When You’re Too Scared to Start Something New

Not many people know this about me, but I once co-founded a mental health blog for law students. As part of a program in my penultimate year of law school, I was tasked to create a project that would add value to the law faculty. I knew immediately that I wanted to create a platform where students could share their personal trials and triumphs in order to encourage others. A place where people could come, read stories, and say ‘me too.’ I didn’t know it back then, but starting that project was the catalyst that sparked my entire writing journey.  

Before it launched, I was plagued with fear. I’m talking thick, heavy, ready-to-throw-up fear. Mental illness is a sensitive topic and I was worried about ruffling feathers and offending people; sick to my stomach about what people would say if they saw my name attached to the project with the label ‘co-founder.’

But deep down, I felt an incredibly strong pull to start this blog. From my own personal battle with mental illness, I knew that reading the stories and fight songs from people who had come through the other side would act as a healing balm over the most painful of wounds. Yet, I was constantly torn between my desire to contribute something meaningful to the community and my paranoia over what people would think.

While still wrestling with my fear, I caught up with an old friend who was knee deep in the media and creative world. Someone who understood the terrifying reality that once words and art are published on the internet, it takes on a life of its own, giving you absolutely no control over how people will react to it.

He stayed silent and remarkably calm the entire time I word-vomited all my worst insecurities. Then, he said this:

“There are two circles of people who will read your words. The first will resonate with it and will throw their support behind you. The second will raise their guard at your words because it strikes a nerve deep down inside them. They may lash out and criticise you. Either way, it doesn’t matter; they’re still reading.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about this friend and our catch up. But his sage advice has always stuck with me – especially now.

As I write this, everyone is confined inside and waiting for the pandemic to blow over. The isolation has been confronting, but it has also freed up space for many of us to tap into our creativity once again. To replace the mundane and distract ourselves from our anxiety, we’ve dusted off old projects, rekindled our love for books and art, and committed ourselves to new hobbies.

I’m willing to bet that now, more than ever, you’ve been longing to create something of your own. As the external distractions fade and you stare at the same four walls in your room, you can feel the deep pull inside of you that’s begging you to share your craft with the world. You feel elated as you imagine all the possibilities – the art you will create, the words you’ll share, the business you’ll build – before the thought of that second circle, the one made up of critics and bullies from high school, brings your excitement to a screeching halt.  

When an idea plants itself in your head, it’s natural to be fearful of this group of people. It’s instinct to let potential criticism paralyse you and make you second guess yourself. You’ve likely conjured up a vision of someone saying something snarky about your creation behind your back or rolling their eyes. No one is immune to this, least of all me.

It’s been a year and a half since I’ve started publishing words online and in that time I like to think I’ve learnt a thing or two about that second circle of people. I can only speak about writing, but here’s what I know to be true: whatever you seek to create will evoke a reaction – good and bad.

Words are powerful. It ruffles feathers, draws out repressed emotions, and riles up the beast inside that wants to stay hidden. Words have the power to unlock memories, transport us to faraway places, and evoke intense, visceral reactions. It makes us laugh, cry, and feel everything in-between.

To avoid sharing our words because we’re scared of how people will react is to strip it of the very thing that gives it its power.

There may be times when you don’t get the praise and support you crave. You may even have yourself a critic or two who would love to see you fall.

But that’s not where our focus should be.

When fear crowds our hearts and minds, we become narrow minded. We forget the real reason we want to start a blog, a business, or a portfolio of artwork to begin with: to satisfy the deep longing in our soul to create and to add value to other people’s lives.

More importantly, we neglect the fact that there’s an entire circle of people who will read and resonate with what we have to offer.

When I find myself paralysed and confined by a prison of my own insecurities and fears, I like to think about the writers, artists, and musicians who came before me. I think about how stumbling upon a blog from a lady in Atlanta carried me through the darkest period of my life; how certain songs and paintings remind me of people and places I adore.

Then, I think about how I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if it wasn’t for them and their radical decision to share their craft.

I may never get the chance to shake the creators’ hand in real life and explain how their art left an imprint on my heart. They may never know how their labour of love shaped me into the person I am today. But that doesn’t lessen the impact of their art. 

