Everyone is Afraid

So what will you do with that knowledge?

I spent years not launching my art business because I was afraid.

I then spent a year, before I got serious and made it happen, fucking around because I was afraid. I’d look around at all the artists who inspired me and knew that they were both better than me and so confident they never had a wobble or a moment of fear.

What a load of crock.

You know that saying, the one where we see our whole show but only everyone else’s highlight reel? It’s so true. We see the triumphs of other people. The sudden tipping point of their business from ok to amazing. But we don’t see their fear.

You’re not supposed to show fear. Yeah, this is the age of being vulnerable and authentic but not authentically vulnerable.

I’ve now talked to so many artists and writers now that I have a very good grip on what’s going on behind the scenes. And, surprise, it’s fear.

For everyone it’s different. The me from five years ago would die if she had to do the things I do today, every day. Showing up on video. Writing for an actual audience. Mentoring people and being an authority in my field. Definitely would have killed me.

Maybe it would kill other people right now. Just because it doesn’t phase me any more doesn’t make it any less a valid fear for someone else. And I’ve got new and levelled up things to be afraid of now so huzzah.

One of the things I see, are artists right now not reaching for the things that would allow them to grow because they are afraid. Afraid of being rejected. Afraid they aren’t good enough. Afraid they’re not doing things right. Pick a fear.

Art is so fucking personal. It absolutely has to be! And that means when you show up, fear walks with you.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • we’re not saving lives, or ending them, with our work. Take the risks. Do the scary thing. Failure in a piece is not the end of the world. And art that takes risks is the most rewarding art of all.
  • a rejection isn’t career ending. It’s not! You have a global audience so if one person or one hundred don’t like your work, there are 7.7 billion other people who might. Keep going.
  • rejection isn’t life ending. Again, though our lizard / primitive brains think all stress means we’re about to be eaten by velociraptors , the reality is that’s not ever going to happen.
  • fear can be a sign to do the thing. Afraid to be in a show? DO IT! Afraid to go live on video to share your work? DO IT! Fear shows you where your comfort zone ends and you want to be dancing between comfort and discomfort so that you grow.
  • just because you don’t see your fellow artists doing something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Stand out from the crowd. People follow the herd because it’s a biological drive. It’s safer in numbers. But if you want to make your mark as an artist (and I’m not sorry for that pun) than you need to stand out like mad.
  • showing up imperfectly is far, far better than not showing up at all. We all want to be our best when we’re on video, online or in person but dammit life happens, things go sideways. Don’t let the fear of being imperfect stop you from showing up.
  • ask yourself this: are you more afraid to do the thing or more afraid not to? I always imagine myself at 80, looking back on my life. This is the ultimate decision maker for me. Will I be glad or ticked off that I played it small?

For me, the biggest ah-ha moment happened when I learned that the artists I held up as mentors were fucking afraid too. They were just further on in their journeys so their fears were further along too. When they started out, it was hesitation, fear and self sabotage at play, just like everyone else.

Finally, if you were guaranteed success in whatever you chose to do, what would you do?

Seriously, answer this one.

Because that guarantee of success is actually just fancy speak for, if we eliminated fear from your path, what would you do?

Name the things you’re dealing with. Procrastination? Fear. Self sabotage? Fear. Low self esteem? Fear. The only thing holding you back is fear. It is the root of everything else. And while you can never eliminate it, you can learn to walk with it, ignore it and even run towards it, in order to claim your place as a professional artist with an amazing business.

Paula Mould

Paula Mould

Paula Mould is a fine artist, published author and business coach for Leigh & Paula.

She also swears, mostly on purpose.

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