As a creative entrepreneur, everything is about asking. Asking myself to be willing to do the work, asking the Muse to come play with me, asking life to hold me as I try my wings. And the scary part: asking other people. Asking them to support my work, to share my work, to buy what I sell, to read my words, to come to my retreats and so on.

It’s all very uncomfortable. Some of it is terrifying. But since it’s an inevitable part of the work, I’ve found my way to deal with it.

And no, my way is not about being bold and fearless. Quite the opposite. My way is about finding and cultivating safety.

Safety is probably the most underestimated factor in a thriving life. It doesn’t fit with the mythology of the fearless artist or the daring entrepreneur. Bothering about safety is seen as the antithesis of a big bold life.

Well, I bother about it a lot. Because you know what? You can’t even access the part of the brain where this big bold thinking happens if you’re not experiencing at least a basic level of safety.

To put it very simply, our brains can be divided into three main areas of function: the instinctual brain; the social/emotional brain; and the executive brain.

Bear with me as I get into specifics here, because this knowledge will change things for you.

The instinctual brain is the oldest, most primitive part of our brain. It’s located at the base of the skull, and it regulates our basic bodily functions and threat-avoiding impulses. Its primary function is to keep us safe.

The social/emotional brain is a newer structure, overlaid on top of the instinctual brain, and this is where emotional processing, memory and connection to others happen.

The executive brain is the most recently-evolved region of the brain; it is overlaid on top of the emotional brain and it regulates thought and higher function. This is the part of the brain that differentiates us from other species and it grows and develops as we hone particular skill-sets. This is where all our thinking, learning, problem-solving and creating happens.

Each of these systems is integrated into the next one, and what is important for us to know is that the lower structures control access to the upper ones. Each level is a gate to the next.

Once our survival is accomplished or restored, the lower brain opens the gate to the midbrain, and once connection and co-operation is accomplished or restored, the midbrain opens access to the upper brain, which then makes creativity, learning and growth possible.

But if the lower brain does not perceive our survival as accomplished or restored, it will not open the gates. It means that in order for the human brain to access its full creative capacity, we first need to feel safe, secure and emotionally connected.

Thus, we are looking at an incredibly important and overlooked aspect of the daring, creative life – safety.

What do you need to feel safe enough to move forward? That’s the most important question I ask myself and my clients. (If you’re a highly sensitive person and/or have a history of trauma, this is even more important.)

Over and over again, as soon as fear arises: What do I need to feel safe enough to move forward? I respond to that need, and then I move forward.

I don’t believe in pushing. I believe in listening to and tending to my needs in such a way that I can’t help but trust myself. Because when we trust ourselves, we can face the scary stuff. We’ve got our own backs.

And what happens then is I find I don’t need to protect myself quite so much as I thought. I can step into the arena; I can ask the scary question; I can even handle rejection. It will hurt once in a while but I can handle it. When I’ve got my own back, I can handle it. You can too. You’re not that fragile. You’re not. You’d never come this far if you were.

It’s not pleasant, no. But we didn’t sign up for pleasant, we signed up for the real deal.

You can avoid the pain of rejection, but you will do so at the cost of growth. You will have to dim your lights and play small, and that’s a high price to pay to avoid some discomfort. Fact is, if you’re never rejected, you’re not reaching far enough. This is as true as it is annoying.

You got a scary question to ask? Then I’ve got a question for you: What do you need to feel safe enough to move forward?

Answering it is the fastest way to expansion. Promise.

 

 

 

This essay was first published as part of the community project Asking for Impossible Things.


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