Don’t Be Afraid of Being Afraid

Craig Mcdean for Interview Magazine

April 8, 2014

vogue italia oct 2009 Craig McDean Sasha Pivovarova 2

We all have fears. It’s human nature to want to protect yourself from something you perceive to be a threat. Which is why putting yourself out there as a creative is so scary. No matter what we might say, no matter how much bravado we might have, deep down we all want to be accepted and appreciated for what we do.

But being afraid is not something to worry about. It’s how you react to your fears that is the most important thing.

Most entrepreneurs are truly afraid of one thing – failure. But I want to let you in on a little secret: failure is an important part of success.

If you never make any mistakes, you’ll never learn anything. Looking back at your mistakes, or failings, is like looking back at that old boyfriend and wondering what the hell you were thinking. Sure, you might internally cringe at your terrible judgement, but I bet you learnt something valuable when they broke your heart. Although it might be painful, remembering what happened will also remind you just how far you’ve come.

The misconception many entrepreneurs have around failure, is that they think it will forever define them. I promise it won’t. I have made terrible errors in judgement and some incredible (and very public) faux pas in my time. Do I regret them? Sure. Do I wish they’d never happened? For the most part, actually no. Each misstep has taught me a very important lesson.

Most of the time our fears come down to being scared of what other people will think. But don’t let other people’s judgements stop you from doing what you really want to do. You can’t control what people think of you, you can only control your own actions.


(I couldn’t resist…)

Unfortunately we have to make mistakes ourselves in order to really learn from them. Yet the great thing is that these small bumps in the road are usually the catalysts for a change. They are also almost always the things that alter the trajectory of a career path for the better.

So instead of being fearful of potential failures, you need to realise that not only is it almost guaranteed that they will happen, but that that’s OK. It is not the failure itself that will define you, but how you react to it. Remember, most bad business decisions are not fatal.

If you’re feeling afraid then ask yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?” If your biggest fear was to actually come true would it be impossible to pick yourself up and try again? I doubt it. Would you be able to work your way through it, learn something because of it and come out better for it on the other side? Almost certainly.

Listen, your fears may never go away, in fact it’s most likely that they won’t. The best thing you can do is acknowledge them and push on through regardless. Realise that being afraid is part and parcel of being human and that the only really catastrophic mistake you can ever make is to never even try.


  • Photography: Craig Mcdean for Interview Magazine