3 Steps to Transform Fear in the Shadow Artist

When it comes to putting myself "out there" as a creative person I go through a series of emotions. Fear is, of course, the biggest one. That's the emotion that comes loaded with lots of little fears attached and they shoot out like a web that goes all the way back to 6th grade. One fear strand might be about my concern with being judged by others, and whether or not they will accept me and my ideas. Another strand will harp on my general inexperience and a forever lack of knowledge about my craft. I will never know enough. I will never be skilled enough. Then there's the fear strand that is a bit more complicated. This fear wants me to focus on how my creative idea is SO good that if I put it out there and it's not recognized/validated/praised, then I will be sorely disappointed. If I give into this fear then I will retract into myself and blame the world for not recognizing my unique gifts. I will isolate myself from the world. I will bitterly resent others' successes and criticize their works. All the while not producing my own work.

These types of fears are part of the shadow side of the Artist Archetype. If you consider yourself an artistic or creative person then you will recognize these fears intimately. They might even make you cringe because of how closely you know them! It's easy to identify with reoccurring fears because even though they keep our vibration low to the ground we feel safe with them. They keep us from getting hurt and feeling vulnerable. Fears can act as a protector in potentially dangerous situations (fight or flight!), but when it comes to our artistic process we can mistake our fear of being seen as a means of survival, and we forget to thrive.

So how can we start breaking this fear cycle? 

As most things go, transforming the fear brought on by the shadow artist takes time. It is an ongoing process and should be thought of as something that we're always working through, not something we ultimately conquer. It's about transforming old programming and creating healthier systems so that not only can our ideas thrive, but we can thrive as well.

Here is a short flow of steps that you can do either daily or as your fears arise. This process is a culmination of my own artistic process and working through fear, as well as tools I've learned from mentors along the way. As most new healthy habits go, it's best to practice these steps regularly in order for the new habit to take root.


What does your fear look like?

The fear that I have may not look like yours. What does your fear look like to you? What does it feel like in your body? Does it have a face or a shape? A certain color or smell? What's its catch phrase? When I can spend even just 1 minute sitting quietly with my fear I can start to make out a shape (my fear looks like a whiney little troll figure that shouts from the corner of the room, standing tall at about 6 inches. Usually I can feel that fear in my stomach, or 3rd chakra area. Lots of scowling and nervous energy going on. Not cute.) When we see that our fear has a form then you can begin to objectify it. Our fear's power over us starts to diminish the moment we can take a good hard look at it. We can start to see that the fear is actually separate from who we are.

Exercise: Sit quietly with yourself and visualize your fear. Give it a personality. Draw this fear in your sketchbook or write about it in your journal. Spend about 10 minutes visualizing, and 10 minutes sketching or journaling on this.


Who are you without the fear?

What are your powers? What makes your particular flavor of creative energy different? Really get into the nuances of your fearless existence - would you smile more? Travel more? Speak louder? How would your body and soul feel if it was freed up from the space that this fear has been taking up? Does your mind feel lighter? What kind of clothes would you wear? (yes, even your clothing style might change!)

Exercise: Reflect on your story and visualize your creative life without fear. In your journal write and/or sketch how it would feel to create without that pesky fear troll. Don't be afraid to get extra detailed with this. Let yourself dream it up!


Step into the unknown.

Not every moment of artistic expression has to be this elaborate grand entrance. A great way to build up to the grand entrance is through a series of small entrances. Dip your toe across that threshold. Let people see your works in progress. What happens when you regularly step into unknown territory? Eventually it becomes way less scary, and way more exciting! You start to actualize your ideas and see them as being outside of yourself, instead of holding them so tightly that they become victim to your fear. The more you do this the more empowered you become, and the more emboldened you will be to create.

Exercise: Make a list of small entrances that you can complete in a month and put them on your calendar. Come up with one small entrance a week to start.

Do them.

For example: Ask a colleague or someone you know and respect to offer a critical eye or ear towards your work (someone who will offer constructive feedback. Not your mom or best friend). Use social media for what it's actually helpful for and post a photo of your work even if it's not finished.

You may receive loads of feedback, maybe even very positive feedback! But the feedback isn't the focus here. The focus is that the more often you invite moments of "being seen" into your life, the more familiar that feeling will become. 

After each small entrance reflect on how it felt and record the feelings that arise. Take it easy on yourself, and try to forgive any judgements that may come up. Remember... it's an ongoing process that cannot be mastered!


I hope that by sharing a little bit about my own process I can help nudge anyone who's feeling stuck in their own fears. What has been your method for working through fear in your creative process? I would love to hear about your experience and what has worked well for you in the past, or what continues to be a struggle. 


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