There are lots of people that go through anxiety, albeit not many of them want to admit they have a problem. In reality, everyone’s life has nail-biting moments, stress-filled days, the demand to meet quotas and deadlines at work, and with all that pressure, it becomes harder to live creatively. When your brain is placed under significant amounts of stress, it triggers a hormonal release to counteract the stress, which tells the body, either to run away or fight back. Our brain is designed chemically with anxiety and courage intertwined, and it is a biological reaction ingrained in everyone, from wallflowers to warriors.
The first step towards finding the courage to control and overcome your anxiety is to accept that this is a normal feeling that comes out as a result of stress. There are different states of anxiety you must consider, and it is related to creating something meaningful in life. It could be within our work, free time, our relationships, and even in our minds.
We create our relationships or work, just as we create a piece of art. We contribute to it, mold it, consent to it (or not), we make choices that inedible change/create our existence. If I told you that you aren’t the only one struggling to find the courage to overcome anxiety and live creatively in Seattle, would you believe me? Yes, there are thousands of people in this unique city, which touches the hearts of people, and inspires them to not only dream big, but let out their creative juices, yet most of them fail in their pursuits. Why is that the case? As Sylvia Plath wrote in her journal,
"The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt."
How does one live creatively? How do we overcome the anxiety we have about change, where does the courage come from? The paradox is something that confounds everyone.
It's Okay to Feel Lost
Before we can even come to courage, it is important to understand that the feeling we have of being lost isn’t inaccurate. This is something you see all around you. You feel lost, not knowing where your life is going. Some people seem to have direction, but you can see the lost souls wandering around Seattle. Wondering what life has in store for them next. It is easy to blame yourself during such times. It is easy to increase your anxiety by wondering what is wrong with you and why you cannot find direction, just like other people around you can.
We feel lost not because there is something wrong with us, but because we are alive in times of change. Society keeps going through cycles of changes. It finds something new, settles into it and lets everyone become comfortable, and then everything is upended again. Just look at what happened after World War 2. Life, as people knew it, ended in WW2. Post-WW2 was a completely new world, a completely new society, with completely new mores and new desires.
Think about how structured our societies were before the nukes were dropped, before the nuclear arms race. Look at the way people worked, the way they loved, the way they lived, and you see a drastic change. In the 50s, for example, having a child out of wedlock would be scandalous. From there we came to the current era, where people have their children attending their weddings, and no one even bats an eye.
Whenever society is cycling towards change, things are fun and exciting. New possibilities and new doors are opening every single day. However, things are difficult for people who were born with one set of mores and have transitioned into a society that has different rules now – they feel lost. This is exactly what is happening to most of us.
Why So Many Of Us Go Through Anxiety?
Everything around us isn’t just changing – it is clear that something new is being built, a new age which we are all marching towards but one which isn’t here yet. You see this in technology – new apps and gadgets being researched to revolutionize the way we will do things in the future. You see this in social sciences, where new research is blowing up our old ideas and suggesting new ways to encourage better societies. You see this with sexual dynamics; women and men fighting the current way we date and love to create a new, fairer and better way of doing it. Cryptocurrencies are making people millionaires, jobs are being lost to automation, and artificial intelligence is threatening to replace all of us in our offices.
The problem isn’t that change is happening. Change does need to happen. Change is good. We do need better technology. Women do need more power in the world until things are fair for them. We do need to rethink identities, jobs, politics, our economic systems, and so on. The problem is that the new future, the one we should aspire to, isn’t clear yet. We can’t direct ourselves towards it, we cannot change ourselves to conform to it, because it does not exist for us yet. In a society with well-defined social mores, it is easy to conform and succeed. You feel fulfilled when you know you are on the right path, but:
We don’t know if we are one the right path, because we don’t know which path is right yet.
The solution to this is simple, but not easy in real life. We do not need to wait until someone gives us direction. No, what we need is the courage to create. That is how you know what the future will be like, that is how you fight anxiety about what the future will hold. You don’t wait to see what happens to you, you gather the courage to create.
Why Creation Is Courageous?
Creating something new is one of the most courageous things we can do, because it means fighting everything that came before. Imagine every artist who changed the way art was made. They were the ones who dragged art into a new frontier. Whether it is Paul Cézanne, who defied 19th century art norms and ended up laying the foundation for 20th century art; or Andy Warhol, who redefined what people would consider art in the later parts of the 20th century.
Think of the musician who decides to create a new style of music. Think of the people who first created jazz, rock and roll, and hip hop. They defied the artistic norms. There was a path there already. Right now, you can see that becoming a rapper can be a profitable path. The first rappers became rappers when society didn’t even know what rap music was. They had no idea whether it will be profitable or successful. Yet they had the courage to go out and do what they wanted to do.
All creation is an act not just of courage but of rebellion as well – rebellion against all that has stood before. This doesn’t mean that you must give up everything from the past – even an improvement in something is an act of rebellion.
