I believe everyone has felt it–the trepidation of some crisis in the moment or on the horizon that must be confronted. Walking into certain battle is one moment of truth that none of us should ever have to face, being in the position of having to kill other human beings or be killed. In less extreme examples, there are terminal diseases to be faced, confessions to be made, speeches to be given and questions to be popped. Life presents all kinds of challenges to our courage and every instance could be a negative turning point in our lives if we let it get the better of us.
Simple and plain, the subject of this piece is how we should not let our fears cripple our creative endeavors. There are those who never finish writing a book because no edit is ever good enough to justify putting the manuscript out there for the world or even a publisher to read. There are lovely singing voices never heard in public for fear of humiliation. And there’s a painter somewhere now who wants to show the world his or her world on canvas but is hampered by lack of confidence in one’s own talent. To be hamstrung by our fears is to allow the magnificent mind that should be serving us to navigate this world take over to such an extreme that it practically makes us dysfunctional. Whether it is a general condition or specific to some small part of our lives, it’s unacceptable.
While the focus here is how insecurity in all its forms can render us ineffective in the arts, this goes much deeper and is broader in scope. Periodically plagued by varying degrees of anxiety due to a wide range of stimuli over the course of a lifetime, I have also been fortunate enough to gain knowledge of techniques on how to generate peace and joy for myself. Concentration, contemplation and meditation are wonderful tools for accomplishing this. I have found, however, in the last year that there’s a fine line between bliss and high anxiety. There’s an actual overlapping rush of emotion where the two meet in the heart or mind. When there’s an ongoing battle for the higher ground, I can feel near panic one moment and heartfelt joy the next. They even seem to coexist at times. How can that be?
I have to say it’s at these moments that we have to stand up to the fear and the cause of it to put ourselves in control. Even if that means letting the fear wash over us, perceiving it for what it is and moving on to what must be done. And what must be done can also include doing nothing. However one handles it, pushing through to the other side is the aim. John Wayne had a Duke-esque line that applies here.
We must get in touch with the courage within us or the fears can incapacitate us. The creative spirit can be overwhelmed and suppressed to a faint voice hardly heard from again. We cannot let this happen. In the inspirational book Everyday Greatness, the chapter titled Courage expands on the John Wayne line. “Those familiar with John Wayne can imagine the steel in his eyes, the swagger in his stance, and the drawl in his voice as he made the statement above. While saddling up in the face of fear required John Wayne to step up, courage most often requires us to step out–out from our comfort zones, out from our doubts, and out into uncharted waters.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the awareness that something else is more important. Courage can be displayed in heroic, visible ways, or in quiet, private battles we fight when attempting to conquer inner fears.”
As Anais Nin wrote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Another quote that illustrates my overall message comes from If It Ain’t Broke, Break It by Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler, “By embracing risk, you will accomplish more than you ever thought you could. In the process, you will transform your life into an exciting adventure that will constantly challenge, reward and rejuvenate you.”
So, I encourage you to throw the curtain aside when it seems too scary to see what’s behind it. Even if it’s just as difficult as you had feared, you will learn how strong you really are and find your lion’s heart along that yellow brick road.