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The Fear Experiment

Imagine living without fear: you wouldn’t last long! Fear exists in our bodies and minds to protect us. Some fear is inherent in our nervous system, programmed into our lizard brain to keep us from getting eaten by predators or starving in the wilderness. Some of these fears keep us safe, like the fear of driving off a cliff or cutting off our own limb. Other fears are impressed on us through traumatic experiences. These fears often seem irrational to others, but they live inside us in a very real way. Fears caused by trauma should always be processed with a mental health professional.

One other type of fear is imposed upon us through systems and “assumed structures.” These fears have been taught to us, often as a way to be sure we all “lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them,” as Henry David Thoreau once said. Sometimes we don’t even know these fears are holding us back. They include messages like “Be afraid to be different.” “Be afraid to challenge authority.” “Be afraid to be authentic.” “Be afraid to be imperfect.” “Be afraid to ask difficult questions.” THESE are the fears that often stand in the way between us and our authentic creative spark. THESE are the fears we need to name in order to “stop dwelling in them,” as a friend posted in a Facebook discussion about creativity and fear earlier this week.

Within these structural fears, there are two types of fears that stand in the way of us embracing our creative visions.

The fear OF Creativity:

This is the fear that’s telling you, in that monkey mind voice, that creativity is not a pursuit worth your time and effort. It’s telling you that making art, writing beautiful things, or spending time crafting is a waste. It tells you that you have better things to do.

The fear of exploring your own creativity:

This is the fear that’s telling you that YOU’RE not good enough in some way, and that you don’t deserve to connect with your authentic creative spark. Maybe you think the things you create will never be “good enough.” This is the voice telling you that you must be perfect, that you are an imposter (imposter syndrome), that what others think about what you do and what you make matters more than how you feel about it. Shelly Berc from Creativity Workshop says, “Fear of expressing our innate creativity as a thinking tool is counterproductive and often leaves us unable to think clearly and deeply at all. (. . .) As a matter of fact, rejecting or ignoring your creativity can leave you frustrated and feeling a great emptiness in your life.” This fear shatters our confidence daily and keeps us stuck in a box– usually an unhappy box where we’re giving 100% of our time and energy to others and keeping none for ourselves and our creative endeavors.

These fears can also be paralyzing. One of my favorite techniques for challenging these insecurities is to lead with curiosity and ask, “Who told you that?” For example, if you are sitting there right now, reading this and thinking of that short story you want to write, but then you say to yourself, “You don’t have time for that,” or “You’re not good enough to write a short story,” challenge that fear-based voice with curiosity and ask MORE questions. "Who told you that you don’t have time? How much time do you need? How much time is ENOUGH time?" Or “Who told you that you aren't good enough?” This one can be tricky because the world is full of people who love to tell us that we aren’t good enough. So a better question to follow might be, “Why does this person think I’m not good enough?” It usually has more to do with their own insecurities and ego than our own talent or potential. “What is good enough?” “Will I get better if I try?”

As we explored in our Magic Monday Minute, curiosity is a way to get us clear of our fear blockages and into a

mindset that welcomes experimentation, exploration, and growth. For our perfectionists out there, this is especially powerful. Curiosity inherently doesn’t rely on an outcome. Done right, it doesn’t have an agenda! It is exploratory by nature. The objective is simply to discover, uncover, and surface new ideas and concepts.

Creative Vision Lab fully embraces the concept of curiosity. It is the reason we call ourselves a “lab”! A lab lends itself to a space for curiosity and experimentation. The “lab” environment allows us a safe space to challenge our fears and see what happens. It’s a space where we can sit together and ask “Who told you that?” “Where did you get that idea?” The goal is to re-ignite your authentic creative spark-- Reach out if you'd like to work together to do that!

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