All that to say, you may never know exactly who is reading your work or admiring your art. You may never know who screenshots your words for a rainy day, clicks the link in bio, or even bothers to read your whole caption. Your posts may never go viral, attract 100 likes, or be re-shared. Your work may never be on a bestseller’s list, hung in the Louvre, or on Spotify’s Top List.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not impacting someone. It doesn’t mean it’s not sowing the seeds of hope in someone’s heart or causing a shift in perspective.  Perhaps the person your craft is supposed to have the deepest impact on is yourself. Everything else is just extra.

Remember this, friends. Your duty is to the people you want to serve and to yourself. Focus less on the potential naysayers, and more on the ones who may be forever changed by the things you have to say.

So, if you’re currently wrestling over whether to press publish on your blog post, announce your side-hustle, or share your art, let this be your permission slip: just do it.

Encouraging you always,

Ash


If you’ve recently bitten the bullet and launched a new blog, side-hustle, comment/reply below and let me know. I would love to support and cheer you on during this time.

How to Kick Fear’s Butt When Starting Something New

The first time I thought about publicly sharing my words online, I immediately squashed it down and wrote it off as ‘too hard’ and ‘too vulnerable.’

That was 3 years ago.

Last year, when the idea to publish my writing started knocking on my heart again, the same thoughts swarmed into my mind. Only this time, it brought buddies.

‘Who do you think you are?’

‘What if you fail?’

‘What will people think?’

‘Worst- what if no one cares?’

Like an army, these enemy soldiers invaded my mind and set up base camp with the sole purpose of killing off any ideas to share my words of encouragement with the world.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar just as you were about to try something new. Whether that be setting up your own Etsy shop, becoming a small business owner or even as simple as posting a picture on Instagram.

If you’ve never identified if before, let me formally introduce you to Fear. Fear is the voice behind all of these self-deprecating thoughts. Although he may put on various disguises such as Anxiety, Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt, it’s really just Fear pulling the strings.

Fear’s main mission is to keep you small. To keep you believing that you’d never amount to much, so you probably shouldn’t try at all. Fear doesn’t want you putting yourself in situations where you’d be more exposed.

Put your words online where people may criticise it? No thank you.

Set up a shop when you may get no sales? Heck no.

Become a female business owner when female CEO’s already have a dozen harder obstacles? Just stay in bed, hun.

Fear has infinite excuses in his bag of tricks to keep you in one spot.

The difference between me last year, and me three years ago, was that I changed fear’s direction. Fear will always be there on our journey. There’s no getting rid of him. He is a guaranteed travel companion. But amongst all the scary scenarios of failure and criticism emerged an even more terrifying thought- the fear that it would break my heart if I never even tried.  

It was this horrifying scenario that finally kicked me into action. The thought that I would stay ‘ordinary’ forever because I was too scared to try something different. The thought that so many people may never benefit from the message I wanted to share because I was scared of what ‘haters’ would think.

When I finally published my words online, my first piece was about – you guessed it- fear. That article landed in front of the eyes of a female CEO who ended up hiring me to be her writer even though I had zero experience. Every time I share my experiences with fear, I hear the chimes of ‘me too’ and ‘I feel the same way.’ I only say this to show you that no one is immune from fear. Not a CEO. Not the influencer on Instagram or the businesswoman who made it onto the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Everyone – no matter how well they hide it- is scared sh*tless of something. 

You may think that because I’m writing about this, it means I’ve conquered it and become the Master of Fear. Heck no. I still deal with Fear daily. Even hourly. I feel it whenever I’m about to press publish on another blog post. It creeps up when I think about sharing my words on Instagram or when I don’t know whether I should introduce myself as a student or a writer.

I have to make an intentional choice every day- do I want to be fearful or do I want to be bold?

So how do you kick fear in the butt?

You acknowledge that for better or worse, it’ll always be there.

You recognise that out of the bazillion things that out of your control, this is actually something you get to call the shots on. You  get to choose whether fear keeps you in the one spot OR if it pushes you to be the best version of yourself.

You pair up with him and say, ‘Hey, I can’t beat you. But maybe I can use your energy for a good purpose. Every time you come into the picture, I know it’s just a sign that I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone and it’s my time to grow.’

That’s how you kick fear’s butt.

That’s how you become what you always were- a winner.


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The Reminders You Need Today

I woke up early today intending to write a post that would speak to your needs, only to still have a blank page at 9am. Ideas were swarming around but nothing was sticking.

