Last week my sister, Brooke, used her super-human wizarding skills to win free tickets to see X Ambassadors. (Seriously, you guys, she wins concert tickets all the time. It's a pretty weird and awesome skill.) Lucky for me, I got to reap the benefits of her dark magic and tag along. While I was watching the concert, I was so inspired by the performances that I just had to share.
The opening act was Seinabo Sey and she killed it. If you are unfamiliar with her, I totally recommend checking out this video. She's got pipes like Adele but paired with an edgier sound. What really struck me about her was her unapologetically simple performance. She wore a long dark coat that essentially hid her entire body and literally just stood and sang. No dance moves or glittery crop tops or fancy light shows. She was just like I wrote these songs and I'm going to sing the daylights out of them and you're welcome.
Then X Ambassadors came out and gave an equally strong, yet totally different performance. The lead singer was throwing guitars and dancing all over the place and just overall had amazing stage presence. It also added to the inspiration factor that so many of their songs are about self-acceptance and defying odds. (I mean, I know you've heard Renegade 1000 times on the Jeep commercial, but have you seen the video? So inspiring.)
So anyway, I was standing there admiring how brave both of these performances were and I thought how cool it must be to be that fearless. But these people are human. I can almost guarantee that they are not 100% fearless. The difference is that they are just owning who they are and giving it their all regardless of fears. I myself have to face fears that come along with my creative career all of the time so I wanted to share some of my methods on how I deal when I'm feeling less than courageous. Hopefully these tips might help you embrace your courage if you've been feeling stuck in fear.
1 Change Your Perspective on Fear and Failure
First off, not all fear needs to be tackled. Fear, especially in the form of an aversion to, say, alligator wrestling, is practical and keeps you safe. However, if you start to notice that you are being held back from life accomplishments because you fear things like looking foolish, being rejected, etc., then fear has become a problem. The good news is that it doesn't need to remain a problem. If you embrace fear as a challenge to conquer rather than an omen of doom, it can become a great motivator. Yes, this is easier said than done, but a simple trick is to pay attention to your language. Instead of saying, "I'm too nervous" or "I'm so scared," re-frame it in your mind as, "I'm so excited." If these phrases just made you immediately picture a caffeine-pill-induced Jessie Spano freak out, that actually works to my point. The reason "I'm so excited" can turn into "I'm so scared" is because the feelings are basically exactly the same. You have the power to control whether they take on a positive or negative tone.
While we're talking perspective, it's important to look at one's views on failure. This is a hard one for me and I've often put off starting tasks or following up on ideas because I'm not ready. Read: Everything is not perfect yet. If you are in a creative field, this simple mistake can be a career crusher because- spoiler alert- your work will likely never be perfect and it definitely won't be in the beginning. You know the saying: Strive for progress, not perfection. This video on storytelling from Ira Glass was a game-changer for me in this department.
I have had a tough time with both of these thoughts in my creative career when it comes to having a public presence. If you're a regular reader, you probably know that I'm extremely uncomfortable both with having my picture taken and public speaking. I have tried all the methods for getting better at both of these things (I even studied Communications for years), but I finally just had to face some facts: I am never going to be a perfect spokesperson. I have many talents and these two things are just not included in that list, and that needed to be okay. By accepting my shortcomings in these areas, I am freed from stress of perfection. It means those fears don't have to win. When an opportunity comes along to be on a news program or have photos taken for an editorial, I could easily say no because these things make me nervous. Instead, I have to choose to do my best, awkward and flawed as that may be, for the benefit of gaining exposure and furthering my career.
2 Find Your Guides
I can not say enough about the importance and value of mentors, especially when you are embarking in a more creative field, where the path may not be so clear. If you struggle with asking for help or advice, something that works for me is to realize how flattering it is to be on the receiving end of such favors. Imagine someone coming to you for guidance because they admire you as an expert in your field. It feels great, right? Keep in mind that your reaching out to a mentor might be a major boost in their day.
Secondly, find different mentors for different needs. For instance, my dad is an entrepreneur and has a life-long networking list so he's always a big help whenever I have a broad idea and need to know who to talk to or what the next step should be. I also have a few business-savvy Type A friends who are great to turn to when I need very specific guidance, such as send out X amount of networking emails this week to reach your X% desired growth rate. And then of course I have a few blogger and designer mentors that I admire to help guide and inspire me in areas that most people wouldn't be able to relate. As you can imagine, if I went to my dad for design help and my artist friend for business help, there's a chance I'm not going to get the optimal advice. It's important to know where to look for specific mentorship in order to maximize your results.
If you're like, "Okay, that all sounds good but how the heck do I even find a mentor?," this article has some great resources on getting started.
3 Get the Ball Rolling
There is an Elizabeth Gilbert quote that says, "All procrastination is fear." I realize that you are not shivering with fear in your bed at night because of that email you keep "forgetting" to send, but somewhere inside you, there is an apprehension. Are you afraid of getting back a rejection email? Are you worried that the recipient will think your request is ridiculous? Are you maybe just lacking the self-confidence to believe it could be well-received? Whatever the reason, it's important to do a little soul searching and get to the root of the problem if you are looking for permanent change.
That part is tricky, but the good news is that once you've addressed your fears, the act of conquering them is much simpler: you just have to do it. Simple, yes. Easy? Maybe not as much. You can make the job of tackling goals easier on yourself by breaking them into smaller, more doable chunks. For instance, if your dreams list includes, "start a blog," break it down into smaller goals like, "meet with a blogger friend for advice," or, "choose a blogging platform." The cool part about this is that once you start checking off manageable tasks, your confidence in your abilities will snowball, making it easier to face the bigger, scarier tasks on the list. From there, it's simply lather, rinse, repeat until you are clicking publish on your first post!
(PS- If you like this little doodle, make sure you're following me on Instagram, where I share more of my creative work. Send me a message and I'll make sure to follow back. :) )