Bright blue water, with white ripples of light striating through it.

Finding courage in the creative process - Part 3

In her last article, Canon Ambassador Dafna Tal offered tips for overcoming common inner obstacles on the way to creating a new project. Here she shares tips for more advanced work, which will help you deal with additional barriers on your own.

Fear shapes a vital part of our emotions and behaviours and so affects our lives significantly, but often unconsciously. It has a crucial impact on whether we can realise our dreams and ideas. So, although it is easy to ignore, it is worth investing the energy to develop your awareness of it and the mental barriers it creates. Such coping, of course, requires time, effort and mental strength. But it also increases your freedom of expression, gives you a greater sense of vitality, develops inner strength and helps you to realise your dreams and projects.

The process of working with general fear is identical to the process for dealing with a specific fear that I covered in article two, tip two. Here, I will expand on the process in its general context a little more.

Step 1: Locate your fear 

The first step in dealing with fear is to identify it, articulate it and write it down in detail. Try the following:

  • First, identify the areas where you have any sense of fear, tension or anxiety, however vague.
  • Then, approach the more hidden areas by asking yourself: where in my creative process or life, am I unfulfilled or feeling a sense of impediment? It is here you are also likely to discover fear and/or limiting world views.
  • Do you have any of these very common fears? The unknown; losing control; your perceived lack of ability; rejection or making bad impression; failure/making mistakes; paying too high a price for what you want; loss; fear; painful feelings; not being able to deal with pain when it arrives; uncertainty about the future.

It’s time to achieve greater clarity. Pretend each fear is a separate entity and ask:

  • What are they?
  • What do they say about you and the situation at stake?
  • What exactly do they predict will happen?
  • What is the worst thing that can happen? And where will it lead?

Give yourself a little time to freely write the whole chain as it evolves, even if it makes no sense at all.

For example: "You cannot really handle this project, it is too complicated / You will surely fail / And when you fail your reputation will suffer / Then you will no longer be commissioned to work on such projects."

Interestingly, sometimes the main source of fear is not the undesirable element, but the unknown quality of it. For this reason, among others, clarity is crucial to address those fears and gain the acceptance and confidence you deserve.

A woman in a pink bikini and goggles swims through royal blue water. To her right are the bubbles that signify impact into the water and her reflection further beyond them.
© Dafna Tal

Step 2: Face these common barriers
When trying to identify your fear, you may naturally come across significant barriers. And indeed, how can we identify our fears when so many of us are used to fully – or even partially – ignoring them? Becoming aware of the reasons why we decide to ignore them in the first place is a very efficient way to access our hidden fears. There is a logic to every time we suppress or ignore a fear which, once observed, can be re-examined. Some of the most common are listed below:
Fear of fear itself
I used to believe that by paying attention to fear it will get worse, so it is better to just ignore it. When feelings of fear are too strong to bear, they require professional help but, in my experience, ignoring ‘small’ non-threatening fears makes them worse and can create a lot of unnecessary emotional suffering. I believe you have all the resources needed to deal with your fears. As you dare to overcome your resistance and experience your fears and feelings more fully with a spirit of acceptance, you will see their impact diminish.
The logic barrier
Many fears and limiting thoughts make no sense or seem to be childish in character. They can even be a dramatic exaggeration of reality. Because of this, our logic and criticism may quickly dismiss them, though that unfortunately does not cancel their impact. For example, we logically know that it makes no sense to be afraid of being told ‘no’, yet a part of us holds onto this fear – otherwise why are you not moving forward? Even if you ignore it, this fear will continue to influence you, so it’s better to recognise it. Keep your mind open and flexible. Pay attention to illogical or unreasonable thoughts and you will be closer to the truth.
The shame barrier
Do you ever feel that being afraid makes you weak? Then everyone is weak because everyone is afraid sometimes. Accepting this very human part of ourselves is a sign of strength and not weakness, for it is an acceptance, not disregard, of reality. There are many people who suppress difficult feelings and outwardly appear cool and in control, but the suppression of negative emotions can create an adverse internal reservoir that can be expressed in very unhealthy ways. Therefore, it is far healthier and more efficient to be in touch with the reality of our inner limitations and weaknesses. This will open the doors to learn how to deal with them and thus to a better life.
Criticism and self-rejection
You’ve overcome your shame and realise you have fears. You may have also succeeded in identifying them in detail. But now you may experience a lot of self-criticism and judgment, which will cause you to freeze and sink. Remind yourself that fear is a natural and human phenomenon. Consider this: If you’re giving yourself a hard time because you believe that having a fear is ‘wrong' or 'stupid', how can you accept and love any other human being? For we all face fears, and it is better to put criticism aside and accept things as they are. Our irrational fears (as opposed to existential fear) are just streams of thoughts and perceptions that have somewhat lost their way. They are nothing to be ashamed of. Remember, you are not your fears; they are just a part of your inner experience – something that passes through you and others – and not your whole core being. Observing them will help you to lead a more harmonious and healthy life and better understand others.
Keeping these barriers in mind may help you identify your fears more fully. It is important to put these fears into words, as it helps to organise your thoughts and recognise them fully. Once you have identified a fear or two, congratulate yourself! Because you have overcome a difficult barrier and it is a huge success.

On the left, an image of the upper body of Dafna Tal, wearing a blue wetsuit and turning to face the camera. She has short blonde hair and looks as though she has just come out of the water. On the right is a quote that reads: “Fuel your motivation by asking yourself: how does each fear affect your life and the lives of those around you? How do they make you withdraw? And how will your life look if you overcome them.”

Step 3: Examine your fear logically
After awareness, take a logical perspective of what you have written. Identify the excessive and irrational component of the fear (characterised by absolute words such as ‘never succeed’, ‘surely fail’ etc.). Then prove to yourself in detail why it does not make sense – and set yourself free. Next, pinpoint the part of fear where there is logic and prepare a plan of how you will deal with any possible scenarios – removing much of the worry around how you might cope with them. In this way you will gain true self-confidence based on a realistic evaluation of the situation.
Those steps are likely to reduce the intensity of your small fears. Next, it can be beneficial to take a step toward the dreams that were blocked by fears and accept the discomfort but also the sense of achievement that follows. If you find yourself thinking that the claims of your fear make sense, make sure you are not holding on to it to stay in your comfort zone.
The beauty of a slow process
An important note: I believe fears can be transformed for the better, but it will not happen overnight but slowly and gradually. Have patience and do not push yourself, as this is unlikely to produce good results. It is better to be accepting at first – your fears were there before you saw them, and you have survived. So, affirm to yourself that experiencing this fear is okay and this simple act will make it easier to identify them going forward. This will be a significant step, even before something starts to change.
As part of this long-term journey, I highly recommend you write down your conclusions and place them where you can read them again and again. When looking to change a pattern of behaviour, we often forget all our new insights the next day. Those notes will help you as you practice thinking and acting differently over time. Through this you will gain renewed freedom of action, as well as feeling more able to cope with the natural ups and downs of life, work and the creative process.
Discover more about Dafna and her work. She also discusses her experiences on Shutter Stories, our podcast where we talk to leading photographers and filmmakers from around the world.

Written by Dafna Tal