Some days call for flowy words and beautiful metaphors to remind us to stay hopeful. And some days, we just need someone to tell us the truth without any fluff.

I promise to validate the heck out of your emotions on every other post, but today I’m just going to give you the reminders you didn’t even know you needed.


Stop waiting for permission and just do the damn thing. I ‘ummed and aahed’ for so long before I ever considered forging my own path and publishing something online. I asked for 10 different people’s opinions and still kept procrastinating on my vision before I ever took action. If you keep waiting for support, you’re going to get left behind by the people who aren’t looking for a pat on the back. Understand that not everyone is going to support you 100% because it may seem completely left field, but other people’s opinions shouldn’t be the reason why you give up. Stop asking and start doing.

You don’t need their approval.

Whoever’s face flashed into your mind as you read that- that’s the person you need to stop begging for acceptance. Bending over backwards and changing yourself to gain their approval isn’t serving anyone at all. One day, you may gain their respect, or you may not. Either way, their opinion of you doesn’t detract from your worth or the impact you have. You are a light and lights don’t stay hidden.

Speaking of staying hidden, stop downplaying your gifts. Stop hiding what you really want to do because it contradicts with your current path or because you’re scared no one will get it. I used to speak about my writing in hushed tones and only tell people about it in parking lots like a shady drug deal.  But all I was doing was just making myself smaller. Be bold and unapologetic about the things that give you life and make you get up in the morning.  

If you don’t actually know what lights you up or what you want to do in life, that’s fine. The majority of adults are still trying to figure it out. I always wanted my life’s calling to be handed to me in a manual with all the instructions intact. But where’s the fun in that? It’s in the uncertainty and the confusion that you unexpectedly find what you’re looking for.

For anyone that’s currently wandering aimlessly in a fog and confused about the direction their life is going, trust me when I say that the fog is a good thing. It’s the first step to making a breakthrough. The fog forces you to ask if you really like the direction you’re headed or if you’re just following someone else’s journey. Perhaps this is the opportunity you’ve always needed to chart a new course for yourself.

You need to stop thinking it’s the end of the world when you fail or when someone rejects you. Failure gives you stories to tell during an awkward silence at a dinner party, and rejection literally saves you from settling. It’s a time saver, not a time waster.

One of the bittersweet parts of life is that we don’t get to keep the people that come into our lives. I read somewhere that the people in the Pilot episode of our sitcom, won’t necessarily be there in the season finale. And I think that’s a beautiful picture. People come and go, but the next season always brings in new characters to support the protagonist. When someone leaves, let them go with the blessing that they now get a chance to impact somebody else’s life.

Savour the humble beginnings. Relish the seasons when no one is watching you or expecting you to keep performing. It may hurt when you look at how much traction others have gained while you’ve only taken two steps. But you have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes of their story. Just stay faithful to what you have and keep showing up to your craft and your journey. The rest will fall into place.

Stop finding reasons to run away. One day, the thing you’ve been waiting for will grace your doorstep. For once, it’ll be nearly everything you’ve asked for, and it’ll be so unexpected that it may take a while for your feelings to catch up. Your knee jerk reaction will be to nitpick at flaws till you find a reason to end it. But know that beautiful things take time to unfold and that applies to your feelings as well. Savour the slow burn and trust the process.

Speaking of feelings- you’re allowed to have them. So many people go about life desperately trying to hide the fact that they feel anything but happy and joyful. Your painful feelings are just as valid and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s tempting to want to fast forward through the achy breaky parts of your life. If the remote from the movie Click was real, I’d buy it in a heartbeat to skip the emotionally turbulent times. But the painful stuff increases your sensitivity for all the beautiful feelings as well. It widens your capacity for love. It breeds in you a deep compassion, astounding empathy for the hurting ones and an appreciation for who you are when you’re on your own.

You are worthy of good things. I know it’s easy to look at other people and believe that beautiful moments are only reserved for everyone else but you. But that’s not true. Your story may look a little different and it may not be what you expect, but how boring would it be if we all received the same things at the same time. Just hold on. Good things are coming for you too.  

Know that you’re not powerful enough to ruin the plans for your life. But you are powerful enough to persist through each day and keep walking even when it’s dark and foggy. You’re powerful enough to give yourself a fresh start any day you want.

