Use fear to know what you care about

I got these great perspectives on fear from “Creative is a verb” by Patti Digh:

It’s through knowing WHAT we fear that we know what we CARE about and how we measure our worth.


Fears about artmaking fall into two families: fear about YOURSELF, and fears about YOUR RECEPTION BY OTHERS. In a general way, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.

You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.
John Mason.


Create, creation, creative, creativity, creature. Or: How to build your Confidence muscle.

When I went to university, I did some psychometric tests, which resulted in being told that I did not show enough creativity for my intelligence.

I did not really know what to do with this information, but ended up buying some colouring books to colour in. Sad, I know.

Fact of the matter is, though, because of that statement the course of my life had been altered. I suppose I tried harder to incorporate some aspect of creativity, even though it might have been some skewed personal kind of version. Like making a dress of discarded curtains or decorating a beige pinafore dress with old buttons. It went cling when I walked… nobody actually laughed at me, although I don’t know what happened behind my back.

But creativity is not only about what you are able to make with your hands or using interesting or appropriate colours. It is being able to adapt to whatever life throws at you. I think it might have more to do with a positive and courageous attitude to life than being able to draw lifelike pictures in charcoal.

Cat Bennett in The Confident Creative gives some practical ways to make quantum leaps in our creativity:

  • Work big – shed the shyness, be bold.
  • Exaggerate – see what you’re doing, then open your eyes again (*Terry Pratchett reference alert!!*) Consider all things and decide. Focus on one thing in all its detail or focus on relationship of all things. See clearly.
  • Buy pricey paper – this help us be bold and confident.
  • Rip it up – know when you’re going nowhere fast. Rip it up! Stop it! Throw it away!
  • Kiss perfection goodbye – simply explore. It’s ok to be wherever you are, even if you’re uncertain. You need to start somewhere.
  • Let go of control – allow the unknown to emerge…
  • Say farewell to feeling intimidated – don’t compare yourself to anyone! Rather note what turns us on in the work of others and what turns us on in our own work.
  • Breathe deeply – breath is energy. Relax and let go of tension and worry.
  • Be honest – things are as they are; we are as we are; just here, naked, vulnerable, open, a little (or a lot) rough around the edges…
  • Love – if we love ourselves, despite disappointments, it’s easy to keep moving forward.
  • Be foolish – go too far. That’s how you find out where the edge is!
  • Have courage – fear is imagining or expecting a negative outcome and feeling powerless. We can choose to imagine a positive outcome.

Bennett might have compiled this list with drawing and painting in mind, but they sure do apply to life in general (and for that matter, karate!) too. Except maybe the one on buying pricey paper!

Fear and excitement, two sides of the same coin

After my pity party the other day I, of course, turned to my coping mechanisms. Any form of carbs (as there were no chocolates available at the time :-)) and books.

I found some peace of mind in You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought by John-Roger and Peter McWilliams.

Thoughts are lenses through which we look at our world. If you try to NOT think of something, you will certainly be thinking about that something.

[There’s a scene in one of Terry Pratchett’s books where Granny Weatherwax manages to not think of that proverbial pink elephant, simply because she had no idea what an elephant is. It’s of course much more entertaining in HIS words…]

Our brain might be the hub for all our senses, but it doesn’t know whether our thoughts are the truth or not. And therefore, whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right…


You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Mind you, no “horrors” here. Just petty stuff trying to break this camel’s back :-).

Virgil Thomson once said:
“Try a thing you haven’t tried before three times – once to get over the fear, once to find out how to do it, and a third time to find out whether you like it or not.”

Fear and excitement are two sides of the same coin. What we think of as negative, fear, and positive, excitement, is the same sensation! The only difference is what we choose to call it.

Fear limits destroy: face it – have I gone mental?

Raj Persaud wrote in his book Staying Sane that you should know your limits, and then destroy them. He writes about mental health, as you probably deduced from the title of the book. Most of us, supposedly, know how to look after our physical health, you know… exercise… eat right… that kind of thing (although you’ll agree that knowing is not necessarily doing 🙂 ). But we do not necessarily know how to take care of our mental health. Says Persaud.

Our natural response to stress is to withdraw. It makes sense to try and avoid something if we’re anxious about it. But we are obviously not facing our fears if we operate in this manner. And we’re definitely not being open to what life has to offer…

Facing your fear means feeling scared, frazzled, dishevelled… you get the idea? But you feel worse only in the short run and once you’ve faced the fear, you feel better in the long run. Facing your fear is better for your mental health. Because it also does wonders for your sense of achievement. And it motivates you to try other scary things as well. And then you feel happy.

Although Persaud claims this is not happiness, but pleasure. He believes happiness is a long-lasting, overall contentedness often confused with pleasure, a temporary sensation which results from a good thing happening in your life. But hey, a rose by any other name…

So, the big indicator of how mentally tough you are, lies not in your reaction to the good life. No, that would be too easy. It lies in your response to bad/negative events.

The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one minute to the next – Mignon McLaughlin

Even heroes feel scared. But they become heroes because the fear doesn’t stop them from acting. Acting in spite of fear… Acting in spite of negative thoughts… acting in spite of negative self-talk…