Killing my potential: I have a fear of success

Guest post by MalPal
Drawing by MalPal.
Drawing by MalPal.

I graduated from college three years ago. I stepped off that stage, smiling brightly, clutching my shiny new art degree, ready to etch my name on this world. The air was sweet with promise. A few years went by and that smile was replaced with a scowl and the air tasted bitter with resentment. I looked at my list of life goals and realized that most of my dreams were still just dreams. I was crestfallen and, quite frankly, furious with the world for doing this to me.

The economy is in the crapper! The middle class is shrinking into non-existence! The job market is bleak! I spent a few years becoming more and more frustrated with the world. One day I realized something, it wasn’t the world; it was me. It was actually all my fault.

I’m not trying to play the martyr here, but it seriously was my fault. I got a degree as an artist. I knew from the start that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had the talent, the passion, and I had those damn dreams. I also had something else though: fear. Fear of failure and fear of success. That second part might sound really dumb, but I did. Let me explain.

I hadn’t been sitting around twiddling my thumbs for three years, I had been working hard. I searched for freelance gigs and full-time art jobs. I decided to start attending life drawing sessions. I came up with about twenty different ideas for bodies of artwork that support a cause I’m passionate about. I wrote three children’s books. I added new work to my portfolio. I sculpted custom art toys. I designed a mobile app. I started a social network with a programmer friend. Dude, let’s be honest, I sound kinda awesome.

Except, my fear of success killed every. single. one. I never went to a life drawing session. I did one or two art pieces for each concentration idea and then abandoned it. I never submitted my children’s books. I wasn’t forward enough to snag an opportunity in the designer toy market. My mobile app was killed. The social networking site still says “Coming soon” despite putting six months of work into it. I only applied to three jobs — of the hundreds I looked at and bookmarked, only three.

Why the hell would I do this? Am I lazy? No. A hard worker? Definitely. Unreliable? Not at all! I was simply afraid.

I was comfortable in my little life. Nothing pushed me outside of my comfort zone. The world outside my bubble was scary. If I were to actually succeed, I might choke. I would be forced to learn new things and stand out. Some part of me just wanted to blend in with the crowd. If people noticed me, they might not like me. They might not like what I do. I’ve abandoned ideas if I thought people could get upset or offended. Also, if I succeeded, then I could fail. If I didn’t aim high, maybe the fall wouldn’t kill me, but that means I could never reach those mountaintops. This is where my fear of failure is all wrapped up in my fear of success. So instead of pushing through my fear, I just stopped. My fear wins.

Fear is nothing more than an instinctual response to perceived danger. But, unless that life drawing session is filled with rabid velociraptors, there isn’t any real danger.

Now, I wouldn’t say those years were a waste. I drew, a lot. I dabbled in a bunch of different things and now know that I have a love for drawing animals, and that I should probably leave the social network-building to Zuckerburg. Of course, I wish some things had gone differently. If given the chance, hell yes I would jump in a Delorean and gun it to 88 miles per hour. Since that wasn’t an option (yet!), I realized I didn’t want to feel haunted by the “should haves.” I needed to give myself a fighting chance.

Fear is nothing more than an instinctual response to perceived danger. But, unless that life drawing session is filled with rabid velociraptors, there isn’t any real danger. I needed to change the only thing I could control: how I responded to it.

You may not be as bad as I was, but I’d bet that at some point that fear has stopped you from doing something. There was a Zumba class you were itching to try, but you’re a bit clumsy. Maybe, you wanted to ask out that cute barista at Starbucks, but what if they actually said yes?! Perhaps, you were going to submit a guest post to an awesome blog *wink wink*, but you don’t think you have anything worth saying…

Well, I’m here to tell you, get the hell on with it! If you feel nervous or get those nagging butterflies at the thought, you are probably headed in the right direction.

Now, I live by my fear. If something makes me nervous, I do it, no matter how large or small. I submitted work to an art blog I follow. I cussed in front of my mom. I went to a life drawing session (and there were no raptors). I started conversations with strangers. I posted a cheeky Doctor Who drawing on my tumblr. I drove across the country with my friend and got caught in hurricane Sandy.

