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Archive for the ‘fear’ Category

Bear

My younger daughter is attending Girl Scout camp. She’s participating in lots of traditional camp activities like first aid and rock climbing and archery. They’ve made God’s Eyes (those yarn wrapped popsicle sticks that provided days of fun when I was a kid too), and duct tape pouches and they’ve tie-dyed shirts. They’ve sung many, many silly songs and chant-alouds (those not-quite-songs that children echo after a camp counselor) and memorized the hand motions that accompany them; songs that get stuck in their heads so they sing them not only at camp, but at home too, over and over again. (more…)

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I hate it when I overthink things. And I overthink things a lot. How about you? I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post for more than a year now. Really. And for about 6 months before that. Each time I spend so much time considering ALL the possibilities. Seriously I consider every last one of them, which keeps me from writing anything at all.

Maybe you can’t relate. Maybe you’re just one of those people who just decides to do something and does it. You want to learn to draw, BAM! You go pull out a pencil and start drawing. Maybe after a couple of hours you pull up a video and watch it or grab a book at the library the next time you’re there because, hey it couldn’t hurt to see if they have anything useful to say now that you are drawing. If that’s you, then this blog post is gonna feel really foreign to you, I bet. Just for giggles, here’s what my process would look like if I wanted to learn to draw:

  1. Decide I’d like to draw.
  2. Think about it for months to see if I really want to learn to draw.
  3. Pin a bunch of articles about drawing on Pinterest.
  4. Start a list of a bunch of YouTube videos I could watch about drawing but read all the comments first to see if it’s a worthwhile video about drawing.
  5. Start to doubt the negative reviews on YouTube, remembering that people complain about every little piece of minutia. But skip the videos anyway in case the critics were right.
  6. Get out all the art supplies- pencils, colored pencils, sharpeners, paper, ink etc.
  7. Stress for at least one week that I have all the wrong supplies.
  8. Go to an art store, walk around, feel overwhelmed, go home with nothing.
  9. Get onto Amazon, load up my cart with arts supplies – never buy any of it.
  10. Mention that I’m thinking about drawing to a friend and then tell them all the reasons (excuses) I’m not actually drawing yet
  11. Feel guilty when my friend, completely non-judgmentally asks me why I don’t just pick up a pencil and draw if that would make me happy?
  12. Finally pick up my pencil, draw for two minutes, decide I can’t possibly be any good at it, become completely anxious and walk away.
  13. After a few hours, contemplate taking a drawing class.

This is Olympic level overthinking people! Trust me, don’t try this at home.

I was going to explain to you all the reasons I haven’t been writing for a long time. I felt like I couldn’t just start writing again without some sort of explanation. But then I couldn’t figure out which pieces to tell you, what would make sense, what you would care about, etc. etc. etc. Overthinking for the win once again.

You know what overthinking is? It’s fear and perfectionism swirled together in a lethal combination. It’s that misguided, bat-shit crazy notion that if I just consider and reconsider and re-reconsider all the possibilities, I am going to be able to figure something out and then execute it perfectly and not make any mistakes and not disappoint anyone and…and…and…

And we all know where this leads.

So today, I’m trying to not let the overthinking beat me.

Here’s what you need to know:

My blog is going to change. It needs to change, because I burned out trying to be someone I wasn’t, trying to impart wisdom I didn’t have. I’m going to fumble and misstep and I’m going to try to be more authentic and vulnerable and I’m going to fumble around that too. I’m going to try for a more, here’s where I am, show me where you are and maybe we can muck through this whole messy life thing out together, sort of vibe.

I’m predicting I’m gonna look  a lot like this at first:

train-wreck-67775_1280

 

And it feels a lot like this at the moment:

 

parachute-704416_1280

But I‘m gonna try to remember to have fun even through the fear.

I hope you’ll join me.

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Robin

Robin

Several of my friends know that I used to dabble in comedy writing and most people who know me could easily surmise that I’m a huge fan of comedic movies and personalities. So recently, more than one person has asked why I haven’t blogged about Robin Williams’ death.

The truth is, (more…)

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Earlier this week, I wrote an article about how mothers should consider themselves “awesome moms” instead of “good moms.” It was an article essentially about changing the focus from striving to be perfect (and looking for all the places where we fall short) to remembering how awesome we might really be. If you are interested in reading the article, you can find it here. The article seemed to strike a chord with a number of my readers including quite a few people who weren’t mothers themselves.

Perfectionism in all it’s horrible, insidious forms is deadly to a creative spirit. Perfectionism isn’t a quest for better output, it’s a death sentence to creation. It’s the hiss in the back of your head that tells you you aren’t good enough, your creation isn’t good enough and will only be enough if you reach some mythical, unattainable and unspecified level. Perfectionism is fear in sheep’s clothing.

Here’s an old joke… A tourist walks up to a New Yorker and says “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” and the New Yorker responds “Practice, practice, practice.” Essentially that’s what all creativity is- repetition towards mastery. Practice is everything you do in every creative endeavor- and in any new endeavor period. Perhaps your practice level finally rises to such a high level that many people confuse it with perfection but you will always find ways to improve. And if you don’t? Then you are either in utter denial or you’ve lost the passion for what you are doing and it’s time to move on to something new.

