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Overcoming Fear: Unlocking Our Potential for Big Dreams and Creativity

Illustration of a man on top of a ladder, manually adding stars to the sky.

The only thing I ever wanted to do was write. I remember during times as a kid when I didn't have anyone to play with, I would end up creating my own world of stories and scenarios. My playing with dolls and creating stories for them eventually evolved into me writing stories (as well as playing out scenarios in The Sims). Then somewhere along the line I decided that "writing as a hobby is enough for me. I don't have to do it for a living, I don't have to profit from it. I don't even have to do it that much".

But that wasn't true at all. So why was I so convinced that I was okay with not being a writer and not pursuing opportunities to write wholeheartedly? Why was I so convinced that my dream was too big? Why are any of us convinced that our dreams are too big?

"Maturing" From Dreams

As we get older and as we start gaining real-world experience, we tend to shrink our dreams. What's crazy is that we don't even realize that we're doing it. Our dreams and imagination run wild as kids. It's in that part of our life that we unabashedly believe we can do anything. Race car driver? Sure. World-renowned chef? Absolutely. Best-selling author? Global pop singer? NBA All-star? An NFL Champion? Anything we could think about, we just knew that's what we wanted to do when we grew up.

Close up of someone strumming an acoustic guitar

But for a lot of us, when we grow up we also become distant from those big dreams. One reason is because we start to understand that we need to be more "realistic" if we're ever going to be happy. We think that we have to adjust to real-world expectations and that there's absolutely no room for big dreams. Because, unlike our childhood, we now understand that it takes way more than just wanting it to happen. As adults, we understand the risks and the statistical likelihood that we could even come close to doing what we truly want to do with our lives. We slowly and silently begin to give up on our dreams because we believe it's the grown up thing to do.

It's as if believing in--and wholeheartedly pursuing--a big dream is somehow childish. Think about the last time you heard a child say they want to be a singer or an actor. You probably thought it was cute and gave them encouraging words about it. Now think about the last time you heard an adult say the same thing: I'm pursuing an acting career, a singing career, etc. Did you offer them encouraging words? Did you believe that they could achieve what they wanted? Or did you silently scoff? Did you think to yourself "are they serious"?

Here is the reality: giving up on pursuing dreams does not make us more mature. It just makes us someone who gave up. And when one hasn't faced that reality, they more than likely become bitter and more likely to judge people who are still actively pursuing.

What Keeps Us Down

The main thing that keeps us from pursuing our more ambitious pursuits is the fear of failing. We play mental ping-pong and start wondering what we would do if things don't work out. What if this ends up being a waste of time? How am I going to face everyone who supported me? How am I going to face the people who knew I would fail anyway? Maybe I shouldn't even bother. Maybe I just need to be grateful for where I am right now. But two things can be true. We can be grateful for where we are but also strive to do more and achieve more.

Ultimately when we succumb to this type of thinking, we're actually just allowing others to have influence over our lives. More often than not, a lot of the hesitation is rooted in perception: What are people going to think of me if I fail?

A black man lays his head on his desk, eyes closed surrounded by laptop, clapper board, headphones, and a mug.

Another reason we give up our dreams is because we don't have the proper confidence to pursue them. I know for myself, I've been told on multiple occasions that I "sell myself short". The first time I heard that phrase, I was just a sophomore in college and I didn't think too much of it. But to my surprise, that same phrase reared it's ugly head not too long after I graduated. And then again less than a month prior to this post. If you're like me, you probably like the idea of feeling "educated and qualified" for something before you truly pursue it. I always felt like I needed a certain number of credentials, a certain level of experience before I could just throw that title on me. When someone asked me if I ever thought about teaching courses on writing I was absolutely floored. Why would someone want to learn from me?

But what a lot of us are starting to realize is that there are people with 1/3 of our abilities but 5x our confidence who are already doing the things we want to do. Some have even gone on to be very successful despite being pretty mediocre. Recently I saw a very insightful Instagram post that more or less said (paraphrasing): We keep ourselves in the state of learning the thing instead of doing the thing. We are gathering these accolades (certifications, degrees, etc.) so we don't have to be seen. Let's just say that this seriously hit a nerve with me. And for the past few months, I've been figuring out how to get back into my craft, and how to keep myself from giving up or settling.

What to Do to Keep Going

Don't Seek Perfection

I've noticed that when I sit on a project for too long, I end up seeing more and more flaws. Instead of posting the blog or publishing the story, I start editing it to death. I second guess everything about the piece until I eventually just leave it to rot in my drafts folder. When we stress over trying to create a perfect product, we make ourselves more susceptible to procrastination. This week, I took up my husband's challenge to write/publish something on the online platform Medium. I hadn't written anything in months. But I went ahead and wrote a very short piece about the Super Bowl halftime show and was pleasantly surprised. Despite my long absence, the article was well-received; so much so, that Medium staff picked it to be recommended on the home page of the site for three days straight! A piece that I spent less than 30 minutes on became a hit. It's a small victory, but it reminds me that I don't have to be in my head about everything I make.

Shut Down the Noise

By "noise" I mean anyone or anything that robs you of your confidence to do what you want to do. It's a sad reality, but a lot of us may encounter people who don't believe in our vision or don't believe we have what it takes to pursue our biggest ambitions. Sometimes these people will be malicious, but a lot of times people do this without any ill-intent. They believe they are looking out for us and just don't want us to get hurt, not even realizing that they are causing more damage than any rejection could ever create. You should use your own discretion when it comes to these people. Maybe you don't want (or don't have the capacity) to cut these people out of your life, but you may have to protect your peace by limiting your interactions with them. In place of that, get around people in your craft--whether they are pursuing it like you are or have already gotten to where you want to be. Take time to learn from others, whether it's in person, via YouTube, or any other resources you can access.

Leave the Comfort Zone

Realistically speaking, in order to get to where we want to be we will sometimes need to do things that we have never done. This in itself can be pretty scary. Each week as you track your progress and you reflect on what you're doing to push the needle forward, ask yourself when is the last time you made yourself uncomfortable. Maybe it's signing up for a networking event where you know you'll be around a lot of people established in your field. Maybe it's reaching out to that "big name" person who you believe would be a great client. Maybe it's sharing your work on a larger scale and not just for close friends. Maybe it's finally applying for jobs aligned with what you want to do and not just what you've been doing. Whatever it is, make it a weekly (if not daily) habit to do at least one thing that pushes you out of your comfort zone.

We shouldn't feel shame in having big dreams and goals, nor should we feel that we need to settle simply because it's "easier". Ultimately, we have the choice to deal with the pain of discipline and failure (because failure is part of the process) or to deal with the pain of regret.

Thanks for reading,


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Great read Raven , keep going after your dreams

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