The Fear You Need and the Fear You Don’t Need - Courage

Big magic: creative living beyond fear - Elizabeth Gilbert 2015

The Fear You Need and the Fear You Don’t Need

Now you probably think I’m going to tell you that you must become fearless in order to live a more creative life. But I’m not going to tell you that, because I don’t happen to believe it’s true. Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction.

Bravery means doing something scary.

Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means.

If your goal in life is to become fearless, then I believe you’re already on the wrong path, because the only truly fearless people I’ve ever met were straight-up sociopaths and a few exceptionally reckless three-year-olds—and those aren’t good role models for anyone.

The truth is, you need your fear, for obvious reasons of basic survival. Evolution did well to install a fear reflex within you, because if you didn’t have any fear, you would lead a short, crazy, stupid life. You would walk into traffic. You would drift off into the woods and be eaten by bears. You would jump into giant waves off the coast of Hawaii, despite being a poor swimmer. You would marry a guy who said on the first date, “I don’t necessarily believe people were designed by nature to be monogamous.”

So, yes, you absolutely do need your fear, in order to protect you from actual dangers like the ones I’ve listed above.

But you do not need your fear in the realm of creative expression.

Seriously, you don’t.

Just because you don’t need your fear when it comes to creativity, of course, doesn’t mean your fear won’t show up. Trust me, your fear will always show up—especially when you’re trying to be inventive or innovative. Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome. Your fear—programmed by evolution to be hypervigilant and insanely overprotective—will always assume that any uncertain outcome is destined to end in a bloody, horrible death. Basically, your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone “safe.”

This is all totally natural and human.

It’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

It is, however, something that very much needs to be dealt with.