Fear is a dangerous thing. We all have to find ways to deal with it and maybe even use it to our advantage. Unfortunately, I let fear make decisions early in my career, and I'm still feeling the effects. If you struggle with putting your work out in the open, maybe you can learn from my mistakes.
It can be easy for people in a creative field to associate their self worth with their work. Vulnerability is a daily reality. If you identify as a photographer, it can be intimidating to make your work available to be judged, accepted, or rejected; your skills and by proxy, your identity, are measured. This is what I dealt with during and shortly after graduating from college.
In this video, I talk about how I deal with fear now versus earlier in my career and how fear can be used to propel you forward.
Throughout my 20s, I worked in the photo industry, but instead of making images full-time like I wanted to, I kept my creativity at arm's length. It was close enough to point to and remind myself that I've done some work I was proud of at one time, but far enough away that I didn't have to test my skills, and in that way, I insulated myself from failure.
Of course, I didn't realize it at the time, but I was terrified of failing as a photographer. Being a photographer was who I was. It was how I introduced myself to people. I had thought of myself as a "photographer" since I was a teenager. I felt that if I failed as a photographer, then I would fail as a person.
That, of course, wasn't true. Even so, I became more preoccupied with not failing than succeeding. I didn't do work, and I became bitter towards people that did. I became depressed, and for a while, I gave up the idea of ever shooting again. It was that bad.
As I've neared my thirties, I've turned introspective. It took a long time to realize what I've written above and said in the video. Fortunately, I'm dealing with those feelings of fear and have started using fear to my advantage.
Now, more than failure, I fear regret. I regret letting fear make those decisions for me when I was just starting. Feeling that sting of disappointment now makes me not want any more, so I've made conscious decisions to address fear. I've learned to get excited if I feel afraid to approach a client, submit to a contest, or pitch an idea. That fear is a signifier that I should keep going, and that doing so will help me grow as a creative, as a business owner, and as a person.
Posting these things on a site that used to give me anxiety when I was younger is, I think, a step in the right direction. I'm writing this article for two reasons, the first being a therapeutic exercise for myself. The second reason is for anyone who might be going through something similar. I think if I had been exposed to someone talking about fear in such blunt terms earlier, I might have been able to call it what it was far sooner and do something about it.
How do you handle fear?