I went to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak on the weekend while the hubby minded the kids. This was my first solo outing in seven months. A whole afternoon away from the kids at the Opera House with Elizabeth FREAKING Gilbert. You can imagine how excited I was. It was like winning the lottery, the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and finding a parking space at Coogee beach on a sunny Saturday all in one go.
Liz was talking about fear and creativity. I found this topic interesting (and quite honestly, would have gone to hear her talking about the mating habits of amazonian tree slugs if those things happen to exist) but I wasn’t 100% sold it was relevant to me.
You see, I have a lot of fears but I can’t say that I’ve ever felt particularly scared of writing. I mean, pens, notebooks, words, typing…. none of that sends warning signals to my amygdala that WW3 is about to break out.
Making telephone calls freaks me the hell out.
Having to return anything that I’ve purchased if it is faulty sends my sweat glands into overdrive.
Speaking in meetings makes me want to vomit, and driving….well, that’s the only thing thus far to send me into a full-blown panic attack.
But writing? Being creative? No – that doesn’t make me fearful. It’s the next step that causes me extreme angst.
The let-it-go step. That moment when you are clutching your figurative balloon – the one you breathed life into – and you have to let it out of your hands so it can float into the sky. So others can witness it and marvel in it’s magic. Or (and here comes the fear bit), so others can remark upon its unremarkableness. It’s ordinariness. Or heaven forbid, they might make no comment at all.
I guess there are a billion other people out there like me who are struggling with this concept of release. And there are a billion others who are struggling with the concept of getting started. These fears are paralysing us and if you looked around the room during Gilbert’s speech you would see a sea of nodding heads in harmonious agreement that fear isn’t just a figurative enemy. It is real. It is here. And it is crippling creative spirits.
I wrote a book five years ago. I had it illustrated and printed, and it looks and sounds like the real deal. But it isn’t the real deal. Not actually. Why? Because it isn’t published. I have ten copies quite literally gathering dust on top of my daughter’s bookshelf right now.
And why oh why isn’t this masterpiece published? Because I’ve been too scared to send it anywhere. And so, it gathers dust. And more dust. And because I’m too lazy to actually get it off the shelf and give it a clean, it gathers yet more dust. You get the picture.
Louise Hay is another author I dig, who has sold more than 50million copies of her “You can Heal Your Life” book which I’m currently re-reading and she attributes all fear (whether it’s about creativity or not) to one single self-limiting belief:
I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
I am not perfect, I am not worthy, I am not as good as them, no one will love me, I will only fail.
I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
Liz and Louise are on the exact same page with this message. And one that I realise is not only applies to my writing, but to my entire life. Why do I reject promotions? Why do I hate going anywhere that requires me to dress up and look beautiful? Why do I spend my baby swim classes worried that all mothers are judging me poorly because my son is screaming in the water?
Because, quite simply, at a soul level I do not believe I am good enough. I do not feel I have a worthy contribution to make to this universe and I hide behind this fear. And without a sense of entitlement, I do not feel like I can live a creative life.
The most important message of hope and inspiration that I walked away with from Liz’s talk was this.
“Defend your weakness and you get to keep it.”
If I keep blaming my anxiety or my perfectionism and using it as my excuse to NEVER TAKE PART, then I will always be giving it power. I will be defending my weakness from the creative spirit that is trying to break it down. I will be giving my weakness a strength it does not deserve and quite frankly, what good is that doing anybody?
I will allow fear to be present in my life, but I will not give it permission to rule my life. I will give myself permission to have a vote in this world – to contribute, to let my light shine. To risk ‘release’, and to let my beautiful balloons go.