What Is Fear Keeping You From?

SCBWI Retreat in Idaho (with Maggie Rosenthal)

Do you ever feel like you're playing smaller than you want to be in certain areas?

There can be more than one reason for this.

Maybe you lack resources or funds. I understand this. We all have to prioritize where our time, energy, and money go.

Maybe you're just learning how to do something. Usually, we have to suck at something for a good while before we get to be great (or even tolerable) at it. That's a good reason. While it can be frustrating, doing the work will make all the difference in the end.

On the other hand, I've found fear to be my worst reason for not doing what I want to do. It's always there.

  • Fear of failure.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Fear of disappointing others.

Until the last couple of years, I thought that my fear of disappointing others made me a more responsible person. Earlier this year, I realized that it just made me more comfortable with disappointing myself. One of my friends had to point out that there's a huge difference between helping someone because I feel like I have to . . . and helping someone because I really want to.

So, in an effort to stretch outside my comfort zone this year, I've been saying “no” to others more often, and saying “yes” to myself. I've still said “yes” sometimes when “no” was the right answer, but I'm getting better at it. And it doesn't feel selfish. It feels honest. And it feels brave, especially when saying “yes” costs money or a significant chunk of time. 

Writing retreats and conferences are a great example of an investment that costs both time and money. They're worth it. I attended four of them this year, and I don't regret spending the time or the money. As an introvert, they're definitely outside my comfort zone, but look.

SCBWI Nevada Conference (with Jim Averbeck)
Storymakers Conference (with Jessie Oliveros)
SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles (with SA Students and Instructors)

I recently did something that I would never have done a year ago. I hired an editor. As a freelance editor, I know how valuable a great editor can be, and an editor whose career I've been following (because she's amazing) lost her job in a corporate merger last month. She announced on Twitter that she'd be taking on freelance projects, so I sent her my writing sample and crossed my fingers. 

Photo Credit: Navah Wolfe

And now I have an editorial assessment of my fantasy novel from a Hugo Award-winning editor. That's priceless. 

And I almost let fear talk me out of it. I'm so glad that I've spent this year saying “yes” to myself, instead of “no.”

Take just a moment and think about which fears are holding you back. Now, how can you push out of your comfort zone to do what you need to do?

I want to share this TED Talk, by Yubing Zhang: Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone.

Wasn't that amazing? I'd love to hear about how you're overcoming your fears in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Blog Contributors

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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18 thoughts on “What Is Fear Keeping You From Doing?”

  1. Hi Myrna, I have sought approval of other since childhood. I was also taught to hep others before myself. Hence, like you, I have a hard time putting my needs and priorities first. I am still a “yes,” person, but I am realigning my “yes,” for myself now more often. It is STILL a struggle.

    1. Judith C Nyirongo

      This sounds like me! A “yes” person. I am such an introvert, I just got a book published, I enjoyed the process but now on the marketing part I have no idea how I am going to get through seeing that it needs me to put myself out there.

    2. I hear you, Kathy. I naturally want to help others, but there are many different ways I can do that. A few months ago, I had an experience that really drove that home. I said “yes” to something that I knew I shouldn’t have, and I paid for it.

  2. I am relinquishing writing and art as something I do to get approval (I have gotten accolades for both all my life – but that should only be the beginning, not an end in itself). Now I am trying to do it because it is something I want to accomplish and also what I’ve been prepared to do in life. So I put my butt in the chair and try my best to keep it there. I have begun to recognize when I am avoiding the work (the risk) by going overboard with the research or needing to attend to other things like phone calls, emails, etc.

  3. I love your posts, Myrna. You really put yourself out there with complete honesty and openness, and I really appreciate the truths you give. My fear of not writing “good” has been with me for many years. I find that I spend way too much time revising and editing my work, trying so hard to make it “perfect” that I struggle with moving on and writing new ideas.

    1. Thank you, Rita! Finishing projects (revising them to perfection) is important too, so don’t beat yourself up over this one. I hope you have critique partners to help you with this one.

      I tend to write something new when I’m stuck on perfecting something old. Journaling really helps me with both.

  4. Myrna, thank you for being real. With the end of the year approaching, I’m looking back at what I’ve done creatively. Currently, I’m in that space where I’m learning to recognize the good and great stuff, while my work is meh or ok with sparks of decent. As others have said, I’m working to let go of that mindset that it has to be “good enough” as well as when to let go of ideas, too. Cheering you on and the other
    SA members as we all continue to do the work despite our fears.

    1. Melissa, I have seen your illustrations improve so much this year. I hope you can see that improvement too. Just keep going.

  5. Myrna, thank you for sharing with us. That TED Talk was so good. Doing it afraid is something I’ve been trying to hold close. I have to remember, “It’s not as scary as it looks.”

    1. Yes! For some reason, I get hung up on starting things. But once I’m doing it, it usually goes from scary to fun. I just wish I could convince my brain to skip the fear part.

      1. I find that I edit my thoughts before I even get them down on paper. I’m excited about an idea, but as I’m trying to sketch, write etc, I keep nixing things before they even have a chance to sprout. When I’m just creating art without a ‘purpose’ I have no problem just letting it flow, but creating a story ties me up in mental knots. I’m figuring out how to untie them and let myself just throw stuff down and edit later. This first picture book is helping me slog through the hard parts and stick with the one story.

  6. Carole Meyer-Rieth

    Myrna, yet another amazing post! Thank you! I love your boldness, and am grateful for you, for many reasons – but most of all for our friendship. 🙂

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