You may stumble along the way, but don’t let your fear stop you. If you’re reading this, then I guess I went through with this too. I am afraid, but it’s okay. Fear means “I’m finally doing it right. Hello world, I’m coming for you.”

Comments on Killing my potential: I have a fear of success

  1. I really like your perspective! Fear definitely holds me back sometimes; I make up reasons why pursuing what I want is too scary. You’re right: perhaps my attempt to moderate my fear means that I’m getting close to what I want.

    Lately my partner has been good about knowing when to push me to be a little bolder, especially in my career. It’s so helpful to have that honest person in your life who sees your talents and can know when you’re not using them to your full potential.

    • Thanks! It was a hard lesson to learn. My fear doesn’t have as much power when I see things starting to pay off. That helps to reassure me that I am headed in the right direction (even if it’s an unconventional path).

      It is really great to have someone to help push you! My boyfriend definitely helps to push me achieve more. Sometimes someone else can help see your strengths (and weaknesses) when you cannot.

  2. Oh my glob. This is amazing. I’m at that point. There are so many things I want to do, so many things I know I should do…but I’m too scared to do them. Apply for that job? No, I might be REJECTED. Write that book I’ve been dreaming about since I was 20? No, that’s hard! What if it isn’t good? What if I’m a bad writer? Go back to school? But what if I choose the wrong thing?

    I want a lot out of myself and my life, but I’m too scared of failing. Right now, while I’m not where I want to be career, income or satisfied-wise…I’m doing okay…and I’m NOT failing. It’s a very tricky place to be in.

    I feel like I’m on the edge of this cliff but I can’t jump. I need someone to come give me a push!

    • “What if I choose the wrong thing?” that was something I struggled with as well. I think it was tied up in fear as well. I wasn’t sure what the “right” path was and so…I didn’t start my journey at all. I just decided to head out and feel my way along as I go. It might not have been the “right” move, but it’s better then getting stuck at the starting line.

      I love the comparison to a cliff! That is just what it feels like. It might be safer on the cliff, but eventually you just have to jump and hope that everything turns out ok.

      Side note: so many analogies. I love it!

      • Yeah but there is also that decision. The 24 hours in a day and the amount of sleep a body needs to be healthy dictate that we do have to choose to focus on a few things at a time. Like, I have a book I started writing too… but when my art and leggings started taking off (a big leap for me too, and confronting with my own fear of success), I let the book fall to the wayside. It’s a pretty dang good book, but it doesn’t support what I’m currently up to.

        Mal, you went to school for what you do, so it’s a natural progression for you to pursue *something* artistic. Do you have comments for people considering trying out other areas? Like for me, it was fashion (which I so did not go to school for). And for Lauren, she’s ready to take a leap but not sure which direction to fall. So…? I’ve never had a good idea of what to do when things like this present themselves.

        • I totally agree, you need to makes sure you are properly caring for yourself first and foremost (sleep, food, physical activity) because you can’t be your best if you don’t.

          As you have read, I did the process of trying out a bunch of different things, and I completely agree that when you have too many things going on at once, that doesn’t really work either. I had to put a few things that I love on hold (mostly my art toys) while I focused on one or two activities. It was a tough decision, but I went with my gut on that one. So I would go with your gut. That doesn’t mean your book will never see the light of day again, you just might have to put it aside for now. In the future you could always pick it up again if you have the time and energy to do so.

          Well, you’re right it is a natural progression, but I would assume that the journey is quite similar. Even though I went to school, that doesn’t mean I have any idea how my career is going to go (and I had NO idea how to start it in the beginning), so I just did the only things I could: I read articles, I practiced my craft, I did things that I loved, I followed my instincts, and I started putting myself out there as often as possible (which you already have started, so you are on the right track!). Take advantage of even the smallest of opportunities that come your way.

          Honestly, I think following my heart is a big lesson from all of this. There are areas of art that I do not really enjoy doing, and instead of trying to conform to those, I just did what I love. If you love what you do, you can’t really go wrong.

        • Side Note: Giving can be very beneficial, especially in business. A lot of people think you should be receiving things from clients, but if you GIVE to them instead (tutorials, free advice, free shipping. pro-bono work, even friendliness), you might be pleasantly surprised with where it could lead.

