First of all, it’s adorable that you think I conquered it.
Because – and this is your spoiler alert – I didn’t!
I’m afraid all the time. I feel fear in some form, and to some degree, every day. And I don’t have any interest in conquering it either because my fear is incredibly helpful to me.
My fear is the reason I’m still alive today.
And the same is true of you and your fear. Because we can all trace our being here right now back to a time when fear told us to get the heck outta dodge so we could live to fear another day.
Like that time when I was walking to the gym and got a bad feeling as I walked past a couple of young men. A moment later one of them lunged at me from behind, just as I’d passed them, and was going to assault me. But my fear reacted before I could and swung the large duffel bag I had thrown over my right shoulder at him. That swing put enough of a barrier between us that he jumped back from it and his friend ran up to him and restrained him, while hollering at me that he’d happily hold his friend down if I wanted to come and punch him.
I declined and, body shaking with adrenaline, moved away – still in one piece.
Or like the one fine day when, as a novice rider at the tender age of 6, the usually sluggish pony (ironically named Coffee) got it in his head that he was one of those mechanical bulls in the middle of my lesson. It was fear that told me to hang on with both arms and legs, and to move my body with the bucking rather than against it, or risk falling off close to his hooves and getting trampled. Once he was done, he went back to his usual placid self, and we went on with the lesson as if nothing happened.
That day it was fear that kept me from freaking out, and as a result, I was able to stay calm in a bad situation – at no point during that whole episode did I feel like I wasn’t in control of myself. Which is a lot to say for a 6-year-old when the adults around you are running around in a panic.
And it was fear that heightened my senses, flooded my body with energy, and gave me almost superhuman focus every time it got busy at my shop job. I say this from experience: sales staff survive things like Black Friday because of fear. When you see that press of customers waiting to trample you like a herd of fleeing wildebeest, the ice that manifests itself in your gut telling you it’s do-or-die time, is fear.
Yeah, you’ll look back at the times when fear kept you alive and wonder how you were able to do it.
Every time you’ll come away from it knowing that it was difficult and scary, but that you came out of it alive. And you’ll be grateful for your fear.
That’s the start of a healthy relationship with fear: a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude.
Because your fear is constantly doing its job, which is to keep you alive. That your fear is really trigger happy and seems like it’s always had 6 shots of espresso, is just how it’s been designed to work.
Your job is to recognise that, and understand that your fear is single-minded in its task.
And it doesn’t distinguish between something that’s a little nervy (like painting a picture) and something that’s a lot scary (like base jumping).
Fear hates uncertainty, and any time you venture into the realm of uncertainty, it’s gonna wanna hit the breaks and run the other way. If it’s a bad turn down a dark alley, by all means, walk the other way, it’s the smart thing to do.
But if it’s a creative endeavour, the goal isn’t to eradicate fear.
Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that courage isn’t the absence of fear, courage is fear walking.
How to make fear work for you
So, whenever I feel fear arise – which in my case is constantly because I’m always trying to do creative things, always starting things with an uncertain outcome – my first step is gratitude.
I begin by acknowledging that my fear is in good working order and then say thank you.
Thank you so much for how much you [fear] care about me, and how much you don’t want anything bad to happen to me. I really appreciate that. Your services are probably not needed here because I’m just writing a poem. No one’s gonna die, it’s okay.– Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic: Fear, Failure & the Mystery of Creativity
You can just talk to your fear in a really friendly way, you don’t have to go to war against it. Instead, welcome it in with a big hug and invite it to come along in whatever you’re doing.
Just don’t let fear make any decisions.
Because letting fear make decisions for you is like letting your toddler drive your car. Or pick the snacks for movie night. Or choose what kind of music to listen to. So, unless you’re up for 8 hours of non-stop renditions of Baby Shark, you need to remain in control.
And especially when it comes to creative choices, the only thing fear will do is shut them down.
Because every creative choice represents uncertainty, and your fear will take to it like a round at the batting cage and it’ll just keep knockin’ em out, one after another – if you let it.
If you let fear run your life, it’ll just be one ‘nope’ after another and your life will be so much smaller than what you really want it to be.
I create because it brings me joy
As a small online business, my digital feeds are full of content and ads about and for small online businesses. And one of the most pervasive messages is “create value”. Everyone is obsessed with creating value and being of service.
Now, these things sound great on the surface – and as an empathic human being this obviously resonates with me – but how would you feel if I came and told you, “I want to create this course to help you”?
You’d probably start thinking of how you could politely decline, right?
Because please don’t. We don’t walk around every day thinking that we need help with things, or that we’d like to receive unsolicited advice from every person we meet.
We like to arrive at our own problems and then find the help we need for them.
And my main motivation for creating is joy. I create because it makes me happy and brings me joy. I create because I’m inspired by something and feel a need to express that – on paper, as a painting, as lettering etc. That’s what I was doing when I created the Money Mindset Workshop – I needed that workshop to exist because I needed to take it and it’s me looking for answers to my questions.
And attaching a mandate of helping people to my creative expression feels like a very heavy thing to burden something that should be light and joyful.
There are many other ways in which to help people than to offer unsolicited help or advice. I think that the most important thing is to create because I have a desire and inspiration to do so – if, in the end, it helps someone else then that’s a wonderful side-effect of me fulfilling the need to create that thing in the first place.
The best way to help is really to just love. Love what you do, love who you’re with, love where you live, love how you do things – love what you love. And that’s really the kindest thing you can do for yourself, your family and your community.
Because when you love who you are and what you do in the world, you’ll radiate this wonderful energy that will automatically start setting the world around you right. And the people who are ready to share in that love will find their way to you.
If you want to join my mailing list, where I share the love every week, you can sign up here.
All love eventually becomes help.– Paul Tillich