The art of busting through fear

Are you like a lot of struggling creatives? Supremely talented and smart, but won’t let others see what you do? You think what you make is crap, even when others say it’s amazing, or you don’t even start your work because you worry about what others will say, how your relationship might change, or because you think it all just sucks? Maybe you have even given up on your creative life because you think it’s “part of growing up”.

Doing creative work is not always easy. It requires as much dedication as (if not more than) other work, but it also requires showing parts of ourselves others don’t always see. We try to make meaning out of the world through our work, which means we have to put ourselves out there way more than others do. This is both a privilege and a hardship. We have this gift to create and emote, but we live in a society that says “Don’t show emotion - it’s weak!”, “Get a real job!”, and “Anyone who wants an alternative lifestyle is weird!”

So we have this privilege that many other people don’t have of being able to be totally authentic, but we wonder exactly how to do that because everyone else keeps telling us it’s bad. No wonder we can get paralyzed!

This all comes down to fear. Fear of being rejected, being abandoned, being vulnerable, being seen, or even fear of success.

There’s nothing wrong with being afraid.

It’s totally understandable! You’ve probably been through some stuff in your life that was really scary and has caused you to be cautious, to worry how others might react, or to protect yourself from hurt.

But fear is keeping you from moving forward. Fear can really stunt creativity. Fear seeps into relationships and work and all other areas of life, preventing you from moving forward and experiencing joy and fulfillment.

So, here are 5 steps to help you move through fear, rock your totally awesome self, and get shit done!

1. Acknowledge it.

Monitor your thoughts. Is all that negative self-talk really fear of rejection?Have you not started your creative project because you have no time or because you’re afraid of changing your routine? Was that angry shout at your partner because you’re really pissed off or because you’re afraid of being left alone?If you discover there might be fear underneath the way you act, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “Ok, I’m afraid.”

2. Tell yourself, “Fear is normal.”

I hate those memes and quotes that say things like “Be fearless”. It’s bullshit! No one is fearless. Fear is not weakness, it’s human! We’re hardwired to experience fear when faced with uncertainty or with something that has hurt us before. Emotional injury is very powerful and invokes some of the same reactions in your body as physical injury. Fear of moving forward, of putting yourself out there in any way, is very common. It’s OK to be afraid. Let me say that again: It’s OK to be afraid! Say it 10 times a day and see how your perception of fear changes.

3. Talk about it.

There’s no greater catalyst for fear than isolation. Fear loves to make you hide away and keep you silent. Take the fear out into the light and show it to people you trust. Tell your best friend, “I really want to finish this project, but I’m scared what people will say.” Ask someone you admire, “What do you do when you can’t seem to move forward?” Tell your partner, “I’m really afraid that if I do this, everything will change.” You may be surprised at the answers you receive. Build your team from those who offer the most insight and support.

4. Move through it with courage.

I hate to tell you this, but fear is always going to be there. It can get WAY better and stop showing up all over the place, but you will never be fearless. Sometimes you just have to be brave and take the leap. I know, I know, easier said than done! If you’ve practiced the first three steps, your level of courage has likely gone up a tad. Take that first step, whatever it is. Buy those supplies, make that outline, sit down at the piano, send that email, write down what you want to say... Sure, you’re probably still nervous, but now you know what the fear is about, that it’s normal, and how the ones you really love and admire will support your courage to “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

5. Take care of yourself.

Be nice to yourself! It might go without saying (and I've certainly said it before), but when fear is freaking you the eff out, it’s easy to start hating on yourself. Give yourself permission to move slowly, to take breaks, to repeat any of the steps above if you need to. Your process is uniquely yours. Let it unfold with you.

I would love to hear about a place where you've identified a fear you can bust through - share in the comments below, on facebook, or on twitter!  Want some personal advice from me on the matter? Shoot me an email. I'm here for you!