How to not avoid the fear of visibility (2 exercises)

two men sitting on logs outside talking, how to not avoid the fear of visibility
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

When the fear of visibility strikes, it’s often a very intense, uncomfortable sensation in the body. 

The type you really want to avoid ever feeling again!

Not all visibility will trigger this intensity. 

Some types of visibility are lower-level and will feel safer than others.

It can be helpful to identify these low-level options, so you can work up towards greater visibility, if that is your desire and it’s in the highest good.

Here’s an exercise to try.  

  1. Play with different types of pieces, different sharing, and different population options.  

Consider what to share (a heavily edited piece, a fresh first draft), how to share (in-person so you can see their face and have a hug afterwards, email, social media, etc), who to share with (family member, friend, writing buddy, coach, writing group), why you’re sharing (critique, feedback, just to be heard, to share, to continue a conversation, etc).

For example:

  • Sharing a complete piece you worked on 10 years ago with a friend.
  • Sharing a piece you never completed 10 years ago with a friend.
  • Sharing a new piece you’ve spent hours on with a friend.
  • Sharing with a critique partner.
  • Sharing with a critique group.
  • Sharing with a writing acquaintance.
  • Sharing work with your ideal audience.
  • Sharing work to the general public.
  • Posting anonymously on a blog you create that no one has the link to.
  • Posting a public comment on a forum.
  • Submitting your writing to a publication.
  • Submitting your writing to a contest.
  • Reading your writing in a writing class.
  • Reading your writing to your family.
  1. Observe how your body responds to each one.  

Notice the quality of sensation you feel.  Is there recoil in your stomach?  Chest tight?  Heart rate increase?  

Rate the intensity from 1-10 from least to most sensation.  

  1. Look for patterns.

What is it about the visibility that is hard for you, personally?

You might notice that it’s easier to think about sharing something you haven’t revised because then you have a disclaimer and the potential judgment is less.  Or it feels better to share something you HAVE smoothed out the raw ends.

You might notice it’s easier sharing anonymously.  Or with a stranger versus with a family member or friend.

While there are universal themes in the fear of visibility, there are some pieces that will likely be unique to you.

We are all subject to societal conditioning, cultural programming, and ancestral trauma.

In addition to this, you’re shaped by your past experience (especially in the formative years of childhood and adolescence).  What you learned about the world then sticks with you.

You’ll likely make connections between what’s coming up and past experiences you’ve had.  Notice it all, and imagine giving space for each experience to exist in your personal tapestry, shaping who you are.  There is nothing wrong with feeling discomfort or fear around visibility.  In fact it keeps you safe and can help ensure connection and belonging.

Remember that you’re not alone in your fear of visibility and also that the unique personal experiences you’ve had that have shaped you are valid.  

Once you have a better understanding of your patterns, consider a “choose your own adventure” style experiment for the fear of visibility.  

  1. Start with a low-level share from the list above, with the intention to learn about yourself from the experience.  Look for something rated at a 1-3 intensity and relatively low risk.
  1. Journal how the sharing feels

    Log the sensations, emotions, thoughts that came up for you.  Notice any insights.  Were there moments that were easier than you predicted?  Could you find ways to tolerate the discomfort until it passed through?  
  1. Identify your needs when faced with visibility.
    E.g. Verbal encouragement from a friend or coach, physical care and relaxation techniques, space to sit with the discomfort, etc
  1. Try to get some of those needs met.  Find a friend, coach, guided relaxation meditation, or carve out some self-care time.
  1. Repeat the above 4 steps with another low-level share, until you’re ready to work up the risk ladder.  

You don’t have to force or push yourself to throw yourself into a deeply intense experience before you’re ready. 

See if you can gently encourage yourself with warm and kind self-talk to keep moving through the experiences.  Give yourself a hug for doing something hard.  Be kind and gentle.

I believe you can find your own way through this process and create a customized path that leads you to your deepest desires and true connection.  

Trust the intuitive instinctive inner calling–this will guide you to what route is going to feel the most meaningful and purposeful.  

It’s worth the challenges when you risk the fear of visibility to connect with the people who would love to hear from you.