Thus, if we are to become creative, we must gather courage. We must also rethink what creativity and art means.
Understanding Art And Creativity, And How We Can All Be Artists
One of the most simple and therapeutic things this generation has, and perhaps lost, is the ability to create music-mixes. Like we use too create a collection of music on CDs to the season of life, music that defined it. Not just defined it, but it was a symbol or an object that accompanied and held us amidst what it is we were feeling. That is what music is, art, an expression of the creator of something that is coming together within them made up of the material of their lives.
Something that is accompanying and comforting them. It seems we have lost that in these days. Those of us who do not do creative work are often unfulfilled. We wish we were creators instead of just doing something menial. The problem here is that our thinking of what creativity is and can be is wrong. When we think creativity, we think of people who create music, writings, paintings, videos, and other such things. We have confined creativity and art to a profession. Creativity isn’t a profession; creativity is an approach. It is a way of life. Consider what Edward Degas, the legendary French artist said:
A painter paints a picture with the same feeling as that with which a criminal commits a crime
You may disagree with Degas here, but here is why this statement is hard for us to agree with: we aren’t artists. Since Degas was already an established artist when he said this, he understood art, though maybe he did not understand how others would not be able to understand what he meant. He is not saying that an artist feels good the way about a painting the way a criminal does. It is not a judgment on the nature of the artist or of the criminal. Instead, the focus is elsewhere – it is on creativity.
Something we must realize is that art isn’t restricted to the canvases and mediums we have confined it to, as it can’t be measured or compressed into boxes.
Creativity isn’t restricted to just creating ‘pieces of art’ – creativity means doing what you do in your own way.
Creativity is a baker who bakes a new type of cake which people love. Creativity is a developer who creates a new app. Creativity is looking at the way things are done and realizing that there may be a better way – a more courageous way.
It will be a lie to say that courage comes easily. Think of it like swimming. Someone who knows to swim can be thrown into a large body of water and they have nothing to worry about – they know they can swim to safety. Someone who does not know how to swim will, instead, start panicking because they know they can drown in that water. Sure, they saw the other people swimming, but they themselves don’t know how to swim.
Courage is the ability to swim through the troubles and obstacles that life throws at you. If you don’t have courage, you drown. If you do, you swim through. However, it is important to note that as impossible as courage looks to someone without courage, we shouldn’t forget that swimming feels just as impossible to someone who does not know how to swim. However, once we learn how to swim, all the fear of drowning goes away. That is what courage feels like as well – the realization that you will not drown – you will swim.
Courage doesn’t just mean risking your life – though it means that as well. Courage also doesn’t just mean doing dangerous things. Courage can be of many types. There is the physical courage, the one that is most readily apparent. The courage to put your life and health at risk to save someone, to fight for a cause, to even give up your life for your country. That courage is easy to see. Then there is moral courage – the ability to call the wrong thing the wrong thing no matter what. The people who fight racism, sexism, and other societal evils every day exhibit moral courage.
One of the most important types of courage, one we don’t talk about much because it isn’t easily visible, is social courage. The ability to be authentic. In many ways, the ways we have of showing courage now are just masks to hide something else, or aren’t really that courageous at all. Taking your clothes off in front of other people requires a lot of courage, because of how insecure we are about our bodies, and due to the way society shames nudity. However, what is even more courageous is the ability to be naked mentally.
You ask yourself. Would you rather be nude in front of everyone you know, or would you rather have your thoughts be naked in front of them? Most of us will pick being nude, because sharing our real thoughts is the scarier suggestion. How can we expect to be fulfilled in an environment like this? When we cannot even share our thoughts, so how can we expect to be who we are? How can we self-actualize and overcome our anxiety if we cannot even be ourselves?
Choosing To Grow
When you choose to be creative, you choose to grow. You choose becoming something new, something greater than what you are. The anxiety you feel while doing such a move should not be a discouragement – anxiety is natural, the same way being scared is natural. A firefighter who walks into a burning building to save someone is not unafraid of fire. They understand the dangers of fire much more than we do. They have seen more horrors of fire than we could imagine. Yet they still go in, because they are brave. Bravery does not mean you aren’t scared – because you can only be brave when you are scared.
How do the firefighters go into a burning building? With preparation. They wear protective gear. They study the plans of the building. They are trained to deal with smoke and other hazards associated with fire. This is the same way we need to approach our life. Yes, if we try to do something creative, something new, there will be hardships. That doesn’t mean we do not make the attempt – it just means that we prepare for the attempt.
It means we get the emotional and social support that we need. It is about loving yourself, and accepting that every individual goes through the same process. It means getting professional mental health when needed. Courage doesn’t just mean doing something, it means having the courage to start something new, and doing something that no one has ever done before. Be courageous and seek out your dreams. Do not let the obstacles stop you but don’t ignore the obstacles either.
Instead look at the obstacles and prepare for them. Life is too short to go through it scared. Embrace courage and creativity.