Creative people judge themselves as harshly as mothers do. I see it all the time.  In my coaching practice, I spend hours listening and de-programming unbelievably creative people who try to tell me that they are different than everybody else and that what they do isn’t enough. I don’t know about you, but I would rather spend my time feeling like I am awesome instead of falling short all the time. Thankfully there is only one thing it takes to consider yourself creatively awesome:

  • You spend time doing creative things

Yup, that’s it. Really.

Now here is the tricky part. You are going to deny your awesomeness with statements like:

  • I don’t practice enough
  • I’m not disciplined enough
  • I’m too old to be good
  • I’m too young to be good
  • I don’t make any money at what I do
  • I have a “real” job to pay the bills
  • I’m not published
  • I don’t have a manager
  • I don’t play out enough
  • When I {write, paint, compose} it doesn’t {read, look, sound} like I want it to
  • People think I’m good at this but if they really knew who I was they would see I’m a fake
  • I must not be meant to do this because it’s so hard
  •  I spend all my free time watching tv/playing on the computer so clearly I don’t want it enough
  • I’m not nearly as good as {J.K Rowlings, Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, Justice Ginsburg, etc.)
  • I’m not as good as the people who are creating around me
  • No one does anything like the way I do it
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Yeah. Don’t do that. Seriously.

Do you know they did a study of student musicians at a university to see if they could determine what traits were most likely to predict which students would become top-level professional musicians versus students who didn’t?  They discovered success (as they defined it) occurred based simply on the amount the students practiced. At that point and moving forward innate ability had  nearly nothing to do with projected success.

You are creative simply because you engage in creative acts. That’s it — and I don’t care if your creative act is welding a thirty foot sculpture or writing a tiny little note from the Tooth Fairy to your daughter. You are creative and you get more creative the more you practice. AND where you are right now is not just okay, it’s awesome.

It’s hard, because we love to find those places where we imagine we fall short. We do it all the time. We hold ourselves accountable for a level of perfection we would never dream of asking of anyone else in our lives. So, if practicing something is the way to get better at it, here’s your assignment to practice. And it’s a hard one, so you are going to have to do it over and over and over again. It’s your personal Carnegie Hall.

I want you to try and acknowledge who you ARE instead of what you do.

And who you are is AWESOME.

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Fear Factor

Last year I came out of my house when I heard two of my dogs barking in a really unusual manner.  Looking into the back yard, I saw a groundhog had wandered through the fence- probably trying to reach my garden. The dogs had cornered it and were snuffling its fur, jumping around trying to convince it that they meant it no harm and were inviting him to play. Unfortunately, groundhogs have no desire to learn to speak dog so this poor guy just wanted out and fast.  As soon I realized what was going on, I called the dogs off. The moment they turned to come to me, that groundhog took off, squeezing itself though the fence, running across the field and practically diving back back into the woods.

Fear is a powerful force in our lives. It’s an emotion solidly programmed into our DNA- too much in fact. Science has proved that our brains cannot tell the difference between perceived and real danger. Swimming in the middle of a shark feeding frenzy – that’s real danger. Getting up in front of a shareholders meeting to tell them about how your company has been functioning during the last year – that’s perceived danger. In most cases, they aren’t going to try and eat you during your presentation. The trouble is, biologically, your body reacts the same way to real and perceived danger. Your heart rate and breathing increase, you produce a surge of cortisol (among other chemicals), and your brain fires off either a fight or flight response. Fear was a really important warning system when we lived in caves and weren’t always the top participant in a food chain. And it still has a place today, it’s just that no one has told the brain that the fear response really needs to be downsized, there just isn’t the same demand for it any more.

Fear is what keeps us stuck in our lives.  It’s what prevents us from changing even when we yearn to change, when we know we need to change. It keeps us from taking risks, from creating, performing or really putting ourselves out there. Fear causes us to contract into ourselves when what we really need is to expand. I guarantee if you want to understand why you aren’t making progress with something in your life, ask yourself, “what am I afraid of?” and you will learn what is blocking your path.

So if fear is biologically programmed into our systems to be trigger-happy and overactive, what do we do when fear is running our lives or blocking our growth, creativity and energy?  We confront our fear, one tiny little step at a time.

That groundhog I talked about?  After “the incident” we didn’t see him for about a week. Then one day he reappeared at the edge of the woods. For a couple weeks, he’d take a few steps out of the woods, see the dogs and instantly disappear right back into the brush. Over the next month, he’d coming out farther and farther into the field.  He’d still run back to safety when the dogs appeared – at first. And then he realized, the dogs were behind the fence – they couldn’t actually get to him. So he started standing his ground. He’d stop eating and watch them as they came up to the fence, barking and calling to him. He’d assess if there was any real danger, checking to see if anything had changed since the last encounter. When he realized they still couldn’t reach him, he’d go back to eating. Now he eats maybe ten feet from them and ignores them completely.  They can bark and call and scratch and jump as much as they want, and he’s not afraid because he knows that on that side of the fence they are just a perceived danger.

So can you stand your ground when your fear response kicks in long enough to discern whether or not it’s a real or perceived danger?  You can – a little bit at a time.  The more you expose yourself to fear, the less power it holds over you. Remember, it’s not an all or nothing proposition. Taking small steps forward help you overcome fear.  Just ask the groundhog.

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