The One Crippling Fear Every Writer Faces

What It Is and How to Overcome It

What’s your deepest fear?” That’s the question I asked in a recent survey of writers and other creatives, and following were some of the responses:

  • “That people will see the real me and discover it’s not all that great.”
  • “That my voice (in writing) will not be valued or desired. “
  • “The fear of rejection and in particular, being irrelevant”
  • “That I don’t have anything worth saying.”
  • “That I’ll make a fool of myself”

What strikes me about these and other responses is the object of their focus. These comments are not about the work as much as the commenters.

When you say you’re afraid people will see the real you and discover “it” is not that great, you are not really talking about your work. When you say you’re afraid of making a fool of yourself, again that’s not a statement about the value of your work. It’s about your value as a person.

And I’m here to tell you: that’s a problem.

Courtesy of Unsplash

Our creative work is vitally important, but it does not establish our value as people. I would say our value as people comes from our Creator. Others might say it comes from the cosmos or some other place. But I think we all can agree, as soon as we place our own value in the hands of others’ perceptions of our work, we’ve gone terribly wrong.

And of course we do it all the time, so how do we get out of this mess?

Practices That Affirm Our Value

As soon as I refer to affirming our value, I immediately think of Stuart Smalley’s Daily Affirmation on Saturday Night Live. Stuart, an effeminate television show host, encourages his viewers to look in the mirror and repeat after him:

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

Why is that sketch so funny?

It’s funny because Stuart embodies our insecurities and helps us experience the relief of laughing at them. If we didn’t have insecurities, Stuart Smalley wouldn’t be as hilarious as he is. The way humor often works is it points to something real and then exaggerates it. In other words, as painful as it is to admit, Stuart Smalley touches close to home.

I don’t find it very helpful to look in a mirror and say affirming things. I find that as funny as you do, no doubt.

What I do find helpful is asking, “What sorts of things would I do regularly if I believed in my value and in the value I have to offer others?”

The answer: I’d take care of myself, and I would do my best to take care of others. Sometimes we have to “fake it till we make it,” to choose actions that bring the feelings we want to have.

Taking Care of Self and Others

I would exercise, eat well, drink plenty of water, meditate and pray, and get a good night’s rest. I would travel to fascinating places “just because” and take a lot of vacations and read good books and hang out with friends and get a massage every now and again. In short, I’d live well.

And I would do my best to serve others as often and as well as I could. I would do my art. I’d show up for the people who look to me for help and advice. I’d listen well. I would lead them to do good work, to bring out the best in themselves. I would encourage them. I would be bummed when they’re bummed, but I would try to help them take one brave step forward.

Two Challenges

How about you? Do you ever struggle with the temptation to doubt your worth? If so, I want to give you two challenges:

  1. What’s one thing you can do today to take especially good care of yourself? Take 20 seconds to think of something right now.
  2. What’s one thing you can do today to take especially good care of the people you wish to serve and lead? Again, twenty seconds . . .

Press on! We need you to take care of yourself, and we need you to do your art!

I’d love to send you my manifesto, DO YOUR ART: A Manifesto on Rejecting Apathy to Bring Your Best to the World. To download a copy, click here.

Question: What did you find most helpful in this article? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Carole Harmon

    It is helpful to remind me that my value is based in my relationship with Jesus, and that He has, is, and is wanting to continue using me to encourage, exhort, and help others. Yes, I need to lean on God’s purpose for my writing and my security in that rather than on others’ perceptions of me. I lean too much on the latter.

    • Chad R. Allen

      I feel your pain, Carole! Thanks so much for commenting.

  • curtheffelfinger

    Reminds me of Covey’s “Sharpen the Saw” principle. Thanks, Chad!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Good connection, Curtis! Love that idea.

  • Bo Miller

    I love this, Chad. So well spoken and timely. Thanks!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Thank you, Bo, for taking the time to say so. Means a lot to me.

  • Tracie Heskett

    The most helpful parts are to remember our value is not in our work but from our Creator and what He has for us, and to think about how to serve those we wish to serve. Good challenges, Chad!

    • Thanks, Tracie! I appreciate your taking the time to let me know what you found most helpful!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Thanks, Tracie, for taking the time to comment!

  • Deb Anderson Weaver

    Asking what would I be doing if I really valued myself… I’ve been addressing this in the past couple of years, realizing that I haven’t valued myself enough.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! Wrestling with and acting on that question is a worthy endeavor!!

  • Love it Chad! Sounds right up my content alley. Writing is not something that comes easy for me. It takes a lot of focused effort. I often ask myself if my writing will eventually be good enough to earn me a living. Thank you for sharing!

    • Chad R. Allen

      And thank you for commenting. Remember to enjoy the journey!