With Great Power Comes Great Fear
How to harness your creative energy — especially when resistance rears its ugly head
Whoever said “with great power comes great responsibility” was right. But they didn’t have the full story of it.
I read Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art a few years ago, and I think I’m due for a re-read. His advice and musings on the life of creatives aren’t new, per se, but it reminds us all that where there is power, there is also fear.
Fear isn’t exactly the word he uses. Pressfield calls it “resistance”, and it takes the form of self-doubt, procrastination, impostor syndrome, and more. Resistance, he says, isn’t just about being distracted or not feeling like working. It’s deeper than that.
“Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you’re feeling massive Resistance, the good news is that it means there’s tremendous love there too.” — Steven Pressfield
All of us have deep creative drives within ourselves. Whether we pay attention to them and give them life is another story. As humans, we are built to tell stories and to serve others. The power of narrative sets humanity apart from its kin and allows us to learn and grow past our default states.
When something is important to you, really important, do you get butterflies in your stomach? That’s a good sign. You’re on the right path. Remember, our heart and soul often know what we need better than our conscious brain does. But the brain has been programmed for millennia to keep us safe. Keep us grounded. And yes, that often means not going after that thing deep in our gut.
So we rationalize. We tell ourselves we’ll do it tomorrow. Or we listen to others when they ask why we’re trying so hard. Why we think we can make a difference. Or hey, maybe we just listen to ourselves. My brain has come up with some of the most foul, insulting narratives that I’ve ever heard. And you know what? They’re not even about another person.
It’s all me.
Even greater than the fear of failure can be the fear of success. Yes, that’s actually a thing. And yes, it’s probably holding you back.
Think about it this way.
If you’re flat broke and have nothing to lose, you might take more chances than you normally would. You can only go up from rock bottom, right? But what if you’ve already tasted success?
What if you have mouths to feed? A mortgage? A way of living that’s already dependent on that windfall you stumbled into?
Suddenly, there’s that fear again. That resistance. What if it was a fluke? What if you lose it all again? And what if — perhaps the most damning fear of them all — what if you let everyone down?
Playing it safe doesn’t sound like such a bad idea anymore. After all, if you play so small you can’t lose big-time, you can’t get hurt, right?
Well, yes…and no.
But the person you’re hurting isn’t who you might think.
Are you going to let yourself lose that chance to make a real difference? Are you going to cut yourself off from your heart, your dreams, your ambitions — just so you don’t have to face the other side?
No one said success was easy. And no one said keeping that success around was easy, either. But look at you. You’ve done plenty of powerful things in your life already. Every choice you’ve made, every action you’ve taken, has brought you here to this moment.
And no matter how bad things might seem, you’re still here. You’re still breathing.
And you’ve been gifted with another day to make things right. To make things different.
It’s possible. It can be yours, today. There’s only one catch:
The fear never goes away.
No matter how successful you become, no matter how much you prepare, that fear will always be there. That resistance will always be there. It’s part of our psyche as creators.
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.” — Steven Pressfield
That fear doesn’t mean you need to give up, though. That fear is actually a beacon telling you that you’re heading in the right direction. That there’s hope on the other side if you’re brave enough to see this through.
So today, when you sit down to do your most important work and you feel that familiar fear tugging at you, sit with it for a moment. Look it in the face. Understand that it’s part of the process, and just start.
One word in front of the other.
That’s how every creative empire was built. And that’s how yours will grow, too.
One word at a time. One sentence at a time. One day at a time.
But only if you push past your fear.
Use it as a compass. Use it to guide you. Your heart will not steer you wrong.
“The more resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art/project/enterprise is to you — and the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it.” — Steven Pressfield