  3. Love this post. This stuff happens to me all the time too. Seriously, sometimes I really want to do something but my shy-ness stops me.

    Like when I went to work at the Disney College Program. It basically took my mom pulling me out of the house to hop into the car and begin the long drive to Florida. I mean, it’s so far away from everyone I know and what if I’m not good enough at my job? ((I really hate it when the what if’s pop in)). Luckily, it ended up being an experience that I learned a lot from and loved.

    Or, like on this Wednesday… I’m going to attend a free painting class held at my church. Sounds fun, but I’m still incredibly nervous. >.< I mean, my artwork and painting skills are awesome (I was an art major too, but switched to business at the last year). Just not sure if it's up to the level of awesome-ness as everyone else that's going to be there. Luckily, my hubby is going to push me to be brave and go have a night of fun.

    As a side note, MalPal, you're an awesome artist! I've been following you on tumblr for a while now and totally love your cute giraffe drawing. <3

    • Don’t worry Chrissy! *Free* painting classes usually mean that the people attending are pretty amateur. I’d be willing to wager that your work (since you are formally trained) will be light years ahead of the rest, and that you will likely be asked lots of questions on how people can paint more like you.

    • I too struggle with shy-ness! It’s something I’m working on. If I know you, I’ll probably never shut up, but new people can be intimidating.

      See!? What if you had let your fear stop you from doing the Disney College Program!? You would have missed out on such an amazing opportunity (congrats on that btw!) and that would have been a shame. So glad your mom dragged you there :D.

      I agree with the nerves for the painting class. It’s something unknown and so…it’s scary. You should remember that you are an awesome artist. Even if there are other great artists there too, that doesn’t take away from your awesomeness.

      Aw, you are too sweet! What’s your name on tumblr? I want to check your stuff out too!

  4. The hardest things in life are often those most worth doing. I learned that a long time ago. Now I just work on remembering it every day. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Ho. Lee. Crap… Just yesterday I was entertaining the thought of going back to school and ended up having a major breakdown from my fear of failure/success. My brain is seriously littered with a bazillion awesome ideas that I never follow through with because people might notice and judge me with their stupid judgey eyes. Thank you for making me feel better about being such a wuss but also a little dumb for not doing something about it! Imma try harder, I swear!!!

    • Don’t feel badly about the times you let something slip through your fingers, just try and not to let it happen again. Guilt and shame don’t help you to accomplish what you want either!

      I hate judgey eyes so much, but you can’t please everyone. You should go for what you want and forget everyone else! Apply to school! You can do it, I know it 😀

    • haha, yep, I can relate to that feeling so much. Every successful person has dealt with rejection. I believe that JK Rowling was rejected by multiple publishing companies before she was published. What if she had given up? WE WOULDN’T HAVE HARRY POTTER. I don’t even want to think about it…

  6. The Mallory Gallery rocks, you have a lot of talent and a great sense of humour. I am totally lovin the gift you made for your BF, that includes a zombie apocalypse and your pet bunny, does it get better than that? Nope, that is a fantastic gift.
    Thanks for sharing your story and your work. I am in the a similar place, I have dragging my artistic ass for years, this is my first year working at it full time, YIKES!

    • Haha, thanks so much! He liked the present too 😀

      Yay! Glad to hear you are working towards it full time! That is so awesome. Your art is beautiful btw! That octopus business card holder…SO COOL!

  7. THIS!!!

    I seriously needed to read this right now! You have wonderful timing.

    All I ever wanted to do was be an animator ever since I knew what the term meant. I’ve been obsessed with it for as long as I can remember. When I hit 21, all I had was a moped and a studio apartment I couldn’t afford. So I hopped on my moped, rode out to LA, and interned at studios for nearly 2 years before I got a paying gig. I did that for most of a year, working on several cool shows and films. It was still hard to make ends meet, but I was so happy doing what I loved.

