It's dark and stormy here today in the Hudson Valley. My animals are all huddled close to me, trying to hide from the thunder. So it seems like an appropriate day to talk a little bit about fear, why it comes up, and how I'm learning to most past it.
In my role as a portrait photographer I work with a lot of sensitive, creative souls. They're my people - we speak the same language and harmonize really well.
Many of these amazing people yearn to show up authentically in the world, are ready to break out of a box or try something new. They're looking for more, looking to push a boundary within themselves or birth something unique into the world.
And they're afraid.
Not just "Oh this is a little bit nerve wracking" kind of afraid. Nope. This is the kind of fear where they text me and say things like "I'm scared to death," or "I was excited, and now I'm terrified."
"I know," I'll say. "Tell me what the fear is saying to you."
Sometimes the fear is about skin, weight, or just doing something they've never done before.
We all have those moments. Sometimes trying something new will give me the kind of fear that buckles my knees.
Usually just voicing the fears is enough. Once you do that, it's easier to see the shape of the fear, realize that it's not really a life or death situation, and move forward.
Because that's fear's role. Fear was designed to keep us alive, to give us the response that we needed to run from those saber toothed tigers.
Personally I'm learning to respect fear, even listen to it. But I don't do what it tells me to.
And there's the key:
Don't Do What Fear Tells You to Do!
Oftentimes fear tells you to run away from love, run from opportunities, to stay small, or to stay hidden.
None of those things serve your soul.
So today I want to share something scary with you. It's a peek inside, on a deeper level.
Everything I learn, I have to make art about. In order for me to serve the world, I have to make art about the things that I'm fighting with, the things that I'm afraid of, and the dark scary places that sometimes I'd prefer to not go.
Everything I write about here on the blog, I've hashed out inside of my heart for a long time. Sometimes it's agonizing. Sometimes it's enlightening and freeing. But it always ends up as a photograph.
And you know what? It's scary to share my art with people.
For those of you who feel exposed, or naked, when you step in front of a camera or step on stage, that's how I feel every time I share my artwork.
But I recently realized something: It's by doing this work that I'm able to see others compassionately, and recognize kindreds on a similar path. By doing this work I'm able to see others authentically, serve them, and photograph them.
For the longest time I saw my portrait work and my artwork as totally separate entities. It has taken me a long time to realize that both sides of my work are deeply linked.
My fine art photography is all about digging deep into my fears as a woman, shining a light on them and respecting them - but then also conquering them and moving past them. It is in recognizing my fears that I have found my passion and my voice.
There is a powerful light in each of our darknesses. Hear it out.
Fear is the gatekeeper, but once you move past it you will find your most authentic voice.
This image below was the first time I really recognized myself as addressing that darkness. Fear got into my face, and loudly demanded "Who do you think you are? Don't you know you're not allowed here?! Leave now!"
I heard fear out, but I didn't let it stop me.
"Burdens." Fine Art Photography by Jen Kiaba.Click to purchase the print.
This image became the first step in creating artwork that bares the deepest parts of my soul.
Once I allowed myself to move beyond the fear, inspiration began to come non-stop. I even created an entire body of fine art photographs inspired by elements in this image. (Click over to my fine art gallery if you're interested in seeing more.)
Granted, each time I pick up the camera, fear repeats those same words to me.
But I've learned to recognize when it shows up, and know that I'm onto something. Because there's a little bit of excitement mixed with the fear.
I'm excited about trying the new experience, meeting the new person, photographing the kindred soul, or helping someone else discover their own voice through my fine art.
So I'd love to hear from you. In the comments below I'd be honored if you'd share with me about something you've experienced fear around. What does the fear say to you?
Remember: sometime hearing fear out is the best way to learn how to go past it. You may find that your biggest passion or your deepest dream is just past fear.