Posted in Observations


We fear a lot of things.

From an evolutionary perspective, fear keeps us alive. It’s not a bad thing in and of itself. As cave dwellers, we were right to fear the sabre-toothed tigers who would eat us without a moment’s hesitation. The fight-or-flight response has, so far, saved our species from extinction from a variety of threats.

As modern humans, we have the same physical reactions to fear–fight or flight–as our ancestors did. But having addressed the menace of the sabre-tooth tiger and with most of us adequately fed, watered, and sheltered, our fear-based self-preservation system has tuned its emotional radar screen to a more insidious source of danger: threats to our ego.

“The defense of ego is a driving force behind achievement in many fields,” according to Michael Clarkson writing in Intelligent Fear. Worrying about what others think is epidemic.

Yes, we fear failing. We fear embarassing ourselves. We fear becoming the guy who lives in his van down by the river.

But most of all, and most interestingly, we fear being successful.

We crave the fame and fortune, but we (secretly) worry about the changes that success will bring to the way our life is currently constructed.

All this fear leads, inevitably, to irrational choices and bad behavior. The biggest, meanest, baddest-mutha consequence, especially for creatives, goes by many names much like The Devil Himself.

Steve Pressfield calls it The Resistance.

Seth Godin sometimes calls it The Lizard Brain.

Eric Maisel calls it Anxiety.

By whatever name, “It” is the part of our psyche that sabotages our own success out of a fear for what failure and success will do to the present condition of our ego.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Joaquin Villaverde Photography