    Unfortunately, it still kind of wore on me. I didn’t like not being able to afford food, and the time between studio jobs was very hard on me. I ended up falling for a former roommate, and moved in with him. We’re a decently happy couple, but recently both realized that I’m unhappy not chasing the studios. We ordered me a new computer, loaded it up with good software, I arranged my work schedule to have more time to work on my demo reel… and I’m kind of stuck at that point.

    A demo reel?! Holy crap! That’s a lot of work! I don’t have the space to do anything spectacular in an apartment. What if it really sucks? What if I can’t walk back into the positions I was already doing when I left? What if there’s too much competition? What if my fiance and I can’t handle my doing a long distance job and only coming home between projects? What the hell will I do with myself in between those studio jobs? Everyone else who’s become a good animator was way past this point at my age, can I still do it?

    I have to get back into the mindset I had 10 years ago: that I want to chase animation, or literally die trying. It got me to contact all those animators I admire on the credits. It got me across 4 states on what most people don’t even accept as a proper vehicle. It got me to absurdly walk up to studios and ask for internships. It got me through 3 years of 99-cent tacos. It got me through being hit by a car and breaking my arm. It got my name on the credits of a show so awesome, I once had a psuedo-stalker because of it.

    I shall bookmark this post and refer back to it as needed… like a prescription.

    • I love that! Good on ya for using this as an impetus to get back your inspiration.

      And at the same time, over several years your goals can change and mature. Like “literally die trying” might be 10-years-ago-single-you, but you are now engaged and have a partner to care for and accept care from. Imagined if you actually died in your pursuit of your career. How would your partner be left? Would you feel it was worth it to leave him feeling like that?

      I’m not saying don’t go balls to the wall, but your life and situation have changed and who you are has changed and that is OK too, so your goals can be modified if appropriate for you.

      I got my MFA in visual art because I reeeeeally wanted to be a professor of art. I love to teach and I love to make art and professors get cool stuff like sabbaticals. I wanted to teach all over the world and I told myself I would never let anything stop me from taking a position in a cool place.

      Several years after that really expensive piece of paper, I met someone. I was still pursuing the professor thing with little success and much disillusionment.

      What I realized is that I didn’t want to be a professor to be a professor, I wanted to be a professor so I could have the things I listed above: teaching, art making, international travel.

      I have all those things now, WITH my partner and WITHOUT the professorship. The older me had the same goals but different ways of fulfilling them, which includes the fact that I now have someone else’s location and relationship wishes to consider in my decisions. It has made us both much happier, since I no longer feel a resentment of “you have gotten in the way of my plans and/or I have purposely put you in the way of my plans and why am I self sabotaging”.

      • Yes, I do think I’ve changed a bit in those 10 years. I’m certainly not going cross-country on a moped class bike with no money or phone or anything this time! But I do need to throw away those traditional excuses that so easily get in the way, and make sure that I’m happy. If I’m not happy, how can my fiance be happy with me? That wouldn’t be fair to either of us. So the goal is now to get studio jobs again, to make me happy, which will hopefully go towards both of us being happy. And an insane amount of commuting.

      • “The older me had the same goals but different ways of fulfilling them”

        Exactly! I am three years out of college, and when I left, the only thing I ever wanted to do was teach at the college level. And then I didn’t get into any of the PhD programs I applied to. I felt the same paralyzing fear the OP describes. Then I had this major moment of clarity (except that my goals were to teach, write and travel), so I packed up my bags and moved to Ecuador and then Thailand to teach English. I slowly got into the habit of writing again. I ended up applying to an MA program for which I am now studying in three different European countries and decided whether or not to stick with the PhD plan. But this time around, I have my goals in perspective, I have lived through some pretty major failures, and I am still a pretty functional adult 🙂

    • I completely agree with Morgan. You sounded so bad ass and awesome btw! But, you have to also remember that you have changed in those ten years, but so has the job market. I’ve actually read that just showing up at studios and asking for internships and jobs isn’t really how it works anymore (I read it on this awesome blog called Ask a manager). It might work, but you also run the risk that it could be seen as pushy.