Above all, know that there’s nothing wrong with you. The world will try and magnify your flaws, but your life can either be all about fixing yourself or serving others well.

You were not born with missing parts and attached to a label that says ‘defective.’ No. You are utterly unique and created for a purpose.

Encouraging you always,

Ash x

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

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Pushing Through The Fear

This piece originally appeared on the Eight Hundred Words blog, but fear is one of those emotions that never strays far from us. I heard someone say today that ‘Fear and Excitement can feel like the same thing in our stomach,’ and I wondered how many times I’ve avoided doing something because I was fearful. This piece may apply to writing, but it doesn’t change the message behind it. Fear doesn’t get to win. You do.

‘Don’t you want to change the world?’ flashed the text on my screen. I actually laughed out loud when I read it. The notion of me, a twenty-one-year-old who’s barely completed her degree, changing the world was so absurd I spat out my coffee.

The night before, I had sent (yet another) message to my friend, vomiting all my worries and fears into the little text block on Messenger. I’d whined that my words probably weren’t going to be good enough to be published by anyone. I wondered if it was too pretentious to call myself a ‘writer’ if I only had one self-published article online. I asked a bunch of ‘what if’s’ and ‘who did I think I was to set up a platform and be a voice.’

I typed out a whole essay, and he sent me back seven words.

Don’t you want to change the world?

To his credit, those words did stop me worrying. But only for five minutes. Then I went back to overthinking every little decision I was about to make.

I’ve written a lot about fear lately. Heck, I scored my first client because of my words on fear. I think what makes me an expert is that me and fear go way back. He was there when I wanted to apply for Class Captain but didn’t because I was scared of rejection. He lurked in the background years back when the writing itch first began and made me fearful of what people thought. He showed up every time I wondered if I was worthy of more in my life, and he always shut me down.

You see, fear is the guy you didn’t want to invite to your party but felt obligated to. He is a stage five clinger who latches to your side the entire night and begs to be the centre of your attention. When all you want to do is be the life of the party, he whispers taunts in your ear to keep you off the dancefloor. Fear wants to rob you of every little thing that could make you great. He loves seeing you doubt your ability to string together words and weave stories from your imagination because it keeps you small.

So let this be your pep talk today: Fear does not get to win. Fear does not get to smother your dreams to death. Sometimes the only way to get over it is to just do the damn thing. Sure, you may come out on the other side with a bruised ego – but you’ll still be alive! Fear shrinks every time you dare to step forward.

If you want to call yourself a writer, do it loud and proud. Forget this idea that to be ‘legit’ you need fancy by-lines, a publisher or get paid per word. If you write with intention, you’re a writer. Words have power and you need to speak out your own destiny.

If you want to set up a website and claim your domain name–go ahead and put your money where your mouth is. You don’t want fear delaying you for so long that someone else with the same name claims that website first.

If you want to post about your work, just do it. You are your first cheerleader. No one else will advocate for you as hard as you should for yourself. People may scroll right on through or they may roll their eyes. But someone needs the ideas and stories and wisdom you have to offer the world. Your story might be the lifeline they need to keep going. I always tell myself that even if only one person resonates with my words, it would be worth it .

I wish I could tell you that the anxious thoughts that dart around your mind and the urge to throw up will stop once you hit Point X on the map. That once you publish a certain number of articles or achieve the most notable byline, you’ll never feel the angsty clenching in your heart again. The truth is: fear is a constant companion. He’ll tag along whenever you even think about

venturing outside your comfort zone or pursuing ‘something more.’ And gosh, I hope you’re constantly going on new adventures and saying yes to uncertainty. That’s what makes our lives so exciting.

You may think that just because I’m writing this, it means I’ve got it figured out (spoiler alert: I don’t). I still juggle fear every day–he just takes on different personas to the one I’m used to. But I have to decide every day that fear doesn’t get to smother my dreams anymore.

My friend was right to ask if I wanted to change the world. Maybe changing the world isn’t just setting up a multi-billion-dollar corporation or achieving ‘world peace.’ Perhaps it’s feeling the fear and moving forward anyways. When 99% of your head is screaming at you to stay insignificant, trust the 1% that whispers ‘just try.’

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Everyone struggles to get through Humpday. It’s this dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed. Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

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