Updated: Feb 4
I sometimes think that certain people are born without a sense of fear—and if you couple that with artistic talent, you've got yourself a sensation. Take Bob Dylan, who dropped out of the University of Minnesota at 19 to move to New York and write songs that would define a generation. Take Erica Jong, who risked her literary career to pen an earth-shattering-for-its-day novel about women's sexual desires: Fear of Flying. Take Frida Kahlo, who stunned the art world
—and the decorum of the time—with her deeply personal depictions of the intense emotional pain of multiple miscarriages. Maybe it's not that they didn't experience the emotion of fear, maybe it's just that the desire to create art was so strong, so compelling, they were willing to give up the safety of livelihood, normality, and acceptance to bring their art to light. But what about the rest of us? What about those of us whose insecurities and paralyzing fears are so strong they bind us to our miserable day jobs, vanilla lifestyle, and dysfunctional sense of belonging?
Hundreds of books, TEDTalks, blogs and speeches have drilled into us the importance of acknowledging the fear inside us, but forging ahead anyway.
Author and Creativity Guru, Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame), advises in her book Big Magic to “make friends” with your fear, stating, “I made a decision a long time ago that if I want creativity in my life—and I do—then I will have to make space for fear. Plenty of space.” And, author Steven Pressfield opines in his treatise The War of Art, “Fear doesn't go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day”. And, social scientists Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire’s book, Wired to Create argues that, “when it comes time to share his ideas, the nonconformist must then be able to control the fear response triggered by the possibility of failure and social isolation. He tempers his response, turning it into a more constructive emotion, like anger or pride, which can be fueled into creative work”.
With all due respect to these authors and social scientists, I completely disagree. We need not “make friends” with fear. We need not fight a daily “battle”. We need not transmute our fear into some other equally abhorrent emotion to “fuel” us. We need to feel safe. We need to feel absolutely, unequivocally, and unshakably safe to be ourselves, to be comfortable in our skins, to trust our instincts, to believe that what we have to say has value. I am here to tell you that possessing this feeling of groundedness and expansion sans fear—on a consistent basis—is 100% achievable. After a lifetime of crippling insecurity and living in a body that experienced severe trauma, I now feel incredibly safe to take creative risks—everything from starting a business to giving speeches to hundreds—and I have helped my clients achieve this sense of safety as well.
So, how do we do that? Well, it's not easy. First of all, we have to acknowledge that we are working with an organism (our mind-body-spirit) that has most likely been told its whole lifetime to conform, to fear failure, to not trust its own senses. If you were like me, you went to a school that emphasized measuring ourselves against others and fearing failure—not only with academics and athletics, but with appearances, socio-economic status, and our ability (or in my case, inability) to “fit in”. I don’t know about you, but we weren’t even trusted to go to the bathroom without being granted “permission” for fear that we may abuse our power of listening to our body’s desire to get up and move around. If you were like me, you were told that: “God loves you exactly as you are”, but every unique aspect of us was met with derision. Heck, I remember my Sunday school teacher saying that I was an “idiot” for questioning her on a Bible passage. How many times were you asked: “Why are you doing that?”, “Are you going to wear that?”, “Why are you acting so weird?”? So, somebody loves us unconditionally, but it probably wasn’t the person saying that to us. I mean, they all meant well, but geesh. This is where our self-doubt creeps in. We question our every move. A recent study in the journal Developmental Psychology indicates that we develop a sense of self-awareness and self-consciousness as early as 18 months old. And, when our teachers, faith leaders, caregivers and employers are questioning our thinking, body awareness, creative expression, and very existence over 30-some years, we have a lot of de-programming to do (and I didn’t even mention social media, media, and discriminatory policies/laws that can crush your spirit)!
Second of all, we have to understand that we have developed an “ego” that has protected us our whole lives from all of these aforementioned external elements. Our ego wants us to avoid embarrassment, failure, and loss. Whenever you feel defensive, judgmental, anxious, inferior, superior, self-loathing, or fearful, that is your ego at work. But you know what? Your ego is not you. You are actually the observer of your thinking mind; you are actually “no-mind”; you are actually a powerful creative vessel. Through breathwork meditation, somatic awareness, meditation, creative play, quality time in nature, and living a “high vibration” lifestyle, you will learn to be gentle with yourself, to believe in your instincts, to trust your voice, to embrace a "growth mindset", to love yourself unconditionally and to “make space” for being yourself in all your unique glory.
People wonder why Shamama doesn’t host courses dealing with technique, craft or production when our mission is to help people “unleash their creativity”. One would think that just DOING (writing, painting, dancing, yodeling, whatever) would condition us to be more confident, brilliant, and “in the flow”. That works, a little. But, what REALLY works is low-stakes creative play, like intuitive collaging, where our ego takes a hike. What REALLY, REALLY works is meditating, where we decenter our ego so that we can be in the “receiving mode”, rather than thinking mode. And what REALLY, REALLY, REALLY works is breathwork meditation, where it is nearly impossible for our ego to be present; our ego doesn’t just take a hike—it sort of goes on a vacation and might never come back. Which is a good thing. Because when our ego takes a sabbatical, so do our fears. And what emerges is the next “Blowin’ in the Wind”, Fear of Flying or Henry Ford Hospital. What emerges is your authentic, unfettered creative voice. And the world is waiting to hear it.
American Psychological Association. "Even Toddlers Care What Others Think".
https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2018/08/toddlers-care 27 Aug. 2018. Accessed 1
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. New York, Penguin, 2015
Kaufman, Scott Barry and Carolyn Gregoire. Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the
Creative Mind. New York, Penguin, 2015
Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle. New York, Rugged Land,