by Janet Grace Riehl with Stephanie Farrow
Toss a coin. Success or failure? Which side do you want the coin to land on? Most of us would cross our fingers, arms, legs, or even our eyes in the hope that the coin lands on success. We’ve learned to think in terms of polar opposites: black/white, funny/serious, good/bad, Yet success and failure trot together side-by-side, not as a tag team with one in front and the other behind.
Fear of failure and fear of success also move together. If we fear failure or success, we pit one part of our psyche against another, sabotaging our creative expression. By examining and learning to work with the fears in our creative lives, we can move forward more smoothly. We need to practice treating them as friendly neighbors rather than enemies.
American mainstream culture puts a premium on success. It conditions us feel that if we fail–if we don’t measure up to what society defines as success–it means that we’re unworthy. In America success means bigness: “Big profits.” “I hit it big.” “She’s HUGE (as in a phenomenon)” Buying into this belief is a surefire road to creative sabotage.
What are your personal fears about failing? Take time in a quiet place to reflect on this. Make notes on what you discover about your beliefs. You don’t have to share them, so be honest with yourself.
Now take a look at your fears of success. Do you feel overwhelmed by the idea of being successful beyond your wildest dreams? Does the thought evoke fear that you’ll be unmasked as an imposter? Again, reflect on this question and take notes on what emerges.
Compare your lists of failure and success. You might find that they aren’t as different as you thought they would be. So toss your imaginary coin again and visualize it landing on its edge. No finger-crossing necessary!
In our next post (3.5) in our Fie on Fear! cycle we’ll discuss finding new ways to relate to our fears. We’ll then close this cycle in our third post by helping you define your own success. Why not make success safe, comfortable, attainable?
In this “Creative Catalyst” column for the SCN blog, we present each theme cycles in three posts: first, a keynote, followed by two posts to develop the theme. Our first cycle defined working creativity and regular practice. The second 3-part series looked into creative cycles. Our third cycle set the groundwork for working productively with fear. Our fourth cycle delves more deeply into our creative fears. See the Creative Catalyst archive at: http://storycircle.typepad.com/scn/creativity.
Pose questions about practical creativity; give ideas for future cycle themes; and join in the dialog in the comment section below. If you’d like to see previous articles in this series, go to http://storycircle.typepad.com/scn/creativity/
1) Buy our new audio book “Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music” at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/janetgraceriehl.
2) Catch-up on Janet’s internet audio book tour at http://is.gd/1zIwQ.