Fear Is Fuel

April 15, 2014

If you find yourself asking yourself [...] "Am I really an artist?" chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.  - Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Since you’re reading this, chances are you occasionally fancy yourself an artist of some sort. Maybe you write. Maybe you code. Maybe you design. Maybe you paint. Maybe you compose. Maybe you teach. Maybe it's something else. But whatever it is you do, chances are you consider your work a form of creativity, an expression of self. And you should because it's true.

You are an artist. 

It's also likely that this categorization seems ill fitting to you. It unnerves you a bit. It's intimidating. Calling yourself an artist seems loaded with pretense and forgery. A voice inside snidely mocks, You're not really an artist; you just wish you were. 

That inner voice is lying to you. You are an artist. That thing you're working on? It's your next piece and it's going to be on display for others to see. Feel a little nauseous? Good. All of your self-doubt, uncertainty, anxiety, and second-guessing can be summed up in one familiar word: fear. And here's the thing about fear - most people think it's an obstacle. It's not. 

Fear is fuel.

Fear fills you up with the necessary motivation to push forward, to persevere - to keep writing, coding, designing, painting, composing, teaching - when everything else in you wants to shut it down, call it quits, take your ball and go home. 

Fear reminds you that what you're working on is meaningful because you put meaning into it. 

Fear lurks around in the dark margins just outside the perimeters of your passion, waiting to pounce during your moment of weakness. It scrambles your priorities and tells you that there are better things to do right now. There aren’t. 

Fear comes at you in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you’re afraid to fail. Often you’re afraid to be vulnerable. Other times you’re afraid that what you’re working on simply isn’t very good. 

Fear will never go away. No amount of success from your previous work can alleviate the fear that will inevitably accompany the next thing you’re working on. 

But here’s the secret about fear. Fear is afraid of you.

Fear is afraid of what you might become and what you might accomplish if and when you overcome it. Fear is sheep in wolf’s clothing. It’s sharp fangs and fierce claws are made of flimsy half-truths and archaic standards for how things once were, not how things could possibly be. Fear always attacks from behind. It pulls at your collar, trying to choke you back into the stale safety of status quo. Fear can only see in black in white. It can only read in numbers. 

But you – you are an artist. You see in color. You’re fluent in the language of dreamers and pioneers. You’re not interested in status quo. 

There’s no need to be afraid of fear. It’s afraid of you. And it’s behind you, chasing you, trying to catch up, scared to death that you’ll leave it behind and move on to something bigger and better. So let fear come and then leverage it. Lean into it, judo toss it like a rag doll, and ride the momentum straight on into that rare and blissful place we call inspiration. You own fear, it does not own you.  


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JAY KIM
Writer, Speaker, Ramen Consumer
@jaykimthinks  ::  jaykimthinks.com