My “Navigating the Creative Journey” series (which I’m officially titling for the first time, right now) continues here at the Muze blog with an acknowledgement of something that all must face and address.
This idea was actually inspired in part by some of our previous work here at Muze. Back in January, my colleague Luke wrote an insightful piece – which included personal examples – about the fears that hold musicians back from performing their craft, and wrapped it up with a beautiful resolution that encourages aspiring and emerging artists to douse their apprehension by enjoying the creative process itself.
Now that 2022 is winding into its final stages, I thought now would be a good time to re-visit the topic of fear. Specifically, I’m interested in diving into the specific, existential fears creatives may encounter when stepping out into the professional wilderness, and ways that we can navigate through them.
If you find yourself held back by overarching fears, my hope is that this piece provides you with the antidote to overcome – or at least, manage – your fears.
Here we go!
Fear of Financial Insecurity
As independent creatives, many of us see our platforms grow to a point where we have to make a choice: remain limited by the time constraints associated with having a day job, or take the leap away from the comfy confines of a cubicle, and go out on the full-time hunt for opportunities.
Where’s the job security in that?
I know this fear. I’ve faced this fear. I took the leap at the beginning of 2021, and it took me a long time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. No longer is there a paycheck waiting for you every two weeks, just for showing up. To build your platform, not only must you become an expert at the art of time management; you must do so while being 100 percent responsible for generating every dollar and cent that comes in. Sacrifices will have to be made, and there are no guarantees.
The antidote to this fear? Be resourceful.
We all need to make money, and there are ways to do that outside of the constraints of a typical 9-to-5 schedule. If you have marketable professional skills, you could always make yourself available for freelance work on Fiverr. If you like driving, you can sign up as a driver for a Rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. If you like driving, but aren’t comfortable with the idea of having strangers in your car, there’s always DoorDash or GrubHub.
So much of our fear of financial insecurity comes down to a discomfort with a lack of structure or “guaranteed” pay. However, there are plenty of ways to make a living and have more freedom over your schedule.
Fear of Judgment and/or Embarrassment
I chose this one to come immediately after the fear of financial insecurity, because they often go hand in hand. Sometimes, the people in our lives – however well-meaning they are – will be aghast at the idea of us leaving security to pursue something more abstract. A lot of the time, they’ll even tell you about it – and they may not mince words.
The fear of embarrassment goes hand-in-hand with a fear of judgment, because it represents the manifestation of that fear.
What if our doubters are right? What if the plan doesn’t work? What if we aren’t good enough? As social creatures, we are conditioned to seek approval from the herd. Evolutionarily speaking, we once depended on that approval for our very survival, and that core instinct still remains intact. Therefore, we naturally feel a subconscious, existential threat; if our efforts are not accepted, it means that we are not accepted.
If you’ve ever worried what your family, significant other, friends, or colleagues would think if you were to pursue music full-time, I have just the antidote…
Remember that this is your life. Not theirs.
What will bring you the greatest sense of fulfillment? If that question brought something specific to mind that lights a fire inside of you, you already know what you are meant to do. You are the architect of your own life – would you rather live in the joy of building your passions, or would you rather live according to the limitations placed upon you by other people?
And, as you stay the course, you may even find that those who were once your biggest detractors will come around to offer their support. However, you’ll never know if you waver at the first sign of external doubt.
Also, if you’re looking for a supportive network of industry peers, Muze has what you’re looking for. Sign up today and start connecting!
Fear That You Aren’t “Ready”
Not feeling “ready” to run toward your passions could mean that you feel like you lack the skills or knowledge necessary to be successful. Or, it could mean that you simply doubt that you have the ability it takes to succeed. No matter the case, I have not one, but two antidotes to those fears:
Antidote #1: You can learn whatever knowledge, skills, or abilities you need to succeed. The digital world opens us up to a nearly unlimited world of resources to shore up whatever holes we believe to be in our game.
Antidote #2: Nobody is as “ready” as they think they are!
We’re never done learning, and even if you think you’re accounting for everything that could pop up along the journey, you’re bound to run into something unexpected that you weren’t prepared (or presently equipped) to deal with. Not being “ready” isn’t a big deal – in fact, it’s an important part of the journey, because that’s where lessons and growth come from. Embrace the unknown!
Fear of Rejection
This one does have a direct tie back to the survival instincts surrounding our fears of judgment and embarrassment. However, for the sake of this piece, I would like to frame “rejection” in the professional sense. As an artist and entrepreneur, you are going to submit for opportunities. Sometimes, you will land those opportunities. Most of the time, you won’t. You will hear “no” exponentially more than you will hear “yes” when you are building your platform from scratch. It’s one of the tougher parts of the game.
Remembering that it’s part of the game IS the antidote to this fear. Moreover, each rejection you receive – and again, you will receive plenty – gives you a chance to refine your processes, learn key lessons, and make adjustments to your pitch that will bring you closer to success.
Rejection also gives you an opportunity to redirect your compass toward opportunities that are in greater alignment with you and your artistic vision. Sometimes, learning what’s right for you comes from first learning what isn’t.
Fear of Failure
This one rolls up all of the previous fears to this point into one sinister ball.
What if I go broke?
What if I’m bad at this?
What if I’m ridiculed for trying?
What if nobody likes my work?
These are all, at their core, rooted in a fear of something (or multiple somethings) about the grand vision not working out. They’re rooted in a fear that we will be unable to rise to the occasion and bring our goals to fruition.
I’ve identified two antidotes to this fear. The first, of course, can be drilled down to the previously provided antidotes to the specific fear(s) in question.
As for the second antidote? It’s simple.
Remember that what we often view as “failure” is not the end… unless we decide that it is.
Even after one (or more) of the above fears comes true, there is always an opportunity to learn, grow, and try again. Times of struggle provide the most fertile soil for growth; so, even if things don’t go your way, appreciate the composite experience, look for the lessons contained within, and apply them to your next attempt.
That should about cover it, right? There’s nothing else we could possibly fear that could stop us from our dreams.
Well… not so fast!
There’s Also A Fear Of Success.
That’s ridiculous! How could we fear success? Isn’t that what we all strive for, to be successful?
Have y’all ever heard of Imposter Syndrome?
According to Healthline, Imposter Syndrome is the feeling we get when we are afraid that we can’t live up to the expectations and standards we set for ourselves after initially succeeding. It’s one of many reasons why we may hold back from “going for the gold,” alongside backlash avoidance (i.e.; fear of judgment/embarrassment), childhood conditioning, and even our existing mental health conditions.
In other words, our other fears can create an aversion to success at the highest levels, and can lead us to all manner of self-sabotaging behaviors, from procrastination and perfectionism, all the way to substance abuse.
Of all the fears, the fear of success may be the most insidious.
What’s the antidote, then? I again refer to that Healthline article, which offers these helpful tips in greater detail:
- Exploring its origins
- Understanding how it manifests
- Visualizing success
- Reducing stress and anxiety (and developing healthier habits to do so).
- Getting professional help (talk therapy, behavioral therapy, etc.)
One last note…
As the author of this piece, I can speak to each of these fears – because I have experienced every single one. I understand how stifling they can feel, and I understand that there is no magic wand we can wave to make them go away. It takes constant practice – i.e.; making ourselves uncomfortable and dancing with these fears – that leaves us better equipped to identify and manage them over time. It’s a process, like anything else in this creative journey we’ve embarked upon. Be patient with yourself, and remember that the fears themselves cannot stop you. Only you can do that.
Now… what are you afraid of?