2004. This is me: twenty-two years old, fresh out of university, rife with (liberal) idealism, determined to prove that I was going places in life (probably going to save the world), and I was going to do it all on my terms… which is probably why I had no problem quitting one job after another for a too-long period of time.
I was the type who could kill a game of Trivial Pursuit but was a perpetual loser at the game of workplace dynamics. I let people get under my skin — the girl who frequently drank from my coffee mug, the boss who cried because his superiors reminded him of “the kids who laughed at me from the back of the bus,” the office assistant who asked me to join her Mahjong group because I was “probably very good at Chinese games” (I’m not Chinese…).
In each of these situations (and more) I became so focused on the negativity in my workplace and forgot that I was there to do a job — a job that I had, at one time, wanted and felt passionate about. Eventually I gleaned enough experience and insight to realize that every job would come with… mmm, shall I say colorful?… co-workers and eye-rolling drama, but if I simply stayed focused on my work and took everything else with a grain of salt, I’d probably end up happier.
So… what does resolving my workplace issues have to do with fear in creative living? Well, the solution to both was actually one in the same.
Are You Blocked by These Common Fears?
There are so many things that prevent us from indulging our creative sides, but the most basic emotion behind all of them is fear:
- We’re afraid we’ll fail, that we’ll never truly be good at it.
- We’re afraid of what others will think.
- We’re afraid that we’re not original enough, that every idea’s been done before.
- We’re afraid that it’s too frivolous, indulgent, not important or adult enough.
- We’re afraid that it’s too late to start something new.
- …and so on.
Now, I think that a little bit of fear is normal, healthy, and rational. But anxiety and self-doubt, two derivatives of fear, are things that don’t deserve our full attention. So what do we do? How can we get rid of these thoughts, these annoying little voices that hold us back?
Moving Beyond Fear & Anxiety
In general, these are the two things that worked for me:
1) Understanding that (just like colorful co-workers) anxiety and self-doubt will never fully go away. Even when we start exuding confidence, there will always be someone — an Internet troll, an in-law, some jerk at a cocktail party, a judgy acquaintance — who will question and criticize, and their words will feed our fears all over again. So instead of trying to eliminate fear, we have to…
2) Diminish our fear, reduce that negative voice to background noise. How? Well, it helps to imagine it as somebody else, like an annoying co-worker who’s always around (ha!) but one that you’re just over and no longer pay direct attention to.
This notion of treating thoughts, especially negative and anxiety-ridden thoughts, as another entity that you can separate from is called “the realm of no mind” in some Eastern cultures. This idea (warning: I’m about to go terribly cliché on you) was explained really well by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now, where he writes:
The mind is using you… It’s almost as if you were possessed without knowing it, and so you take the possessing entity to be yourself. [But] you are not the possessing entity [and] knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you start watching the thinker a higher level of consciousness becomes activated… You realize all the things that truly matter — beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace — arise from beyond the mind.
You’ll Never Know Unless You Try
So that’s it, really. To some, it sounds overly simple; to others, it sounds like a tremendously difficult thing to do… to separate yourself — your true and creative, fun, ambitious, and beautiful self — from the fears and anxieties that are not innate to you. But if you can do that, doors will open; you’ll see a path forward and will soon be immersed in that thing you already know you’re passionate about.
Doesn’t that sound lovely enough to make you want to try? 🙂