One of my fondest memories from childhood includes my family and me gathering in the living room and watching the annual airing of The Wizard of Oz. This was before the time of recording the show to our DVR and we didn’t own the VHS (DVDs weren’t a thing yet, either), so this annual viewing was a lot of fun for us. I watched the movie recently and realized something I hadn’t before – the whole movie seemed to be about facing fear. Sure, the movie covered plenty of other important topic for children and grown-up children to remember: friendship, love, the wonder of home, for example. But throughout the group’s entire journey, they had to face their fears one by one.
Dorothy (being in a strange, colorful world away from home; the tornado; the flying monkeys, the wicked witch), the Scarecrow (tough enough, but he did have a run-in with the crows), the Cowardly Lion (afraid of everything that moved), the Tin Man and his issues – they all had to work through their fears. I think the culmination of the this manifested when they went before Oz (who Dorothy and Crew believed was the only one who could make things right and give them their true desires).
When they pulled the curtain back and revealed that Oz the Great and Powerful was actually (spoiler alert!) the Professor with some fancy speaker and stage light system, they realized they had nothing to fear and the key to their true desires lay inside of them the whole time.
It’s time we pull back the curtain of our fears.
So let’s talk about it – let’s talk about fear. It’s that thing that creeps up behind you and tells you that you can’t do the thing you would so greatly like to do.
But first, check out this cool worksheet for you:
Benefits of Fear
I know this sounds a little crazy, but just hear me out. I’ve come to realize that since fear is something that has come up so often in my life, I had to either deal with the fear head on or allow it to consume me. I knew that the latter decision would only keep me from doing the things I longed to do in my life – and that just wasn’t an option.
So that left me having to face my fears. Sounds simple, right? The concept is definitely a simple one to grasp – but actually doing such a thing isn’t always easy to do. I realized two major THINGS about what fear was and what it was doing in my life:
- Fear is the belief of a potential threat or danger
- Most of my fears were irrational
- This single emotion caused me to continuously stand in my own way
What I learned from this (and other experiences) is that fear is often a great compass to help guide us towards the things we are supposed to be doing in our lives. Or, when we feel afraid about something, it’s a great indicator that it’s something we care about or want to succeed in. I like to think of the “fear as a compass” motif as a spin on that saying, “do something every day that scares you.”
Types of Fear
Transparency time: I too face fear! I know you weren’t expecting that type of ground-breaking information but I’m so glad you finally know where I’m coming from. Seriously though, I’d love to talk with you about some of the most common fears that I face – and how I overcome them.
-Fear of failure
This particular fear is one I hear most when talking to creatives. It’s actually one of the more common fears I’ve ever encountered. Most people have some sense of wanting to accomplish a thing or two in their lives or at least want to do the opposite of what they would consider failing. It’s healthy to not want to fail at something; it’s not healthy to allow thoughts of potential failure stop you from ever trying.
How I overcome: I realize that failure is apart of the creative process and learning from my mistakes is to grow and become better. To take it a step further, I look at failures as learning opportunities. Since I accept that failure is inevitable, I try not to be so hard on myself when it happens; instead, I take the time to examine what I did, what didn’t go so well, and adjust for future endeavors.
-Fear of being unfairly judged
This fear is more about being judged because of something you create. If you are apart of or working on something controversial, on the fringe of what friends, family, or the general public considers “acceptable,” or completely outside of your “normal” work, it’s possible people may have something to say about it. The truth is people are going to have something to say about virtually anything you create, good or bad.
That’s just the nature of art and creation – it can move people, even change their lives. But others may not think anything but the worse thoughts about it. But that’s ok. People are entitled to their opinions, and it’s ok if they don’t “get” or “understand” or even like what you’ve put out there.
How I overcome: Knowing my work is an extension of me but is not the only representation of who I am as a whole person. I accept that people will have their opinions but it’s more important to me to create authentic work, something I am truly proud to be part of.
-Fear of creating terrible work
To me, this is similar to fear of failing but is slightly different in that this fear looks at what you produce, and less at you as a person. True, you could very well take it more personally as you want to produce good stuff, but I think there’s a bit of a separation.
How I overcome: Practicing consistently helps me better myself at my endeavors and feel more confident in the work that I produce. Doing this plus receiving feedback from my peers and clients ensures that I have all the tools and skills necessary to succeed.
-Fear of success
Yes this is a real thing. I remember a friend lovingly pointing this out to me once and it was the first time this accusation had been bestowed on me. I thought, “Surely you’re joking – why would I, or anyone, fear success? I mean, isn’t that what we all strive for?” For me this fear doesn’t necessarily stem from not wanting to reach my goals in life and business. It stems from what to do after I reach that point. I often refer to this fear as the “Sequel Syndrome” – as in, afraid of not being able to top what I did with the original in the sequel.
How I overcome: I often talk about constantly feeding your well of inspiration to stay in a creative mode (I talk about it in depth in my free ebook, ReFuel), and there’s a reason for that: I know that my creative reservoir won’t run dry as long as I keep refilling it. This means that I might think what I’ve just created and put out for the world is the bee’s knees (or the best thing ever) but knowing that my inspiration supply is well-stocked, I can continue to create greatness.
-Fear of not being good enough, ready enough, expert enough, etc.
Whether we are or not, we’ve all felt inadequate at one point or another in our lives. It’s when this belief turns into an all-consuming, energy-sucking monster that keeps us from living to our fullest potential when it becomes a problem. I honestly don’t know if I ever met a person (creative, entrepreneur, or otherwise) that felt completely “good enough” to be doing what they were doing. Sure, they might have felt a level of confidence that kept them working in their field, but I’ve met exactly zero people who feel they’ve “arrived.”
How I overcome: Trusting in my passions and abilities and refusing to feed into negative thought patterns. It’s easy to think that you have to reach a certain skill level in order to do something you love. Granted, there is some truth to this – you wouldn’t want someone not well-trained as a surgeon to come in your operating room and start cutting. For the majority of us, our fears are not as point-blank as that example and they keep us from even starting because we aren’t “ready yet.” One of my favorite motivational quotes comes from Lorne Michaels, the creator and producer of Saturday Night Live: “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.”
Truth is, you never really get rid of fear. If you do, it could mean you’re getting too comfortable where you are, and being in this place means you aren’t growing. Instead of getting rid of fear, we simply deal with it and confront it as it comes. We acknowledge it, but no longer let it have power over our actions. We use it as a compass and go forth to do great things.
Below is one of my many unofficial mentors, international portrait photographer Sue Bryce, talking about fear and how to overcome it. The whole video (roughly an hour) is absolute gold but I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite parts:
What are some fears that you face? How do you overcome them? I’d love to hear about your progress in the comments below!