Some years ago I confided in a dear older friend, "Here I am thirty-nine years old and I'm still scared!"
As an artist I often feared: what if no one understands the work I put out in the world? What if I make something that causes people to react, offends, makes people angry or think less of me, or worse yet, what if they laugh or dismiss what I am doing as irrelevant or meaningless?" I was struggling with what I felt I had to do to please others and with what my soul begged to do.
My fear had immobilized me from trying so many things. It controlled my creativity and restricted my ability to approach my art with the total commitment and enthusiasm required to reach my full potential. It kept me from embarking on adventures, from meeting new people, and closed doors even before I reached them. It limited my opportunities and prevented me from fully embracing the life I had been given.
My dear friend closed the distance between us, held his hand out to hold mine and whispered, "I'll let you in on a little secret. We are all scared."
I looked at him in total shock and surprise. "What? You're all of what...fifty? And you're telling me you're still scared?" The most confident and capable person I knew was standing right before me telling me, in all seriousness, that he was scared too.
That encounter caused me to re-examine what it was I was truly afraid of. I realized that it wasn't so much that I would fall flat on my face but that there would be no one there to pick me up when I did.
The secret that my friend shared gave me faith that if I took the risk of extending my honest, inner-most self to others, there might be someone, either through their counsel or by example, there to assist and guide me through the scary times. The biggest revelation of my life came in the form of comfort in the knowledge that I wasn't alone, that everyone faces fears in life - fears that far outweigh the mere inadequacy and frustration that I was feeling by trying to lead a life of little consequence.
Making art got a whole lot easier.