way we can channel the anxious energy, built up by fear, as excitement and motivation to help us do the work. We just need to decide if our dream or desired outcome is more important to us than our fear. If it is then it’s time to put fear in the back seat.
*I'm sharing these thoughts from my own experience in dealing with manageable levels of fear and anxiety. Anxiety comes in all forms and I am by no means a professional in that regard. If you are really struggling and find it difficult to move through day to day activities, asking for help from someone who can offer professionally trained guidance may just be one of the best things you can do for yourself.