I am currently reading the most incredible book. It was suggested to me by a fellow member of a meetup group I belong to for creative professionals in our neighborhood. She told us all about it, with raving giddiness and glee. I love a good book as much as the next person, especially if it is going to give me advice that will enable me to take my business and brand to the next level. I bought the book on Audible, and began to listen. Read by the author, her voice is so soothing and relaxing, and makes me feel instantly calm and inspired. That book is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Really, Lenore? What do you have to be fearful of? It's not like you're a brain surgeon, or a snake handler, or a bad-ass SPY. You paint cute little kid's faces for a living!" I fear because I'm human. Forget human... I fear because I'm a living being. All living beings fear. Like you... like EVERYBODY... I have LOTS of fears. Even fears that revolve around my incredibly awesome job. I mean... don't we all? Fear that I won't make enough money. Fear that I'll never manage to pinpoint my very own killer style. Fear that when I finally do, my style will go out of style. Fear that I will let a client down someday, somehow. Fear that I'll have to deal with a client that might be difficult to deal with, for whatever reason. Fear that somebody won't like the painting that I give them. Fear that I'm not pretty enough. Fear that I'm too fat. Fear that I'm getting too old to be cute anymore. Fear that somebody won't like me. Fear that I'll walk into a fancy party to do my thing, and I might trip over my shoes and land flat on my face. Blah blah blah blah BLAAAAH. My point is: WE ALL HAVE FEARS.
I used to work really hard at killing off my fears. I would say to myself, "SELF! You are NOT ALLOWED to feel fear anymore! Fear is getting in your way! Shut it UP! NOW!" And I would fight that fear. HARD. I would curse at it, and it would totally freak out and fight me back. And despite the crazy battle going on inside my head between Fear and me, I would still continue to go through the steps of waking up, showering, getting dressed, prepping my makeup kit, and getting ready for work. Muttering with great annoyance at Fear, who insists on shadowing me through the entire process. Turning my back on it until I could eventually drown it out with the sounds of excited and happy clientele as I got lost in the joy and bliss of my colorful creativity.
I frequently get asked about how to handle fear by other face and body painters who are newer to the industry than I am. New painters will ask me how to overcome their fears about painting at birthday parties. They are afraid of not being "good enough", and disappointing the children and their parents. Or they ask me about overcoming the jitters they feel before any kind of gig. "How do you always manage to stay so calm?", they ask me. And I have to laugh. I recently had two painters tell me that they want to put themselves out there and do more belly paintings, but that they feel a lot of anxiety about painting baby bellies. When I asked them what parts of belly painting they were fearful of, neither one of them could even articulate the cause of their fears. They only knew that they felt afraid to try it, despite simultaneously really wanting to. Fear of the unknown. I understand fear of the unknown. When newer painters in our industry I long to help would come to me and ask me how to overcome their fears, I felt conflicted on how to answer them honestly. Because, above all, I have to be honest. So I would admit to them that I am not without fear. I just "power through it", and remind myself that realizing that I still feel performance anxiety only means that I still really truly care about doing my absolute best. If I had no fear of failure at all, it might mean that I don't care enough anymore. I would tell them to embrace the fear as proof that they still care about pleasing their customers and doing their best. They would thank me profusely, and then I would go back to battling my own fears again. Like a silly unaware hypocrite.
Then I purchased the audio version of this book. And HALLELUJAH! I had an epiphany. Well... the author had the epiphany. But she shared it with me. Through the earbuds I had nestled into my ears while on the elliptical at my gym. She pointed something out to me that completely changed my life. Elizabeth Gilbert explains that Fear and Creativity are conjoined twins. They share many parts of the same anatomy, despite having two completely separate brains. If you try to kill off Fear, you risk killing off Creativity in the process. Instead, she suggests making space for Fear. Allowing it to stretch and live and breathe. The less you fight Fear, the less Fear fights you back. If I can relax, fear can relax too.
She goes on to say that she even has a little welcoming speech that she gives Fear, every time Creativity and she are about to do something inspiring and creative together. She says it goes something like this:
So to those painters who have reached out to me and asked me how to handle their fears about being new in the industry? The fears revolving around working their very first gig? Attempting their very first body paint? Promoting themselves to the public for the very first time? Painting their very first beautiful baby belly? Dealing with difficult clients? Etc...etc...etc...? I have a new bit of advice for you. Even better than what I told you before. Welcome the fear in. Give it room to breathe and be. But don't let it control you, or your creativity. Your passion for face painting, or body painting, or henna, or writing, or lecturing, or teaching, or promoting, or marketing, or...or... or. Allow it to come along for the ride. Just tell it to go sit in the corner while you and Creativity work and play... and never ever hand it a paint brush.
A lot of really magical and wonderful things are happing for me this month. I will finally be starting my journey as a face and body art instructor. Something I have been dreaming of for some time now. The opportunity to get to share my passion with others? And to get to help others as much as so many have helped me? BLISS. I have quite a few paintings booked, and jobs galore. And while I have been feeling so blessed for these wonderful opportunities, of course, I have also been feeling fearful and overwhelmed. What if I fail? What if I don't communicate everything I want to teach sufficiently? What if I run out of time to prepare? What if... what if... what if.
So thanks to Big Magic, I am not going to fight Fear on this one. Nope. Not at all. Instead, I am going to give it a welcoming speech of my own. And then Creativity and I will exchange knowing glances and a soft excited smile as we sit in the front seat of the car while Fear sits in the back. And Creativity will hold the road map and fidget with the radio, and play all of the best songs while we sing along at the very top of our lungs on our way to every gig, workshop and convention. And Fear will sit quietly while it relaxes a bit in the back seat and just stares out the window.
I GOT THIS. And so do you. ;)
Now go buy the book.
PS: A HUGE thanks to Astoria Creatives member Amanda Johnson for recommending this book to me!!! I will appreciate you for this ALWAYS and FOREVER!!! <3