Oh hey there, sugar! Welcome to a magical Monday where we get real and raw about the fear that holds us back as creatives.
I'm going to preface this post by saying that if you haven't read "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert, then you are missing out on some serious truth bombs that will possibly change your outlook on life forever (no, I am not exaggerating). A lot of what I'm going to say today is inspired by her book, so for reals, go read it and cry lots of tears.
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's just dive in. I assume that the voice of Fear in your head is what led you to click on this post, but even as you sit here, you are probably still hearing Fear whisper to you very quietly, saying something along the lines of "Just because you read an encouraging blog post does not mean that you can get rid of me." And your Fear would be right-- you can't ever get rid of it simply by psyching yourself out or reading enough inspirational material. Disappointed? Thought I was going to give you a magic "Fear-Be-Gone" button to press? Sorry, babe! I wish it were that simple-- believe me! But notice that I didn't title this blog post "Getting Rid of Fear As A Creative"? I titled it "Working THROUGH Fear As a Creative"-- a task which is less straight forward, requires more commitment, and presents bigger challenges, but ultimately results in a stronger, more powerful version of who you are.
The topic of fear is discussed a lot in the creative world because it's something that every single person deals with, whether they're creative or not. The only difference being that the amount of fear that one experiences tends to intensify in proportion to the risks being taken: so a creative entrepreneur who is hoping to use their passion in order to support their basic living needs potentially has a lot more to lose, hence a lot more to fear. If their business crumbles, not only does that result in financial instability, but it results in emotional devastation as the art that you make seemingly loses its value in the eyes of your customers and then, even worse, in your own eyes.
Did your heart rate just go up as you read this? Did you nod in agreement? Did you nearly click off because you're like "Cheers, Christina. Like I need another reminder that my life is just one step away from bursting into flames"? Okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but is that not how we feel sometimes? It's hard to be a creative, to love what we do, and to have our basic, detached financial needs entwined with our super attached soul needs. If something we put out into the world doesn't work out, our brain immediately jumps from "I'm having a bad day" to "I can't do this!" In the words of Will Ferrell: "That escalated quickly."
Whether you're using your art to bring in your entire income or you're simply trying to put it out there to see what happens or how others respond to it, our immediate response to sharing our making with the world is usually something along the lines of "It's not as good as hers' / Why would anyone buy from me? / What makes me special? / Nobody needs what I do. / What if I share my work and everyone hates it?" The list goes on and on. Because we care. Because our making is a part of us in a way that seems untouchable, and the voice of Fear surrounds it on all sides in an attempt to "protect" it from harm.
I cannot tell you how often I look at other wedding photographers or content creators and think "They're just like me, only better. I'm basically a redundant commodity." I have days of staring at my Instagram grid and comparing it to others just to pick out all of the areas where I fall short (comparison is a whole other beast, but we'll deal with that another day). I have days where I grumble when a goal is not met. I have days of worrying because my financial goals seem insurmountable. And as I pick apart the things I don't like about my art, I start to worry more and more that I am not worth the investment that others make in me: that my art is not good enough and not worth others' money or even time.
But let me tell you something: the moment I think that, I reduce myself to material goods and simplify who I am down from a human being with a heart and a soul to a piece of wares that sits on a virtual shelf. My Fear is telling me that I'm not good enough or I'm not needed in this world in order to prevent me from the pain of rejection-- but guess what? The pain and rejection are what humans feel. They're the soul part of making: the reminder that our value extends outside of materiality. The reminder that we have the right to occupy the space we're in. My Fear tries to protect me from the one thing that makes my art worth sharing: it tries to undermine my reason for making, which is that I am a deeply passionate person who sees value in memorialising the precious vows that are exchanged in marriage. My Fear forgets my WHY. My Fear tries to steal my perspective. My Fear forgets that I'm human. And yet, ironically, I fear BECAUSE I am human. The voice of Fear itself is a reminder that what I am doing IS worthwhile because I am so uniquely, vulnerably human, and so the work of my hands and my heart cannot be anything else but equally unique and valuable.
The truth is, our inner Fear is cyclical: if we listen to it, we feed it, and ultimately, we give into the lie that we are commodities and not souls that were made for making. If we listen to Fear rather than recognise the source of our Fear, then we lose our perspective of what's true and what isn't. The truth, though, is this: your soul has the right to make and the right to exist and the right to occupy the space it's in. So to break that Fear thought cycle, you have to recognise your Fear as the affirmation of the truth. When you do that, you realise that Fear itself is a product of our value. Fear itself is the product of the fact that we care deeply about what we do, which is exactly WHY we should keep doing it. See, getting rid of Fear is pointless. Fear lives with us for as long as we have hearts that beat. But when we work THROUGH Fear by calling it out for what it is (a product of passion and a reminder of our unique value), well, then we get to see its true purpose in helping us to push harder and make more. And that, my darling, is when the magic happens.