Photo: Courtesy of Julian Kiganda
Speaker, writer and creative consultant Julian Kiganda is on a mission to inspire people to live boldly and fearlessly. Recently, Julian co-authored “Whose Shoes Are You Wearing? 12 Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be” along with her sister Christine K. St. Vil. Motivated by their own journey in overcoming fear to stay true to their creative calling, Julian and her sister felt the need to help others by sharing the discoveries they’ve made. In addition to her new book, Julian consults with individuals and companies on marketing, design and creating transformational brands.
Whether through writing or consulting, Julian frequently helps people confront their own fears in order to create more meaningful work, so she seemed like the perfect person to join me during this month’s deep dive on fear. Having worked with Julian on several occasions, I am always inspired by her willingness to take on new challenges in spite of fear, and so I’m excited to share her thoughts on how others can do the same.
What role does fear play in the life of a creative person?
Fear plays a role in just about every person’s life. My biggest fear is not getting out all of these amazing ideas that are in my head before I die. It’s less the fear of doing the work; I get excited by the challenge of doing something that I’ve never done before. [But] it’s more just making sure it gets out of my head. That really propels me to make things happen.
Has there been a time when you hit a wall of fear and overcame it? What happened and how did you persevere?
Always. I would say practice makes perfect. The more you confront your fears and address them, the easier it gets.
One of the biggest is the fear of rejection. I still find it a challenge to ask for help or approach people I really respect. Another is public speaking. People who meet me – they may not have any clue that I’m actually shy. But I had to really break out of that, because there are so many things that I have as part of my vision for my life, and I can’t afford to hide behind a keyboard all day. Earlier this year I was invited to speak at the United Nations for the International Day of Happiness. I had to give a spiel on how my life, my entrepreneurial spirit, and my community work have contributed to my happiness and how that applies to the general population. Initially I though, “Oh wow, this is the United Nations [with] all of these famous people.” [But] I’ve found the more I interact with people from different walks of life, cultures, backgrounds and levels of accomplishments, I’ve realized we’re all really alike. More often than not, we all have the same fears, the same wants and the same needs.
Now, I don’t get as nervous as I used to when I have to approach people of a certain status, because I’ve learned to recognize we share more commonalities than we do differences.
What practices help you deal with fear in your daily life as a creative person?
A couple of things. First, I stopped watching the news. I’ll catch snippets of things here and there on social media, but I stopped watching the news in general because it’s mostly bad and, I think, a way of creating fear mongering in the general population. I also figure if something bad is going to happen, it’s going to happen regardless of whether or not I know about it. There are certain things that I’ll hear about and research if they have to do with my own interests, but news for the sake of keeping up with crime and all the terrible things that are going on in the world – I avoid.
Secondly, I make sure I connect with people on a regular basis. As an independent consultant, it’s so easy to become isolated. I find that I have to meet with people regularly, one-on-one or group meetings, just to stay connected. I’m also pushing myself to attend different events and meet people who I’d like to have in my circle. One thing I’m pushing myself to do more now is actively seek out speaking engagements. With speaking, there’s that fear of, “Am I good enough?” Again, it comes down to realizing we all have a gift that’s meant to help other people. Once you realize what yours is, it makes it easier to push yourself to use that gift.
Do you have conversations with other artists & changemakers about fear? What lessons do you take away from those conversations?
I don’t know that we necessarily look at it as fear, because fear rears its ugly head in so many different ways. Often you’ll hear people talk about “haters.” You have people, very often on social media, who think they can say whatever they want and there are no repercussions. I definitely believe making nasty comments is a form of fear. I always say if you don’t have something nice to say it’s because you don’t feel good about yourself. If you’re puling someone else down, that’s a reflection of how you feel about yourself…you’re fearful that this other person is getting ahead while you’re not moving or aren’t where you want to be.
I work with people doing transformational branding and one of my philosophies is that your brand has to reflect what’s really going on inside. One of my clients has an amazing reputation in her industry and an incredible body of work, but she has not been advancing in her career the way she should. While trying to pinpoint what has kept her stuck, we realized it was fear. Transforming her brand meant that she would have to become more visible, and, because she had gained a lot of weight over the past few years from having kids, she felt uncomfortable. She was fearful of how she was going to be received, when in reality, her reputation precedes her.
Fear keeps so many people from fulfilling their purpose. The reality is that fear never leaves you, and it’s a good thing that it never does. I think fear is a motivator to keep you on your game and keep you doing your best, it’s just that some people learn how to manage fear better than others.
What advice would you give artists and changemakers on how to recognize and confront fear?
For me, step number one is having a very strong faith and spiritual connection. I can’t operate without that. When I wake up in the morning, I spend about thirty minutes in bed praying and meditating. I drop my daughter off at school, and on the way to school, we’re praying together. When I go to bed, I have my conversation with God; if I have energy I’ll write in my journal. So that’s the first thing – take care of your spiritual relationship and your relationship with self.
The second thing is journaling. Journaling allows you to get all of the thoughts out of your head that you may not otherwise be able to verbalize. In looking back at journals I’ve written in the past, I’ve been able to recognize my own negative behavioral patterns and pin point where they stemmed from. A lot of it came back to fear.
The third thing is being honest with yourself. I don’t believe you can truly overcome fear unless you’re willing to be real with yourself. You have to take off the masks you wear to keep people out; that space of vulnerability is where the true change happens. I became more fearless when I allowed myself to live more authentically and stopped putting on a mask for everyone. Thinking everyone has to like me and being worried about who’s going to say what – that’s not even a concern anymore. I’m very clear on who I am, what my gifts are and what my vision is.
The last big thing is to surround yourself with positive people and positive energy – people who are aspiring for greatness or are already there – so you can learn from them. Your circle makes a huge difference in how far you get in life.
Thanks Julian for sharing your story! Next week, I’ll review “Whose Shoes Are You Wearing? 12 Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be,” so be sure and come back for a closer look at Julian’s new book. Until then, connect with Julian at boldandfearless.me, on Twitter and Facebook.