      Now-a-days, it’s more about networking. You probably have some contacts left from those days 10 years ago; email them! Ask them how they are and tell them you are looking to get back into the industry (and tell them how you’ve stayed relevant to the field these years) and see if they have any potential leads for you. You obviously have the drive though and I’m SURE you can get back in there! Also, make sure you have a website with your demo reel and work on it (I know, demo reals are a LOT of work!!! I’m more pre-production, but I got a degree as an animator, so I remember making those). Just keep at it! I’d love to know what shows you worked on! Having a psuedo-stalker sounds kinda fancy…in a scary way haha.

        • No problem! That blog is really helpful. I even bought the ebook she wrote because of how much I liked her blog. The ebook has some repeat info from the blog, but tons of new things too. I highly recommend it!

      • I’ve also heard it doesn’t work like that anymore and that interpersonal relationships are more the thing now. But yeah, that TOTALLY means your old connections will be super useful to get you back in the game, Heather! And since you’re here in LA, drop me a line and I can get you hooked up with cool creative networking groups/resources for creatives/etc. if you want 🙂

    • Not that this has anything to do with your life, but: I had an assigned project way back when (middle school) that involved me doing a short animation reel.

      I procrastinated the hell out of it and ended up being backed up against the last possible date that I could do it and just pulled something out of my arse. I made a stop-motion 1 minute film called ‘love among the lipsticks’ that was entirely created from what I happened to have in my handbag that day. I got an amazingly good mark, and ended up getting a minor award for that short.

      My point is, try and lose your perfectionism. It’s only hurting you. Make *stuff* and put it out there. In the end, what matters is putting it out there, not necessarily how ‘perfect’ the *stuff* is.

      I wish you the best.

  8. This is the theme of my life these days. Can i suggest an awesome short book called The Flinch by Julien Smith(it’s like 130 pages and free digitally on Amazon) it’s pretty much about how we let primal fears rule our lives despite the fact that there are no bears or velociraptors trying to kill us when we try something new. It is a good read for people like me who need a plan to overcome those knee jerk flight and avoidance reactions

  9. I also gratuated college with an art degree, and am right there with you. I’m really good on ideas. Bad on follow through.

    I support myself in a job I don’t love, but I keep going because it’s stable. And change is scary. What I *love* is my jewelry business, which I have not been so good about treating as a business. I’ve held myself back. About a month ago, I said “screw that! It’ll never be anything if I don’t actually, really try!” I applied to four sci-fi conventions for vendor space. I ordered new show displays. I made tons of inventory.

    My first one of the year is this weekend. I’m really nervous. But I’m also looking forward to it. And, with that additional “do what scares me” encouragement, I’m going to enter that costume contest too. I know I’ve had fun before. I need to just go for it and do it!

    • Yes! You are doing an awesome job already! Even if it’s scary, I realized, you just have to follow through and DO IT. It’s much easier to back out at the last second, but that would almost be worse then doing nothing at all. You would waste time and resources, but nothing would come of it. Think of the worst case scenario, is it really that bad? Sometimes, it helps me to think that even if it goes REALLY badly, it’s not the end of the world, so go for it!

    • I don’t always either. For me, the hardest part is closing. I’m really great at the beginning and middle, but when it comes time to close, that’s when I used to clam up. So I just started to do it, I tried not to think about it too much. Sometimes, I still feel the fear after and want to take it back, but I don’t allow myself to do that anymore. I still struggle, but the more I ignore my fears, the less fear I feel and the easier it becomes.

  10. Recently my life became increasingly ruled by fear. I don’t particularly want to get into it in detail, except to say I realised I am afraid of success too – which is really a fear of other peoples expectations of me.

    I haven’t fixed it yet. But I do my thing without thinking of success or failure – I just think about how much I enjoy the thing. And I talk to my new therapist, who is great.

    Sometimes I find it helpful to remind myself that in 100 years in won;t matter whether I suceeded or failed. No-one will know my name. So I might as well do it. But then, sometimes I find that a paralysing thought.

    • That thought can be freeing (how nothing will really matter in 100 years), but like you said, don’t let that thought become depressing (how NOTHING you do will matter). It does matter to the most important person: you.

      Instead you could try thinking that everyone else is so caught up in their own lives that they won’t really remember when/if you screw up. They are all busy thinking about that time they screwed up.

