Many people treat the new year as a blank slate: leave the struggles of the previous year behind and forge ahead to a brighter future. The trouble is that rolling over to a new year isn’t equivalent to a reset button, and we’ll most likely have to face the same struggles and fears we had last year again in 2016.
Cue new year’s resolutions! Making resolutions—and acting on them—helps us become better versions of ourselves. But fear can often get in the way, and if you’re anything like me, you may not even make resolutions so you won’t have to disappoint yourself if you fail to fulfill your goals for the new year.
Inaction, however, never did anybody any good.
With positive thoughts in mind and a whole year to look forward to, let’s recognize some of the common fears we share and work on overcoming them together.
Fear of Failure
This one’s a biggie. I’m sure nearly everyone can agree they’ve been afraid to fail at some point or other. Here’s the beauty of failure, though: Rarely are failures so monumental that you will have gained nothing positive from your experiences. We are human beings. We fail; we learn; we try again. Wisdom is born out of the ashes of failure, and from that newfound wisdom we are able to grow and turn our failures into successes.
If you’re approaching failure from an artist’s perspective, it might help to come to terms with the fact that not every work you create is going to be (or should be) a masterpiece. Liberate yourself from this kind of pressure, and you may even find your creative process improves so much that you actually produce better art!
Fear of Criticism
Whether you write a story, paint a portrait, or photograph wildlife, you leave a piece of yourself in everything you create, which is why it’s perfectly normal to feel vulnerable when listening to criticism. Receiving feedback on your work, no matter how constructive, is difficult. If you start to feel anxious when someone is sharing her opinion about your work, remember three very important things:
- Feedback from others allows us to gain valuable insight that helps improve our work and our processes.
- Constructive suggestions and questions never criticize the artist; rather, they are intended to analyze the piece as objectively as possible.
- Criticism is an opinion, and no matter how renowned a work may be, it is absolutely impossible to please everybody.
When you write authentically and not necessarily to make everyone happy, when you approach critics with humility and critiques with an open mind, you’ll discover that criticism is something less to be feared and more to be embraced.
Fear of Compromising Your Integrity
Some artists are confronted with a dilemma as they experience greater exposure or financial success: try to sell what you want to create, or create what you know will sell? There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing what you love and getting paid to do it, but if you worry about selling out, reassess your values and define how you measure your own success. If nothing else, focus on the people who already enjoy your work instead of fighting for the affection of a mass audience, and you’ll be more likely to produce authentic work that you can feel proud about sharing.
Fear of Rejection
We fear being told “no” because that two-letter word can send us on a path of self-destruction. I’m not good enough. My ideas aren’t worth sharing. Nobody cares about the story I want to tell. My work is meaningless.
Think about why you became a creator in the first place. Is your primary goal recognition and fame? Or would you rather connect with strangers and help people approach their lives from new, thoughtful perspectives? Once you start catering to other people’s preferences, your work loses value. Remain true to your own artistry, and people will respect you and your work more because of your authenticity.
Fear of Asking for Help
Humans can be pretty prideful sometimes, which is why we fight tooth and nail before we’ll even consider leaning on someone else for support. Many people perceive asking for help as a sign of weakness, or that somehow anything they may achieve will be invalidated because they didn’t accomplish it completely on their own. But the truth is no one has ever done anything without tremendous support. Think about your mentors, confidantes, and people you have never met who inspire you. Even Shakespeare never wrote a 100-percent original play—and he certainly didn’t perform them all by himself! It takes a village to help you achieve your goals, and you can pay it forward by helping the people in your life achieve theirs.
Fear of Financial Burden
Speaking from personal experience, we can’t always guarantee that we’ll get paid to do what we love. There’s no denying that money is important to our survival, so how do we reconcile our passions with the practical realities of everyday life? We alter our perspectives.
From a young age, we’re told that more money leads to more respect, which leads to more freedom, which leads to more happiness, and so on. The trouble with that philosophy is things like respect, freedom, and happiness can’t be quantified with dollar signs. Your income does not correlate with your worth.
I know what you’re thinking: That’s great, Anna, but self-worth doesn’t pay my rent. Trust me, I get it. Money pays for your bills and your food, but it doesn’t bring security—not in the way we perceive it does—because everything is fleeting. We must find our own value within ourselves and share it. Even if we have to earn a living doing something other than what we’re passionate about, it doesn’t mean it’s game over for the creative drive that brings purpose to our lives.
Fear is an evolutionary reaction intended to protect us from danger, but it can also prevent us from realizing our full potential. Avoiding what makes us anxious isn’t a way to overcome our fears either. Overcoming fear isn’t something that happens overnight, and it may not even happen this year. What is important is that we identify our fears and strive to minimize them so that we free ourselves from the self-imposed limitations that constantly tell us “we can’t.” I think 2016 looks promising, a year full of making decisions, taking action, and reminding ourselves that yes, we can.
About Annamarie Bellegante
Born and raised in Des Moines, Annamarie Bellegante has been searching for a way to connect with the book publishing community within her beloved hometown and is absolutely thrilled to join Brain Mill Press. She currently works as a Content and SEO Strategist for a local web design company, but in her spare time she attends a monthly book club, volunteers at church, enjoys time with family and friends, and goes on many Skype dates with her boyfriend Tom, who is pursuing higher education in Colorado. An avid book reader and tea drinker, Anna loves all things relating to storytelling, language, editing, and humans. Her hobbies include spectating and participating in the performing arts, and she is a huge fan of semicolons and the Oxford comma. In spite of her usual hesitation of using superlatives, Anna strives to live each day according to the best song written by the best band: “All you need is love.”