Courage Challenge March Wrap-Up

MARCH: Conquering the fear of mistakes, of exposure and vulnerability, of failure.

I close the month of March by adding one new item to my list of Things That No Longer Scare Me – Fear of Making Mistakes. For sure, I will continue to confront this fear. It does not really go away entirely. But when it does, I now have a very convincing feat that will remind me I can triumph over this fear again, and again.


I’d like to share my own story of “daring to create”. I’m a classic example of how fear can be such a hindrance to creativity.

People who know me generally consider me a creative person. It’s either I have very supportive but blind friends, or I have an unhealthy dose of self-doubt.

You see, I grew up with very talented artists on both sides of the family. Cousins who win championships in drawing, Chinese calligraphy, and who end up using their artistic skills as a profession (2 cousins involved in CAD at work). My father is very artistic, too. I relied on him when it comes to art assignments. In school, there’s always the class artist that got assigned to join drawing contests. They all have set my standard for creativity. And when I compare my own capabilities against it, I know I don’t pass. I didn’t think it was a case of fear but more of a set belief from childhood that it’s just not part of my skills.

Over the years, I began to convince myself that I may be a creative person. “Hey, you’re left-handed, so you’re naturally creative.”, friends would say. I couldn’t put the topic to rest because I’ve always wanted to make stuff. So I started to explore. I joined a global photo contest where my entry was shortlisted. I didn’t win but it was such a big boost of confidence.

It was only recently, when I took a leave from work, that I started to really create and show my work to friends, sometimes on Facebook.

Edvard Munch The Scream
2011. First attempt to draw. Pencil rendering of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
2011. Pencil rendering of Claude Monet’s Sunset in Venice.
2012. This was a goal. Pencil rendering of Van Gogh's Starry Night.
2012. This was a goal. Pencil rendering of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

This March, as part of my Courage journey, I accepted an invitation to a painting party. It was the first time that I am going to create something while in the presence of other people. It was nerve-wracking.

  • Although it was a birthday party of a friend, I only know 2 people in the group.
  • What if my painting is the worst in the group?
  • What if I can’t follow the teacher’s instructions?
  • What if I make a mistake I can’t undo and make a total mess?
  • What if I can’t work with acrylic? I only used pencils and watercolor.
  • What if I can’t finish on time? And in the group picture, I’m the only one with an unfinished painting.
There's a pre-selected art and an instructor will show the steps.
There’s a pre-selected art and an instructor will show the steps.

So many more “what if’s”. It didn’t help that my friend is really competitive and teased me throughout the activity.

Painting Party 2

And I knew I wasn’t exaggerating. At the start of the activity, the youngest in the group, a teenager, broke down. The instructor had to sit with her to reassure her and help her through the start. I’m sure the other classes of this kind were fun. There’s wine, after all. But this group I assume were either too nervous or too competitive. We were all quiet for the most part.

My finished painting
My finished painting

To make the story short, everyone finished, seemingly happy with their output. I painted something that resembled (I think) the model painting. I wished I had more time, but I was happy to have done it.

Conquering the scary blank canvas.
Conquering the scary blank canvas.


  • After observing our group, I realized: painting with other people must be one of the top scary things to do, next to public speaking. My friend asked me what is scarier — to paint among people who know you or with strangers who won’t remember you after? I have yet to decide.
  • A blank canvas is scary. Break the fear by starting somewhere. Anywhere. Then you have transformed a scary blank canvas to a work in progress.
  • Take comfort in the fact that there is really no rule in art, and therefore everyone is an artist. The beauty of an artwork depends solely on every individual viewer. You can be technically skilled but your work may not connect directly with a particular audience.
  • Wine helps. 😉 It makes you stop caring what others might think. And calmer nerve make for better brushstrokes.
  • Sometimes it’s all just about confidence and connection. You can make a crappy art, and people will love it because you have conveyed confidence and affected them with it.
Painting looks better from afar. :D
Painting looks better from afar. 😀

In the end, I dared to create. And I lived! This exercise is liberating. In retrospect, I laughed at my “what if’s” and my scary thoughts. Most of them were nonsense, and I wouldn’t have known until I went through the activity. If there was no Courage Challenge this year, I would have easily declined the invitation or not show up the last minute. What a little blog challenge can do. 🙂

The room is filled with paintings from previous classes. There were 3 versions of the model we worked on, and they all looked different.
The room is filled with paintings from previous classes. There were 3 versions of the model we worked on, and they all looked different. Art is truly personal and subject to different interpretations.


Daring to Dare

//How about you? Would you like to share your Courage story?

Participating in Rebirth of Lisa’s One Word Challenge throughout the year!


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