Don’t Be Afraid of Being Afraid

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


  1. You stated so eloquently what I was struggling with by trying to put myself “out there” creatively. Thank you. (and I hope you had a wonderful birthday!)

  2. I’ve only been going for a few weeks and I have already made loads of boobs but i know that i won’t make them again and my business will be better for these boobs! I urge anyone thinking of starting up for themselves – do it! just try! I was ranting and raving for years that there must be something more to life and now I have finally taken control it feels SO good! Thanks Kat for the Green Room, it has inspired me 🙂

  3. One of the best quotes I’ve ever come across is one by Winston Churchill… “Success is not final, failure is not fatal – it’s the courage to continue that counts.” I read that whilst doing my finals at Uni, and it gave me the focus I needed to just push on through.
    I made (what felt like) a massive business failure last year, but in hindsight you are so right – I needed that failure to happen as it put me on a whole new path. One that I’m loving every minute of!

  4. Sooo true! Daft thing is I can do this in my day job, but when it comes to doing my own ‘thang out of work (i.e. my blog) I’m a bit more reluctant. Thanks for the reminder to take some risks outside of my 9-5. x

  5. Ariadna

    Thank you. Your post made my day! You don’t know how much I needed to read something like that!!! Oh btw, I love your blog xxx

  6. Gemma

    This really spoke to me on a personal level, I have recently attempted to start my own business and sell my work to the public, but when I got a bit of interest from an art dealer I froze and backed off, the fear of not thinking I was good enough and my lack of knowledge on what to do made me very stressed and scared, causing me to stop for a while. I now to try to have the outlook of “what happens happens” and “if I don’t try I won’t learn” What’s the worst that can happen right?

  7. Thanks for an inspiring post, Kat. I’ve had an interesting week with a very scary, and yet massive opportunity presenting itself… and I needed to read this! I always make it my policy to say yes, and worry about details later. Time will tell how steady my calligraphy hand is under the spotlight! And right now I can’t wait to find out! I’ve just watched a Vimeo with actress Anna Chancellor where she says we should nestle into our fears… and that’s what I’ll try to do. Eek!

  8. Kirsty

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Thank you Kat for always being inspirational xxx

  9. I have made so many mistakes over the years and a couple of big failures. But this is how I learn. I find that a lot of people are quite forgiving and some of the time, they totally don’t notice.

    Like you say: most bad business decisions are not fatal – you can recover, and if you do and thrive – you were meant to make them!

    Thanks for sharing.


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