Little Lessons #9: Fight The Fear

Nubby Twiglet | Little Lessons: Fight The Fear

I flew into Amsterdam mid-week, a quick flight from Berlin. There’s nothing better than exploring Europe in the summer. As I walked down the streets mid-day, taking in all the (new to me) sights, the words tumbled out. I said,”I never thought I’d have the chance to visit Holland” to Kat and Gala without much thought.

But, on our winding walk home down the cobblestone streets, the significance hit me: I’d been dreaming of traveling the world since my early 20s and now, it was finally happening. At the time though, I still remember how it felt very much out of reach. I was always in school or working full time and I never had the time off or the budget. I still quietly dreamed, even though the life I wanted felt very far away.

All those years ago, I dreamed of a lifestyle melded together with various freedoms which to me, were very specific. This lifestyle meant choosing the clients I wanted to work with (instead of spending 6 months on a corporate campaign I was assigned to), traveling the world with friends (even if it meant mixing business with pleasure), buying a home that I could decorate however I wanted (with no beige walls or carpet in sight like my rental) and feeling confident enough to just be myself (which can be more challenging than it seems).

I’d stand at the cash register or sit at the desk of whichever job I was working and read the blogs of people I thought had “made it” based on my internalized ideal lifestyle list. I wanted what they had but the truth was, there was a wall of fear holding me back from that life. I just hadn’t quite figured that part out yet.

I knew it wasn’t impossible to get that life — people were already hiring me for the design work I wanted to do and I was slowly finding ways to travel more, even if it was just a state away. But, the fear always crept up like a sneaky road block. What if I quit all of my outside work and didn’t make enough money to pay my mortgage? What if I was traveling the world but got lost and my cell phone didn’t work? What if the clients I wanted stopped coming to me and I had to go back to office life? What if…? There were so many excuses and they were like a broken record…they never seemed to stop. There was so much fear.

What was the tipping point? It wasn’t any one day or moment. It was more of a feeling that the clock was ticking and it was up to me to create the life I wanted — nobody else was going to show up and do it for me. After talking with friends and peers I admired, I realized that everyone feels that same fear when faced with big changes. It wasn’t unusual; they just didn’t let it get in the way like I did.

Once I affirmed that I was going to give it my all and find a way to do my own thing, I knew there was no turning back. Failure wasn’t an option. By dedicating myself to the path I knew was right, I became infinitely happier and felt more free. A year into fully committing to doing things my way, I’ve never felt better. My life is far from perfect — even when I’m visiting a cool city like Amsterdam, what you don’t see is that I’m taking Skype calls with clients at 9 pm and waking up at 6 am to finish off a round of work before exploring the city.

In retrospect, I actually work harder now but as cliché as it sounds, it’s work I love so much that it never feels that way. That’s the difference. When you let go of fear and people’s expectations of how you should live your life, you feel happier: you’re more in line with your ideal purpose, and in turn, are probably more at peace and kinder to those around you. It has a ripple effect in your life.

My advice to you is to fight that fear. We all have it.
It’s just a matter of letting go and seeing what happens.


Photo taken on my lunch break from teaching at The Blogcademy in Amsterdam yesterday.
Check out even more Little lessons posts right here.

29 Responses to Little Lessons #9: Fight The Fear

  1. Amy says:

    I love this post Shauna. Thanks for also taking the time to reply to my e-mails. You might remember that I just took a new job that is 100% telecommute. I will be able to work, travel, and BLOG!

    I am SOOOO afraid to make this change in my life but it’s now or never. Do or Die kinda thing. I’ll live with regret if I don’t try. It’s just fear holding me back anyway. Fear of the unknown and the letting go of what I’m used to.

    It actually all started with going to the blogcademy and getting serious with travel blogging and toying with the idea of how to make travel a bigger part of my life. I took the blog way more seriously and you can’t have a travel blog unless you’re traveling 24/7 or making it a bigger part of your life than going on a few weeks of vacation a year. I feel when you REALLY want something and willing to fight for it, the universe conspires to help you get it.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment! :)

  2. Jovana says:

    Amazing, inspirational post, Shauna! I’m self proclaimed queen of “what if’s” and even though I’m 19, it has effected the way I live, when it shouldn’t. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Tara says:

    This is a fantastic post! It must be incredibly satisfying to do what you love. I’m currently working towards the same goal! It really is hard to let go of fears and just go for it. I’m also the type of person who really gets caught up with the whole “behind-the-scenes” work, haha. Like taxes! Ack.

    • Shauna says:

      Tara: The behind the scenes stuff can be tough. I hired an accountant five years ago that does my personal and business taxes and who I can call any time with questions. Changed my life! If there’s anything you can let go of so you can focus on the more creative side of things, give it a go. Good luck!

  4. Ms. Mauikai says:

    About a week ago, I started the Blogcademy homeschool classes (and became OBSESSED with the idea of going to the NYC edition next month!!!). It was then that I started reading your blog and fell just as madly for your beautiful design style and incredibly authentic posts. Side note: It’s also thanks to you that I’m now a few hundred dollars less abundant (yes, I jumped at your NEX 5N post and my baby is now on her way to me <3.)

