Maybe it’s all the zombie movies I’ve been watching lately (it is October, after all), but I’ve been thinking about fear a lot. Or maybe it’s all the the awesome and crazy goals I’ve been striving for, on top of losing my job 2 weeks ago. Now that I think about it, that might explain my zombie at the cash register nightmare I had last night…
I’ve always been a rather cautious, introverted person, afraid of a lot of things. Here’s a rather funny/embarrassing story, just to let you know how much of a scaredy cat I can really be.
When I was younger, I was afraid of talking to people on the phone. Calling anyone was definitely outside of my comfort zone, so I never did it. Sometimes I’d talk to friends or family, but no one else. I remember one night, we convinced my parents to order pizza somehow. (We’d get pizza maybe once a year, so it was a big deal.) Their only stipulation was that I had to call and place the order, and I was appalled. I would have done anything else- dishes, cleaning out the garage, even do something super nice for my sisters. My 10 year old self could not imagine a worse fate than having to be the one to call in our pizza order. After 45 minutes and a lot of crying and begging, I finally called and we got our pizza dinner that night. Years later, I can now happily report that I can make phone calls to anyone I need to without a throwing a huge fit. I can’t say I’m perfect at it- I still struggle feeling uncomfortable and foolish- but my comfort zone has stretched, and is now broader than it used to be.
I hope I’m not alone when I admit that my comfort zone can be pretty small. At least, it feels that way when I’m trying to accomplish something. As an aspiring artist and blogger, having a small comfort zone can be a real drag.
I struggle every day with my fears, but over time I’ve discovered ways to help me control that fear. That formula includes controlling three things- thoughts, words, and actions.
Our thoughts are so important because they are the blueprint for our words and our actions. Everything we say and do begins in our minds. When we are afraid, our mind can quickly fill with negative thoughts that escalate until we are too paralyzed to move, imagining all the bad things that could happen if we take a step into the dark.
I used to play a game with my friends in high school. We would start out with one simple “what if” question, like “what would happen if a monkey in a banana suit came bursting out of the trees and tried to jump one of us?” Then the next person would come up with a follow up action- “If that happened, he’d run into the road without looking both ways and get hit by a car.” Then the next person would go, and we’d rotate, making sure to keep everything as ridiculous and funny as possible.
We tend to play a similar game in our minds when were afraid of something. I have done this on multiple occasions- at work, while I’m driving, and especially when I’m facing something new and unknown, like organizing a mixed media class at my house. My mind goes from one action to the next, and always seems to focus on the worst case scenario. “If I try to organize this workshop, only a couple people will come, and then I’ll find out last minute that I forgot to prep something really important. Everyone will get bored, and this workshop will be a complete disaster.”
I find when I allow my thoughts to wander in negative areas like this, I lose a lot of motivation and confidence, and it really affects my work- both the quality and the quantity. Suddenly I don’t get as much done, I’m super critical of myself and I get that much closer to giving up.
A better way to play this game would be to say- “If I work really hard to organize this workshop, I’ll have a full class with a clear project in mind, those that attend will think of new things and learn new techniques, everyone will be engaged, and this workshop will be a huge success, and the foundation for more in the future.”
We may not be able to help the thoughts that enter our minds sometimes, but we do have control of the thoughts we develop and encourage. Remember this- “We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.” Swami Vivekananda
Words may be secondary, but our words are a powerful extension of our thoughts, and can have a significant effect on our fears. We speak and write thousands of words every day- it’s safe to say that our words are essential to how we handle our fears.
Speaking out loud can help us understand things in a way that just thinking them cannot do. When we share our thoughts and ideas out loud, they begin to congeal into something tangible. They seem less scary.
Share your thoughts with family and friends. As you talk about things, you are beginning to carry through on your goals, and this has power. Those you share with can help to encourage you and keep you accountable.
Writing things down is also an awesome way to transform our goals. I remember when I started college, I heard over and over the importance of taking notes in class. I don’t remember the exact statistic, but taking notes improves your retention rate by over 50%. Writing solidifies ideas into our brain, so don’t just share your goals out loud- write them down!
Remember, though, that it’s not just important to speak and write your goals, it’s the words you use that are essential, as well. Be aware of what you say and write.
For instance, one way that I’m trying to break into the art business is by visiting the art galleries in my town of Raleigh and speaking to local gallery directors and artists. When I first began I would try to get to know these professionals and ask questions, but I was also trying to introduce myself and my art, and see what the process was of becoming a guest artist. Unfortunately, when I spoke I let the intimidation and fear I felt flow into my conversation, and I found I was referring to myself as an amateur, a beginner, and talking down my talent. There were times I didn’t even say that I was an artist at all, content to walk out of the gallery after just a few minutes. My husband, ever the extrovert, would often say things about my art before I would, which would make me feel foolish and even less able to talk about my art in a professional way.
