Writing Exercise: Let Your Fear Takeover
Confront your imposter syndrome or perfectionism by allowing your fear to express itself through a letter.
“Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert, Author
🧑🎨 About this creative exercise
Face your fear head-on. It’s been holding you back for long enough and now is the time to let it speak openly. Once you let your fear have its voice, you can make the choice to ignore it. Face your fear and do it anyway.
This creative exercise aims to help you confront your imposter syndrome, inner critic and perfectionism by allowing your fear to express itself through a letter.
By personifying your fear, you can better understand and manage these feelings, ultimately gaining the upper hand over them.
You can also switch up this exercise, and take inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert (see below) by writing a longer, open letter to your fear.
Personify Your Fear Imagine your fear as a separate entity, almost like a character in a story. Give it a name and a face in your mind. This can make it easier to interact with and understand. For example, you might name it "The Doubter" or "Perfectionist Petra."
Start Writing Before allowing your fear to takeover, address your fear directly, as if you're writing a letter to a friend. Begin with something like:
"Dear [Fear's Name],
I know you've been with me for a long time, whispering doubts and feeding my imposter syndrome and perfectionism. Today, I want to listen to what you have to say. Write to me, and let me understand you better."
Give Your Fear a Voice Allow your fear to express itself through writing by writing back. Let it pour out all the doubts, worries, and insecurities that have been holding you back. Don't censor or judge what you're writing; just let it flow. Give your fear the space it needs to speak its mind.
Respond with Compassion After your fear has had its say, take a moment to respond to it with compassion and understanding. Counter its concerns with rational and positive thoughts. Use phrases like:
"I understand why you feel this way, but..."
"It's okay to make mistakes because..."
"I appreciate your concern, but I also believe that..."
Reframe Your Perspective Now, take a step back and read both your fear's letter and your response. Reflect on what you've written and consider how you can reframe your perspective. With this knowledge, what actionable steps can you take to overcome imposter syndrome and perfectionism?
🪜 Additional Optional Steps
Set Goals Write down specific goals or actions that you can implement to conquer your fears and self-doubts. These should be practical steps that you can take in your personal or professional life.
Thank Your Fear Finish the exercise by thanking your fear for sharing its concerns with you. Acknowledge that it's a part of you, but it doesn't have to control you. Let your fear know that you are committed to working together to achieve your goals and overcome your limitations.
Repeat as Needed This exercise can be repeated whenever you feel overwhelmed by imposter syndrome, your inner critic or perfectionism. Each time, you'll gain a deeper understanding of your fears and develop better management strategies.
Remember that conquering imposter syndrome, the inner critic and perfectionism is an ongoing process. Be patient with yourself and use this exercise as a tool to build resilience and confidence over time.
🪞 Reflection & Inquiry
What was your initial reaction to this exercise?
Was it difficult or did you find it easy to allow your fear to take over for a few minutes?
What emotions and sensations were around for you as you wrote?
Do you feel able to let go of your fear now you’ve verbalised it?
What did you learn about yourself from this creative thinking exercise?
👩 🖋️ Elizabeth Gilbert Writes to Fear
This idea of allowing your fear to speak originally came from creative powerhouse Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic and Eat Pray Love.
She wrote an open letter to her fear:
Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously.
Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring.
There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way.
I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
🎨 Stay Creative!