Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Right Out of Nowhere

Fear. 

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?

16 comments:

  1. Good piece of writing, Laure. I like your verbal illustrations... they really make it come alive.

    How do I fight fear? Most of the time with action. I like this quote by Dale Carnegie, "If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It's the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep." And while we're not talking about insomnia here, for me, just pushing aside the doubts and making a START gets some momentum going. If I just make a little effort to begin.. then I can usually roll with it.

    When Plan A occasionally fails I go to Plan B: Call for back up - as you so aptly worded it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. So sorry you had a bad day yesterday. Good thing you recognized it, called it by name and fought back.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonderful post--what a great way to use fear to examine yourself and to help others. I can't say I'm all that great at deliberately facing my fears, but when I do, I prepare myself the best I can for whatever I'm facing, and then trust the rest to Providence.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well done! We've all been there...it's when I have too many molehills that I pile 'em up into a mountain, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh boy, bad day at Black Rock. I bet it helped to recognize it and write about it.

    Better days ahead. Hang ten.

    Hugs

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh my gosh Laure. I started my blog today ( well for the second time really) Artsy Martha never got off the ground. I was filled with such fear, and then I went to your blog and look what I found. You gave me the courage to get started. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well, you know I have been having my moments! I think it is an odd form of self sabotage. I have learned that if I cannot change something or redirect it than I must accept it and move on. I use to be a rehasher of past events and a worrier of the future. My self worth went to zero. I read a book called "What to Say When You Talk To Yourself" by Shad Helmstetter. It made me realize that other people were being mean to me, but only I could let it bring me down. My closest friends will tell you that I have really turned the tables around! It didn't happen over night and the journey back into art was another step in the right direction. Fear doesn't visit me very often anymore. It tends to wait for me to do something new. Testing my faith in myself, I guess. I think in my youth it made me gear up and feel challenged. But somehow when people get older, that feeling doesn't inspire it almost freezes the soul. I have to catch fear before it infiltrates all my thoughts and expose it for what it is. I take the power it has away. I realize that others have been there to and that moving past it always makes me feel like I have won the war. It is easy to wear negativity and fear (the two usually come hand and hand) like a warm blanket. (They are easier to fall victim to than most will admit!) So spot it early and let it know that it's not welcome!!

    You did an excellent job on a topic that most people do not even realize they have fallen prey to!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Fear can be so paralyzing. "Just do it" I often tell myself.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very well put. My favorite way to overcome fear of...is as my mom always said, "Just do it!!

    I always try to think of FDR's quote,"...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

    ReplyDelete
  10. Well written, Laure!! I agree with face and deal with them, then letting true spirit guide my way.
    Love the telescope idea. Hmmm, that bag lady gets around. She must have a souped up cart :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Meditate, pray, be thankful. Another thing a friend once told me to ask myself, that really helps, is this one question..."What's the worst that can happen"??? Hope these can help you!!! Best wishes and love to you, Laure!!!!! Oh...and don't forget "This, too, shall pass"!!! Hang tight!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. ...awesome post!!!! You definitely nailed it. I fight it all the time for many different reasons (as you know!) :-)
    Not that misery loves company, but it's nice to know everyone doubts themselves...and it's not just me!

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is an interesting post. For me, I don't often identify these feelings as fear, but more as worry. And the thing is they can be paralyzing. Sometimes it is over something little and insignificant, like my current avoidance of a class assignment for fear of failure. Really, how silly is that? I am a beginner. I am supposted to fail at times. I wouldn't expect to sit at the piano and play mozart my first time, so why does each painting need to be a masterpiece? What is the worst that can happen?? I don't like the painting and re do it or don't like the painting and move on. Why does that work up in my mind to such a big deal that I can't pick up the silly paintbrush?
    On a more serious note, I have found that if the fear or worry is over something truly significant in my life, then writing it all down in a big cathartic purge can help me gain perspective and be pushed towards action. (It also can help me put it all aside so I can sleep, and everything is better for me if I have managed adequate sleep.)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I really like how you have captured this tulip.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great post and tulip. As always you have faced the monster and used it to inform and educate. You are my hero.
    Hugs
    pat

    PS, I don't mind anything that makes it easier for you so approve on.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I get scared plenty of times. If it's art related I try to get over it. If its heights and closed spaces I try to accept it. Back to the art, I find telling myself what is the worst that can happen does help. But I have refrained from learning many things just so I can't fail and am trying to get over that one. I don't want to die some day and not have done what's important to me! I like the thought that is the same as the title of a book: Feel the fear and do it anyway! Do I fail. Yes and I really do not like it one bit. But I want to grow more than I want to fail at least at this point in my life.

    I'm sure I will have many more times in my life of being scared and having to recognize it so it can be dealt with. What you've said here is so true. We have to find it and deal with it.

    Hope whatever scared you is now out in the open and dealt with. Why do I still think teachers and pro artists don't deal with this?

    ReplyDelete

I would love to connect with you! Please leave a comment so we can talk...