Not only did these encounters have a negative impact on how these professionals received my business card, they had a negative impact on me and my motivation. After referring to myself as an amateur, I would walk out of those galleries feeling like an amateur, and wondering why I ever thought I could be a full-time artist.
I have more recently tried visiting some local galleries, and this time I understood the importance of my words, determined to present myself as a professional. Not only did I come away feeling energized and inspired, several of the artists I talked to accepted my business card and began to follow me on social media.
Never forget, the words you speak have power, and are an extension of your thoughts. Keep them as positive and uplifting as you can!
The final step in the process of stretching our comfort zone. All our goals are made or broken as we set out to act upon them. This is the scary part, the part that all our preparation in controlling our thoughts and our words has been about. This is the moment where we step to the edge of the light, and into the darkness.
We can do it! Here are some tips for taking this step-
- Start small. We don’t have to stretch our comfort zones completely in one day. Remember that it’s a process that takes time. You will mess up, you will give in to fear, you will have to refocus your goals all the time. So don’t overwhelm yourself or think you have to jump from where you are to where you want to be. Start small!
- What can you do right now, today? One of my goals is to set up a shop on my website, but the business part of having an online shop totally freaks me out. What can I do today? Research- the more I learn, the more manageable this goal seems. Inspiration- there are so many other artists out there that have online shops- what can I learn from them? How do they do things? Tasks- what things do I need to get done before I can open my shop? As I break this goal down into manageable chunks, I see that there are things I can do every day to prepare my shop to open. As I make these preparations, my knowledge grows, and there is less and less that still remains a scary mystery.
- No excuses. There will always be reasons for you to not work on your goals. Sometimes they will be silly things that fear puts in your path. Other times, they may seem legitimate. Whatever your excuses are for not pursuing your goals, don’t give in. Don’t listen. If they are legit, find a way around them, and just do the things you have promised yourself you would do. You can do it!
Fear is something that we will always struggle with, and that’s ok. Fear does have a purpose, believe it or not, but we can control our fear. We can broaden our comfort zones to include those goals we are striving to accomplish, and find success. It will take time, but it will happen if we can learn to control our thoughts, our words and our actions.
I’ve made a quick printable for you that outlines the things I’ve mentioned. You can post it on a wall, put it in a notebook, or make it the background on your computer or phone, and you can subscribe and download by clicking the image below.
Now, it’s time for me to practice what I preach. One of the big fears I have right now is Periscope. I don’t know exactly why, but scoping terrifies me. I have, however, made it my goal to do it and my first scope is set for tomorrow, Wednesday Oct. 7th at 1 pm. I’d love to see lots of hearts and comments of encouragement (hint, hint!) and you can follow me @AnjuliJ.
I am such a fanatic for maps. I can’t even explain how much I love to incorporate them into my art.
I wrote an article for mixedmediaart.net that describes a project I completed recently for a missionary who was leaving Raleigh after 18 months of service. I am happy to report that she was very happy with her gift, and it’s my hope that it will be a wonderful reminder of the people she met and the miracles she witnessed in the Lord’s service.
In the article I talk about the maps I used to create this collage and the resources I used to find them. I hope you’ll take the time to read it and share with me your thoughts. Are there any other map fanatics out there? Let me know what resources you use to find, print, and use maps in your artwork.
I wanted to share with you all a recent article I wrote for mixedmediaart.net. I write monthly articles for this online magazine sharing techniques, ideas, reviews, etc., and they are a great resource for every artist.
In the past month I’ve shared a few pieces with acrylic backgrounds. In this article I share how I use water with acrylic paint to create different backgrounds for my paintings, including the recent ones I’ve shared.
Check out my article and let me know what you think! Then poke around a little and let me know what you think of the site.
Gosh, I’m loving our new house! I’ve got so many plans and ideas, it’s pretty difficult to focus on anything else… I’m even thinking about starting a DIY home blog to catalog all my projects, but we’ll see about that… First I wanted to share these steampunk atc’s I framed and hung in our hallway downstairs.
I love the idea of using large mats to frame small photos and pieces of art, but I wanted my mats to be more than just plain white. I wrote an article about my process you can see here. Essentially, I used the cardboard backs from the frames I purchased, white-washed (or black-washed…) them, transferred some book pages to the surface, and then adhered each of the ATC’s right in the middle of each one.
I love the alternating black and white aspects of each of these steampunk ATC’s. Each one is very simple- I used washi tape and various stamps to create the backgrounds, and then added some fun steampunk elements like watch gears, pen nibs, and wax seals. They are so fun!! What do you think? I’m pretty pleased with my first DIY addition to our new house. 🙂