To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation – that’s also vulnerability.
— — Brené Brown in Daring Greatly
Let me explain…
This weekend is the Corvallis Fall Festival. After months of planning and preparing, I’ll be putting my art out there in the public eye, for sale, in a completely new way for me. It’s from the safety of a shared booth (4 other photographers along with me) and the safety of being close to home, but as I wrote out the email last night inviting friends and neighbors to visit me in the booth during the festival, I started to feel the fear. I started thinking, Why am I sending this? I don’t want to bother anyone with more emails. Will they even care? What if they don’t like my work? Maybe it’s better not to tell anyone. But I pressed send on the email anyway, despite my fears, because I know that most of these people want to see me succeed and will come by and support me even if it’s with a quick hi in the booth.
As I was reading this morning I realized where this feeling came from. I’m making myself vulnerable, by putting my art out there in a new way. And no matter how much I want and crave connection with people through my art, I also fear it. No amount of planning and preparing can eliminate that visceral response that comes from somewhere deep inside. The place that fears that I am not good enough. The place that fears rejection.
This vulnerability attack is made doubly strong by my trip to England next week. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been stressing over what to wear for my workshops. I’m realizing now this is just a substitute worry for the bigger fear of putting myself “out there” in such a spectacular way. Want to know how the workshops happened? Earlier this year I said to myself, “I want to go to England and visit my friends! It would be cool to teach a couple of photography workshops at the same time.” And then started working on it. Once again, the planning and the preparing are the easy parts. It’s so, so easy for me to create a plan, a list of things to do, and check them off one by one. It’s a lot harder to deal with the emotions that come along with the actual event. Here I am, travelling by myself, staying with friends I know mostly from online interactions, offering workshops in a foreign country. Vulnerable? You bet.
With every step I take outside of my comfort zone, I open myself up to uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. It just so happens that is exactly Brené Brown’s definition of vulnerability. I get it. I feel it, at my core, right now. Thankfully, these kinds of fears and emotions usually don’t come until I’m already committed, well down the road where it’s too late to turn back, so I keep putting myself out there in new and crazy ways. As I’ve said so many times in my writing here before, each little step you take expands your comfort zone. Whether it’s liberating your art as a postcard or in an art fair, it all takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable.
I know intellectually that everything will be fine. Regardless of whether or not I sell a lot of my photographs at the festival, regardless of whether or not my workshops are full, I will have a good time. I will learn something in the process. I will grow.
Knowing it will all turn out ok doesn’t eliminate the feelings that exist today, right now, in my gut. But understanding where they are coming from, why being vulnerable has this impact on me, certainly helps. Thanks to the message from the universe yesterday, I was prepared for the panic attack of today. (Sort of. Talk to me about it tomorrow.)