Fear, Panic and The Addiction To Yes

by seanlow on November 9, 2017

Change is really, really hard.  If you intend to move to another place in your creative business, as opposed to just putting window dressing on what you already have (lipstick on a pig?), you are going to have to risk the status quo.  Nobody wants to be wrong or to realize that good enough just is not.  So we invest in staying stuck, impose artificial limitations on ourselves that, ironically, keep us safe.  When confronted with real change, fear kicks in, fight or flight or in many cases stubborn resistance to anything other.  Even if you move your art and your creative business towards the change you seek, the shadow anchor is always there, ready to pull you back whenever there is a shred of evidence of “this will not work”.

It is far too easy to say you have to persist, fight through your fear, believe in the change you seek.  Like telling any addict that you have to have willpower and faith to beat the addiction.  No, you need humility and you need support from those who have been where you are and/or are willing to walk the path with you.  Again, though, too easy to give yourself over to a group or a teacher or a guide to have yourself and your creative business saved.  Nobody has the answer except for you.  Support only matters if you are ready to actually walk the path to another place.

Let’s then get real about fear.  Fear is not about losing business (you never had it in the first place), nor is it about having your creative business fold, nor about not making enough money.  No, fear is about rejection, having someone else see you and your art and say “no thanks”.  Most of us will do just about anything to avoid the raw and absolute “no thanks”.  Our response to the (potential) rejection is to hide.

Here is what hiding looks like: creating art that you are not proud of, for a price that does not work, for a client that does not really care about what you, your art and your creative business offers.  There may be sprinkles of yes in your world (with clients that truly value you and your art), but they are dwarfed by the volume (maybe number, but definitely noise) of those that do not.  Neurosis is acting out behavior you know to be destructive and irrational over and over again.  The momentary high is dwarfed by the reality and scope of the decision.  Feeling the “Yes” from any client overwhelms the notion that you NEVER want a “yes” from the wrong client.

Before you think me condescending, let me say we are ALL scared and fear bites us all at some point.  I have chased more than my fair share of nightmares, all along deluding myself that it would work out if and only.  It never did and it never does.  The wrong client is wrong for the simple reason that they just do not care about what you and your creative business care most about.

We hear all the time about letting go, focusing on your strength, having confidence, faith in yourself and your creative business.  Lovely thoughts that you cannot buy a cup of coffee with.  You need to be rooted in a foundation of why.  Why you are an artist, why your art matters, why you are worthy of the responsibility to create your art for your clients, and why tomorrow’s version of your art and your creative business will always be better than today.  All of these whys are real, tangible concepts you need to live by and forever work on.  You cannot face the fear of rejection without them.  And even with your whys, you may still be bitten by the fear of rejection, it is that strong.

The exercise is this – change happens drip by drip, detail by detail, moment by moment.  You have to go through the Dip to get to the other side.  This means when you actually need to be rejected by someone you care about and who cares about you, your art and your creative business.  You have to ask yourself in this moment if you are hiding in some way.  Then you have to become more raw, not less.  More resolute in your mission not fuzzier. You will be afraid, you will panic, you will think your world might end.  It will not, certainly not the world you truly wish to inhabit at least.

The specific work is this — what is the one thing you absolutely have to have in your creative business — maybe a minimum budget, size of project, type of project, type of client.  The one thing that you just have nothing if you do not have.  Write it down and then figure out how many places you can insert this absolute need into the fabric of your business — website, social media, contract, client conversations, etc.  Let’s say no less than five places and then do it.  Today.  Standing for something is what matters when it comes to getting through your fear only if it is front and center for everyone to see.

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