Fear is such an insidious creature, lying in wait for us, ambushing us when we least expect it. It can start with something simple–a project not going well, followed by a negative thought or three, and then it pounces! It has us in its claws and moves in for a slow, torturous, stripping-away of our self confidence, our faith in ourselves, and our talents. Fear feeds on our self doubts, on our feeble faith, and our insecurities. We unwittingly provide the feast.
The torture can last minutes to hours to days to a lifetime. It can reduce us to seeing ourselves as the really creative, highly-talented, starving, shuffling bag lady pushing a (decorated) shopping cart!
And we do it to ourselves. Because we let it. We let fear nibble at our souls.
Yesterday, I slide down the slippery slope and into the jaws of fear. I embraced it and allowed it strip away the outer layers of my self confidence. I lost most of the day worrying myself into a downward spiral that proved to be pointless, fruitless and frustrating.
I don't think I'm alone in this behavior as a quick perusal of blog posts tells me many of my fellow creatives are also dealing with fear. Even though the fears have different names, come from different areas of our lives, its harmful effects are toxic to our creativity as well as the rest of our lives. We doubt ourselves, our abilities and even our calling.
So how do we stop the fear and the erosion of our beliefs and confidence?
Call fear by its name. The thing I've found most effective is to turn and face the fear. To examine it under a microscope. Dissect it! Discover its origins. Learn its rightful name. Often, fear masquerades as "reason" and "logic," and will wear any mask that will allow it to accomplish its task.
Focus on the reason, not the fear. Once I have identified the fear, I ignore it and focus on the underlying reason for it. Fear of success, fear of failing, fear of not being good enough, of being too successful, of looking like an idiot, of being a starving, bag lady with a shopping cart. All because I didn't say "enough! Be gone!"
And what have I let fear stop me from doing? What creative wonders have ceased to be because I was too busy being afraid?
Put down the telescope. Ever notice how fear is so BIG and SCARY in our minds? Could it be that we looking at it with a telescope that makes it look BIG and SCARY rather than examining it with a magnifying glass to dissect it? I'm big time guilty of this one! I've got some big hulking scary bad boys lurking around. And they're much worse through the telescope.
But oddly enough, when I put down the telescope, and drag them (by the scruff of their necks, kicking and screaming) out into the light of day (because they know they're much scarier lurking in the dark corners of my mind), they're not so scary. They may still be real, but I find that by changing my perspective they become……manageable.
Call for backup. We've all been there. We know the deal. We're intelligent, grown-up, highly functioning creatives. And we all have to slay the dragons from time to time. Calling or emailing someone I trust to help me do battle becomes necessary when I just don't seem to be able to do it by myself. (I find it's usually better if this co-dragon slayer is not a spouse or family member. Not always, but usually.)
Fuel the Fire. With fear. Sometimes the fear is real, and there is genuine cause for concern. I use fear to fuel the fire deep down in my soul. To help me move past the place of fear, to overcome the concerns, to light the path to a better place, to become stronger. So that next time, I can turn and quietly close the door to this unwelcome visitor and continue with my creative endeavors.
How do you fight fear and slay your personal dragons?