    But I digress, last night I was talking to one of my dear friends who has been struggling to leave her 9 to 5, dead-end job behind (which she absolutely despises), and spreading her wings to create the life she's always dreamed of! My entire life I've been a huge risk-taker, chasing my dreams around the world and uprooting my life whenever intuition's knocked. This was THE perfect post to send her way. Thank you so much for sharing! Hope we get the chance to meet in person in one of my very favorite cities ever :)

  5. Alex says:

    I’m in my early 20′s now and feeling the way you did. I know that with where I’m at in my life, every small step towards what I want will matter. So if a bit longer than lately, I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog, I should go for it. Thank you for blogging, because today I’m feeling more inspired.

    • Shauna says:

      Alex: Just go for it! When I started blogging, I had no idea what would happen or where it would take me….and now I’ve made most of my close friends through blogging, not to mention started multiple businesses because of it. Jump in and let me know how it goes!

  6. Sara says:

    This is great Shauna! I definitely feel the fear, the same way you do—looking at people living the life I want and thinking I’ll never get there. But the other day I realized… even though this past month has been really tough financially, and even though I have to listen seemingly never-ending questions from my parents on when I’m going to get a “real job” (why is it that to so many people, you only have a real job if you report to someone else in a place other than your home?) I’m actually kind of living that life. I’m blogging (as of very recently) and finding my writing mojo again, I’m working with awesome clients doing the kind of design I want to be doing, and I have time to sew in the evenings and on weekends, and time to hang out with friends, and get to sleep in and wear whatever the hell I want all day long. It just looks a bit different from the inside than I thought it would, and the money’s a little tighter than I thought it’d be (though I did have a few good months before summer hit). I think that when we see the “amazing” lives of others and only see the amazing parts, its easy to forget that our own lives are pretty amazing too—we just also see the regular parts, pretty frequently.

    • Shauna says:

      Sara: Parents are always that way! But once you’ve made it on your own terms, they’ll be the first to brag to their friends about you. ;) And summer months tend to be a little slower so hang in there. I was actually slower in the spring, then over a few week period, things sped up in a big way and I booked up until the end of the year. That’s the amazing part about freelance — things can change at any second! Wishing you tons of success.

  7. Anne says:

    I can so relate to this story. Letting go of fear is the biggest hurdle I’m facing. When I was a teenager, it was big fear, anxiety disorders took over my life. Now I’m far into my twenties and have combatted all of them. I feel like I’m strong enough to take on that last, big one. The fear of taking the direction of my life into my own hands. The way you describe the tipping point, that’s totally how I feel about my life at this moment. The tipping point is coming closer and I feel like constantly preparing for it. I hope that when I’ve reached that point, I’ll be able to start up my own projects with confidence, continue growing my blog and myself as a person.

    I want to thank you for sharing this story, because recognizing that we all deal with these issues and can overcome them, that we’re all human, gives us the courage and power to take charge of our own lives I :-)

  8. You are exactly right in this post! Sometimes other things come in to play though too that aren’t expected that make everything seem even further away. Thanks for reminding me that everyday that I work towards something I want, I am one step closer to the lifestyle that I dream of every day. Sometimes people say “I don’t know how you are going to do it.” and they say, “How do you expect to get the clients you want if you live in Arkansas?” and “People just don’t appreciate design as much as you do, you are probably going to be disappointed because the clients you want don’t exist.” Some days, all of these things start to get to me and I feel like just giving up, which is completely something I wouldn’t do. Then I pull myself together and remember that I can do anything I want to, I just have to keep working to get it. I also have to remember that it won’t happen overnight.

    Thank you so much for the reminder and the encouragement. I love reading your blog every week. I have learned so much from you as a designer. Keep up your amazing work. (:

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  10. Jessica says:

    Hi Shauna! Thanks so much for this post! I really enjoy learning how people overcome their fears — especially people I admire, like you!

    I struggle with fear quite often. Mostly, it’s the fear that other people won’t approve of something I’ve created, or said, or done. Like you said, I think everyone has these fears to varying degrees, but, it seems, that designers and other creative types are particularly in tune with them. It might be because a large portion of our jobs is to please clients.

    But, you’re definitely right, living only to please people won’t lead to happiness. And you can’t please everyone anyway. Perhaps it’s finally time for me to let go of my fears and just start being myself.

    • Shauna says:

      Jessica: I think you’re right that creative types are more susceptible to these kinds of fears. It’s tough because even if you think you’ve done a great job, there’s still the client approval and outside feedback that comes into play. The only thing that’s helped me has been doing literally hundreds of jobs and getting to a point where I can have a thick enough skin to accept feedback, both good and bad for what it is….feedback. It’s a process that never ends but does get easier.

  11. Caitlin says:

    This hits close to home. Thank you for sharing! I’ve been freelancing for a couple of years, but still growing in my design abilities. I hope to travel more also, and this post is definitely inspiring! Thank you for sharing :)

    • Shauna says:

      Catlin: I’m with ya, girl. I freelanced for a solid 5 years before I felt comfortable raising my rates to a realistic level, launching my design studio and being truly confident with the work I was producing. I think the internet makes us feel like things just happen overnight but…they don’t. Keep on keepin’ on! xo

  12. Lyn says:

    Shauna – I just looked in on your blog for the first time in a little while and was tots struck by this since about 5 minutes before reading it I was in the kitchen reflecting on the fact that it’s up to me to make stuff happen in my life (whatever that may be). Confluence! Cheers :)

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