I’ve been having conversations around vulnerability and the fear of being seen with clients who are struggling to create visibility around their creative projects/businesses.

This shows up in a variety of ways, but the common denominator has been a strong form of resistance to sharing what they’re working on, particularly with people in their social circles.

What ends up happening is a sort of compartmentalization – they keep their gifts hidden, only visible to a select few. They’re walking through life as Diana Prince, instead of Wonder Woman – as a result, no one has a clue that they have these amazing, mind-blowing gifts.

This is something I personally struggle with, so it’s near and dear to my heart. At its core, what this comes down to is fear of being seen, and it’s one of the biggest barriers to building a business and life you love.

Some signs you’re afraid of being seen:

  • You find yourself continually in “starting” mode or changing gears often (abandoning projects midway means you can avoid actually having to do something with it).

  • You spend hours tinkering on your website or product, but never actually sharing it with anyone because it’s not ‘ready’.

  • You rarely share what you’re working on and if you do, it’s to a very small group of “safe” people.

  • You have a hard time speaking up, asking questions, or requesting what you want or need.

  • You settle. You have bold dreams and big ideas, but fear of putting yourself out there means you lower your standards.

  • You’re constantly in learning mode, seeking new insights and ideas but never implementing or sharing what you’ve learned.

  • You’re uncomfortable with compliments. You deflect praise and downplay your achievements.

Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list – fear is slippery, and it often disguises itself in completely rational, seemingly-innocuous clothing. (I also want to point out that I’ve experienced every single one of these things, plus a few dozen others.)

Vulnerability is a byproduct of living a creative life and sharing our work in the world.

The more important the project feels to us, the deeper the vulnerability may be and the more tenacious our fear becomes.

Sharing our work in the world means we have to learn how to be visible. We have to be willing to move through the discomfort of vulnerability so that others can see our gifts and so that we can bring our work into the world.

Here are some things that have helped me, and my clients.

Recognize that Fear and Vulnerability are a part of the process.

Whether you’re wanting to create a business, share your art, or show up more authentically, fear is part of the creative process.

This isn’t unique to you, you’re not weird or weak because you feel afraid. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is from acclaimed artist Georgia O’Keefe, who said: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

Sharing your voice, showing up authentically, and creating something new in the world are all risky endeavors, and fear is naturally going to be present. Accepting this opens you up to discovering how to work with your fear, rather than against it.

Be clear about what you want, and why.

What is worth the risk of being seen?  Fear is going to be along for the ride, there’s no getting around it. However, being clear on what you really want and why – those things that are worth the risk of being seen – can help you anchor into something larger and more powerful than you.

Tapping into a bigger sense of purpose, vision, and mission puts things into their proper perspective and helps you focus on the big picture in those moments when fear is blocking you from taking the next tiny step.

Be clear on who you are doing it for.

When you’re showing up and sharing your gifts, realize that it’s really NOT about you. Instead, it’s about the people you’re here to serve, those who can benefit from seeing your light in the world.

When you’re worried about what other people think, know that what you’re actually doing is putting the focus back on you. Shift the focus back to them by asking yourself “How can this support them? What is the impact of me showing up – how does that give them permission to do the same?”

 (It helps if you have someone specific in your mind – picture the one person you know would benefit from what you have to share, how they are feeling now, and how they will feel after receiving what you’ve offered. Keep your focus on THEM.)

Get clear on what exactly is holding you back.

It can be helpful to ask yourself some questions, and journal about your answers. Approach yourself with curiosity, never judgment.

    • What am I afraid I’ll lose by showing up?

    • What do I get to avoid by NOT showing up?

    • What do I gain by holding back? What is the payoff for not being visible?

    • What do I imagine as the worst-case scenario?

    • What could I gain by being visible?

    • What is impossible for me to gain unless I show up?

    • What does my mind say about doing this?

    • What does my heart say about doing this?

Plan for the vulnerability hangover.

Brené Brown describes the vulnerability hangover as the “gut-wrenching feeling that happens the moment we decide to get real about who we are, what we want, and how we express it”.

When you’re showing up and sharing things that feel authentic to who you are, you’re almost guaranteed to experience a vulnerability hangover as a result. Understanding that this is part of the process, and creating a plan for moving through it, can be extremely helpful.

For example, you’re preparing to share a post announcing your new product offer. This feels tender and vulnerable, so you commit to closing social media and calling a supportive friend immediately after posting.

Showing up and being seen in the world can be vulnerable and scary. It’s also a natural part of the creative process. I’ve yet to meet anyone who is immune.

 Learning to navigate the discomfort and fear that arises is your responsibility. The world needs your gifts – we need you to show up as the magical, unique, creative being that you are.

 If you hide, we lose out – please don’t let that happen.