A Note on Fear & an Exercise for Growth
Updated: Oct 30
Fear is an inhibiter of creativity. In this post, I challenge acceptance of fear with an exercise that was inspired by New York Times Bestselling Author Elizabeth Gilbert.
You’ve gotten all of my COVID-friendly Halloween ideas. You’ve seen my festive social media posts. Now, I want to do something a bit unexpected 2 days before Halloween and share a post that is introspective...yet still sort of on-theme.
Today, I want to dive into the topic of fear.
Before you think I’m about to get all "motivational speaker" on you, let me clarify that I'd like to discuss fear on the basis that it inhibits creativity, expression, and the endeavor for fulfillment.
Fear. That word seems so harsh, so direct, yet so prevalent in our lives whether we realize it or not.
Shame and guilt, feelings that are very alive in our pandemic-affected lives, derive from fear. Shame can come from fear of judgement or disconnection while guilt can come from fear of repercussions or rejection.
These emotions keep us from doing the things we’d love to do or, in turn, be the person we want to become.
Right now I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, and the subtitle is literally “Creative Living Beyond Fear.”
As I listened to her narrate the book so eloquently, I was drawn into the spiritual way she described her relationship with fear. She expressed peace and even delight at the idea that fear should be nurtured.
In the book, she talks through different exercises she has done to overcome fear; not to ignore it or reject it but to lovingly acknowledge its presence.
That might be an intriguing thing to read, showing a debilitating emotion love, but allow me to share Gilbert’s “Letter to Fear”:
I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert articulates her feelings; she has such a unique tone that's carried all the way through her writing. You can see why she's become a muse for my own writing endeavors.
AN EXERCISE WITH FEAR
I want you to give this a try, but, first, we need to start with a different letter.
Grab a journal, notebook, piece of computer paper, napkin; whatever you can find that you can write on. This is informal, so it doesn't need to look pretty. Snag a writing instrument, and address a letter to yourself.
(1) Write a Letter from Fear
In privacy, with an open heart, write a letter to yourself from your fear.
Because we suppress the fear we feel, we never really give it the chance to speak. What Gilbert explains is that if we give it the chance to speak, our fear will feel heard.
It may sound a little silly, but I did this exercise, too, and it was quite moving.
Go write, and read it back to yourself.
(2) Write a Letter to Fear
Like the letter I displayed from Gilbert, I want you to write a letter to your fear. Now that you’ve let it have its voice, you can accurately respond now that it’s been heard.
Show some vulnerability and write from the heart. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is show compassion when we react in ways we wish we wouldn’t. You don’t need to battle yourself; there can be peace between all of your best and worst qualities.
For inspiration, here was the beginning of my letter:
“To my fear,
I’m not sure where to start. I’ve tried to battle you through ailments, judgements, and straight-up gut-punching moments, but you’ve always seemed to bring out the worst in me. When I try to suppress your power, I ache and feel unsettled.
I think that’s the problem, though. I’ve given you too much power. I know that you will remain in my life because you’re a part of me, but I don’t want you to be in charge. I want you to protect me and show care – just as I will to you – but I won't let you make my decisions.
I understand that it comes from a place of love – love that I will remain who I am and live a life full of joy – but you need to have faith that I can run…”
Are you ready to get writing? Give it a chance and see what comes of it.
When I first did the exercise, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. It was as if the emotional weight I denied for so long was finally lifted; not because it didn’t exist anymore, but because it was safe and acknowledged.
You know, we can only do so much with the hand we’re dealt. It’s our mindset and faith that makes life inspiring and exciting.
I really love going back to this exercise when I’m feeling really overwhelmed or lost in thought. Sometimes it can feel like life is passing me by and I’m not jumping at creative opportunities in the way that I wish I would.
But, there’s something about reading something you wrote from the heart in a quiet, private space that makes you feel so empowered to be you, to have compassion for yourself, and to find joy.
I hope you found some of that today. Happy Halloween, you beautiful human being.