What scares you? What makes you especially anxious? Is it snakes, spiders or sharks? Is it getting sick or getting sicker? Is it getting fired? Is it giving speeches? Is it speaking up in class? Is it meeting new people or making small talk? Is it being alone? Is it losing someone you love? Is it feeling the feelings already triggered by a profound loss? Is it being seen as a fraud or an impostor at work, at school? Is it not being good enough?
What’s been on your mind a lot lately?
Whatever it is, draw it.
I love this post from writer and author Austin Kleon. In it, he mentions how much his 3-year-old son loves drawing skeletons but is terrified of seeing skeletons and monsters on TV. This shouldn’t be surprising, according to Kleon, because:
“When you draw things, you’re in control of them. You’re making them exist. You’re in charge of the world. When you watch TV, you’re totally passive. You’re at the mercy of whatever comes on the screen next.
Drawing gives you power over your own mental and emotional life. Like other forms of play, it allows you to explore the scarier parts of life in a safe, controlled way.”
So what if you started drawing the very things that frighten you and make you anxious? What if you started drawing the very things that you can’t stop ruminating about? What if you started exploring these things and making sense of them on the page? What if you started drawing helpful things you could do to face your fears even further? What if you used different methods such as painting and collage, and did so daily? (Of course a pen and paper work great, too.)
If you don’t want to draw, write. Consider writing a quick story. Set a timer for 10 minutes a few times a week, and explore the thing you fear in different super-short stories. Give your fear to a protagonist or antagonist. Make your fear the main character, and write about life from your character’s perspective. Or write an assortment of odes to your fear. Can you find any good in it?
There may be a range of things that scare you, in varying degrees. Pick the first one that pops into your mind, and use any method or medium that resonates with you. Or pick a smallish fear to start, and then build up.
Remind yourself, regularly, that you are not helpless or hopeless or weak. You have the power to face your fears.
I know that often it feels like the exact opposite. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you had faith in yourself. Maybe you feel like you fail frequently. You disappoint yourself all the time.
Start with drawing the things that scare you. Or write about them. Explore them on the page. Then, if you need something more, seek professional help. Because one of the strongest, bravest actions we can take is to take advantage of effective resources.
Remember, whatever you do, you’re in charge. You’re the artist. You’re the author.