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Fear of fear

Don’t be scared.”

Easy to say, but there are still times that I get nervous whenever I let others see my artwork. Putting it out there for them to see, exposed to everyone to freely judge or ridicule makes me drown in anxiety and wonder if a real-life undo button exists. And it’s all because of this four-letter word that does a good job in scaring me out of my wits and giving me second thoughts about sharing my work.

In the book, Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, authors David Bayles and Ted Orland explored what gets in the way for the creative process of an art piece, and it pointed out that fear is a primary factor. It made famous artists, writers, and other creative people, doubt themselves.

Van Gogh, whose life was plagued with self-doubt and other psychiatric illness, is a perfect example. American author, Sylvia Plath, once said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt” and I agree as I can’t remember ever being fully confident with an artwork I made. There’s always the frustrating thought of not being good enough or that I could have done better which makes me give in to the fear. Not to mention other people telling you being an artist is not practical.

There’s no greater achievement in life than creating an impact to even just a few

According to psychology, fear is an autonomic reaction that happens without our conscious control. Meaning to say, we don’t know it’s happening until it has already happened.

But avoiding fear won’t work—fear is inevitable and we should accept the fact that it isn’t something we can get rid of. But for everyone who’s feeling the same way as me, what we can do is to face our fears and take risks until something happens—no matter how good or bad the result can be. For what’s worse than failing is not pursuing our dreams and the regret of not trying out what you can do—what your art can do.

Shifting the mindset I have about my fears from being anxious to having the desire of getting the things I’m afraid to achieve is a venture. You’d realize that it’s not that scary as you thought it was—or maybe it is a little, but persevering through it is a great opportunity to self-discovery—seeing something in ourselves that we never saw before, something that we can put to use. And as we go day by day, enjoying the things you want to do without worrying about other people’s judgement, it will help overcome the anxiety.

Everyone has a story inside that’s trying to put yourself out there and share it, and it doesn’t matter how you do it. It’s not going to be left unnoticed, because at least one person appreciates the things you do. And as an artist, there’s no greater achievement in life than creating an impact to even just a few. What more if your art can change the world or even just make it (slightly) a better place. It matters more than we think it does.

So, today, be courageous—not meaning fearless, but choose to create despite the fear. Then do it all over again.