      Yes, doing what you love to do is always a great place to start! It sounds like your mindset is headed in the right direction 😀

  11. Thank you for writing this. It’s definitely something I struggle with (it’s extra lovely when coupled with impostor syndrome, let me tell you…). I’m still in school, but I’m finishing up my degree part-time, so I’m sort of looking for work as well — preferably freelance / contract work, although part of me is simply terrified of running my own business. I don’t think I would have my own website, and be doing even the little freelance I’m doing right now, if my brother hadn’t basically given me a big shove to get me going two summers ago. Sure, I’ve been talking about wanting to do this for years, but I’m scared. So thanks for reminding me that being scared shouldn’t stop me from doing what I love.

    • Seriously, SO many parts of running your own business are hard and unappealing and just plain shitty at times.

      There are so many resources out there to help with these things. So. Many. Resources. Free ones. Seriously!! Your brother sounds like one, so start finding supportive ones that call you into doing (or help you do or even do for you) the other parts! YAY!

      • Yeah, my brother is great. He also runs his own business (he bought a farm in early 2011 — which is honestly a way bigger commitment to starting a business than I’ll ever have to make all at once), so we can trade notes on the ups and downs of owning a business, working from home, not having a boss (and, in his case, *being* the boss), and so on. His farm was the first start-from-scratch branding project I did, and the first design work I got paid for (although actually he paid me in vegetables… but he grows really good veggies, so it was just more efficient than him paying me money and me turning around and buying his vegetables with that money…) I’d say he’s been my #1 supporter in getting my design business going.

        And you’re right, there are a lot of shitty things about running my own business — more complicated taxes, needing to record my hours, setting my own rates, trying to figure out at what point freelance work can be considered a stable income… Oh, and trying to figure out whether / when it makes sense to rent office space so that a) I have a more professional space in which to meet with clients, and b) I don’t go bonkers sitting in my PJs on my couch all day to work (not that there’s anything WRONG with my PJs, I just don’t tend to feel my best if I don’t leave the couch all day…). But in the end, I love doing graphic design, and I’m finding that it’s easier to find freelance work than full-time work in this economy, and I also like that it will give me more flexibility (years down the road) when my husband and I eventually have kids… So I think it’s worth the shitty parts, because I’m living a dream I’ve been chasing since I was about 14 — even though it sometimes feels like I’m a little dog who’s finally caught a squirrel and isn’t quite sure what to do with it.

    • Yeah, this plus imposter syndrome can be a really hard thing to get over. That post featured a while back has some awesome suggestions for imposter syndrome!

      Morgan I totally agree with you again (that seems to be happening a lot 😛 ). There are limitless free resources at your disposal. The interwebs is good in that sense. I actually feel less afraid if I am more knowledgeable and prepared, so researching and reading can help to quell some of those thoughts.

  12. Great post! While I’m not quite at the “job-success” stage in life, “The Fear” is often what held me back from social situations. Recently I’ve taken the “what’s the worst that could happen” mindset for doing social things, and the answer often is “It’s awkward?…” and that pushes me to do it- why should I fear awkward?

    One of my favorite webcomic artists, Jeph Jacques, apparently has a tattoo that says “I must not fear” (a Dune reference I think). I sometimes think of that quote when I feel this fear bubbling up.

    Also your art looks awesome. I’m checking out more of it after I post this.

    • Yes! This can totally apply to non career type stuff. I agree, I too was afraid of being “awkward” in social situations. You are so right, why is that scary? It’s no big deal, so you might as well just do it. In reality, it’s probably more awkward to be that quiet person at parties.

      Isn’t it kind of cool to be awkward now-a-days anyways? Quirky is the new cool.

      And thanks so much!!!

  13. My therapist used to listen to me for a while during a session saying “but what if I do xyz and it doesn’t work out or blah blah blah”

    Then she’d look at me with this incredible calm steady gaze and say “but what if you DON’T xyz….”

    Of course the answer to that is “well then I’ll never xyz” and that sounds terrible. Or even worse “I’ll never know if I COULD xyz”

    She’d nod sagely and say (again calm and steady) “feel the fear and do it anyway”

    Now it should be noted that I have an anxiety disorder and some of what we were talking about as xyz are the most ridiculous no big deal things, but still it works here also.

