Recently a friend of mine and I began reading a book together, The Artist's Way. We had decided that our creative sides could use a pick-me-up. I'd been complaining of "writer's block" while she seemed to have hit a brick wall with her painting. Eagar to shake things up and refresh our imaginations, we flew through the first chapter. In the end we noticed homework assignments waiting for us to instill what we had just mentally swallowed. Being a lover of questions and analyzing things, I was immediately thrilled! My friend, however, had a different reaction: panic. You see, while the exercises were put there as a means of support and assistance along the way, my friend saw them as a spotlight on her "flaws" as an artist. What caused this reaction in her?
Like my friend, I experience similar moments in my life. I see that a part of myself needs attention, I begin working to better that part of myself, and then: panic. Suddenly I'm hyper-aware of just how inadequate I feel I am in that area of my life. Overthinking, I give in to my insecurity and I tell myself "I can't", can't move forward, can't do better. I allow fear to guide me back to my comfort zone, where I can kick back in my big comfy chair of self-denial.
You see, we humans are capable of quite a bit. Far more than most of us ever give ourselves credit for. The growing pains of life are never really meant to go away as we are constantly learning new things and therefore capable of more. But we lack conviction - we lack belief. Often times we walk around feeling defeated, tired, lonely, believing in ourselves just enough to be able to say we tried, when we know that, honestly? We played it safe. Not because we couldn't do whatever it was, but because we were afraid we couldn't.
What was holding my friend back was fear of failure, fear of having proof that she couldn't be the artist she dreamed of being. It's easier to give in to the panic. It's easier to soothe ourselves, to stick to what we know. After all, we can't be disappointed if we don't try, right? You can't ruin your career if you don't go after that promotion at work, can't be humiliated if you put down the paintbrush, can't be turned down by numerous publishing companies if you don't write the book. But what would it look like if you chose to believe instead? What would happen if you paused, took a breath, and gave yourself a fighting chance?
After my friend expressed her concern for being able to complete the exercises from our book, I shared that, even if she believed that she could just answer one question, she was a success. There were no expectations, no one waiting around to be impressed. Faith in herself was the missing piece, the tool she needed to continue forward.
It's hard for me to believe that I'll be a great writer one day. I have big dreams, but they're so big they seem silly most of the time, unattainable. I struggle to stay steady, to keep trying and push past the fear that I may be wasting my time. But the more we try, the more we realize what we are capable of. There will be failures, but there will be success as well. So the next time you’re faced with the opportunity to grow, take a chance on yourself. This time, have just a little bit of faith that, yes, you CAN do this. Anyone can try, so give it a shot! Believe you can before accepting that you can’t, and see how far your dreams can really take you.
- Berea Bryant