Recently I’ve started mentoring a group of young artists, really talented kids who are well on their way to making some really incredible music, and it has really brought me back to when I was starting out, what it felt like to start creating my life as a musician.
There is one fear that I keep coming up against over and over with these teenagers that I can’t seem to stop thinking about…
There is a deep fear of judgment, and not necessarily of judgment from strangers but from classmates, acquaintances and often even friends and family. And that fear is often the thing that holds them back from releasing that first single, promoting that first concert, or whatever the scary first may be. And it breaks my heart to recognize the ways that fear can keep us from sharing our work and stop us from starting our journeys as artists.
It feels like yesterday that I was paralyzed by this same fear. I remember so vividly how scared I was of posting about my first show on my personal Facebook page, how deeply petrifying it was for me to invite friends I hadn’t seen in a while to come see me play and basically tell everyone who didn’t know already that I was pursuing a career as an artist. It was one of the scarier moments of my life! I knew that by putting myself out there in this way I was inviting judgment. I also knew I was inviting support. And the truth is, the support has been overwhelming. But the judgment, while not nearly as sizable, has also been very real.
Because that’s the thing about this particular fear; it isn’t based in falsehoods. There is some truth to it. People will judge you, both positively and negatively, when you take these risks, when you commit to living bigger and bolder and more public lives.
(To be clear, I am not saying that artistic lives are bigger and bolder than non artistic lives. I am saying that when you step into the unknown and take a risk, you are living a bigger, bolder life today than you were living yesterday, which sometimes comes at a cost.)
I have no regrets about choosing to press the post button on Facebook that day. I do not regret a single moment of working towards living out my dreams. To me, the cost of not doing it is far too great. And the payoffs of putting myself out there are also too great nearly every step of the way.
You see, there will be inevitable disappointments. There will people you thought would support you who don’t for whatever reason. But there will also be incredible surprises, friends and family members who come out of the woodwork to cheer you on. And you will find out who is on your team. But more than that, you will finally be a full and committed player on that team, your team. You will have bravely chosen to take an action that is important to you, to who you are. And I promise you, whatever you feel you’ve lost in cool factor or whatever else, you will make up for in true self-love and self-respect.
And this line of thinking extends far beyond artistic endeavors as far as I’m concerned. It applies to everything and everyone. If there is something you want to do, do it. If there is something you want to wear, wear it. We are all afraid of doing certain things that we really want to do because of fear of judgment. But what if we challenged ourselves to do them anyway, to take those steps we’re afraid to take anyway.
I can’t say that there won’t be missteps, mistakes and heartbreaks, but I can bet we’d all be a little more authentic, a little freer and maybe even a little happier. And that certainly sounds good to me.