    DO it folks. Just to say you did, just to say you can, just to know you COULD.

    • “DO it folks. Just to say you did, just to say you can, just to know you COULD.”

      THIS. A million this! I love how you worded that. Beautiful. And even if you don’t succeed: just to say you did your best.

  14. I think that there is a balance when it comes to this sort of thing, though. For example, I dream of running in the Olympics. I know it’s not realistic to try to aim for that, though, because I’m past an Olympic runner’s prime (I’m almost 29) and have just gotten back into running after being away from it for many years. There’s also the dream of being a screenwriter. After I realized that I would need to move to LA (something that has so much potential to compromise my marriage) in order to have the best chance of even getting my foot in the door, I swore to give up anything related to movies (even just watching them) cold turkey. (For the record, that ended up being far easier than I expected.) What I’m trying to say is fear may be in place for a really good reason and that you ought to consider why it’s there before conquering it. It may be you beating yourself up, but it may also be a way of helping you figure out your true priorities.

    • Good point and one that I meant to put in the article, but completely forgot! Of course if it’s something that is going to compromise an aspect of your life (marriage, safety, life, wrestling a bear) in any way, then the danger is REAL, even if it isn’t deadly. I’m talking more about things that actually aren’t dangerous at all and wouldn’t negatively affect your life; in fact they could be a positive benefit. For instance entering a contest you don’t think you could win or applying for that dream job.

      True, there are some goals that are probably unattainable, but perhaps you could change the goal so that it is something that fits in with your lifestyle. Instead of writing a screenplay you could write a novel (which you can do from anywhere) or instead of being an olympic runner, you could run in a marathon. I was being scared off by things that might be hard, but definitely doable. Those are the fears I can overcome.

  15. Not that this has anything to do with your life, but: I had an assigned project way back when (middle school) that involved me doing a short animation reel.

    I procrastinated the hell out of it and ended up being backed up against the last possible date that I could do it and just pulled something out of my arse. I made a stop-motion 1 minute film called ‘love among the lipsticks’ that was entirely created from what I happened to have in my handbag that day. I got an amazingly good mark, and ended up getting a minor award for that short.

    My point is, try and lose your perfectionism. It’s only hurting you. Make *stuff* and put it out there. In the end, what matters is putting it out there, not necessarily how ‘perfect’ the *stuff* is.

    I wish you the best.

    • Ah this this this!

      Perfectionism is definitely something I have struggled with. If it wasn’t “perfect”, I would move on. If I always waited until something was perfect (to me) it would never be put out there.

      I am a bit critical of my own work too. The internet doesn’t help with that. With so many amazing work out there, it can be hard not to compare yourself with others (Imposter Syndrome I’m looking at you for this one).

      You are so right though; getting your work out there IS what matters. The final step, sending it out into the world, is so critical. That was the step this whole article was about. Now, I send it out, even if it isn’t “perfect”. Thank you so much for pointing this out! It was something I hadn’t really thought about.

      Congratulations on the award too! That stop motion project sounds awesome! Do you have a link to it? I’d love to see it 😀

  16. Have you read anything by Barbara Sher? I recently read her book, ‘Refuse to Choose!’ which has some valuable perspectives and hints on how to manage your interests and goals. I analyed myself for years and came to some of those conclusions myself and I do have concentration problems but seeing some of that reasoning written by someone else was empowering.

  17. Hi I’m Arthur. I’m 17 yr old guy as a senior in high school. This is me right now. My whole life has been dictated by being afraid to stand out because of an incident in junior high school where I was singled out in a negative way and it changed the course of my life. I didn’t get to my highest potential. I accepted that I should just fit in even though I felt like it wasn’t right. But being afraid was the thing that reasoned me to do that. And I’m deciding on whether I should still accept that I should just fit in or try to get to my potential even though it is not f****** nearly as high as it was before all of this happened… I need an answer that will persuade me to not be afraid anymore…

  18. I’m actually 1000x worse than this. My fear of both failure and success keeps me from even doing the art I feel deeply called to work on. I’ve barely even dabbled in 15 years since college graduation.

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