Overcoming Fear With Passion: My Story

Overcoming FearThis may come as a surprise to some of you, but I am a fairly shy person and it is something that I have been dealing with since I was very young. I started training to be a professional ballet dancer at the age of six and felt a strong love for the artform. I loved figuring out how to master a new step or solo, but I was never able to overcome my fear of the spotlight. When it came time to decide if I should go to college or pursue a professional dance career, I chose college. How could I put myself through the torture of performing five times a week? Looking back on it, perfection was my passion. I never wanted to become a professional dancer, I simply wanted to become the best dancer that I could.

Ten years later I found myself working as a Sr. Graphic Designer at Columbia Sportswear. I loved my job, I worked with great people and I had discovered my passion, creating patterns. The company was undergoing a multitude of changes, as large companies always are, and the order came from above that all designers, including graphic designers, had to give seasonal line presentations to our bosses, our bosses bosses, the VP of Design, the CEO, etc.

Gulp. What?

Once again, I found myself forced in front of large groups of people and this time it was even worse, I had to speak. But something was different, my passion for pattern design drove me to a different mindset. I had to sell my work, and if public speaking is what it took to continue to do the job that I loved, then so be it. I was going to rock these presentations.

I quickly figured out that to overcome my fears, I had to be overly prepared. I wrote down exactly what points I wanted to cover, I practiced my presentations for weeks and I made beautiful presentation materials, which brought me confidence. Most importantly, I had to create patterns that I truly LOVED and felt confident in presenting. If the patterns were so-so, or felt incomplete, the presentations were torture and I was a nervous wreck.

Six years later you find me here, coaching hundreds of designers, writing blog posts for major publications and sharing vulnerable posts, such as this one. Yes, I still get nervous when I am speaking to large groups of people, but my passion for the industry and my drive to help designers achieve their dreams is stronger than the fear. Love wins this battle.

I know that many of you are dealing with fears around selling, sharing and marketing your artwork. My answer is to do whatever it takes to make your work so amazing, so authentic, so kick-ass, that you are compelled to share it with the world. No excuses. Tap into your passion and use that drive to take action. Prepare, prepare, prepare and then leap.

You can get started in the textile design industry today. Get our FREE video training and learn how to turn your artwork into textile designs that sell! Click here.

  1. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your story. It resonates very strongly with me as well. I am learning that great strength can come from acknowledging vulnerability. We are only human after all (even though us perfectionists find it hard to accept sometimes!)

  2. Michelle, this is SO inspiring! You should be so very proud of how far you have come. Thank you for sharing something so very personal xxx

  3. Hi Michelle. Like you, I trained to be a dancer, and ended up dancing professionally for twelve years. Although I loved dancing and performing, I also hated being watched (how weird is that?) – I think it was the fear of possible criticism and not-being-good-enough, which really is an unavoidable part of a dancer’s life. In the end, I think that’s why I stopped. I returned (secretly) to my original love of illustration, and guess what – all those same fears returned, even though I wasn’t on a stage, and nobody was watching me. It’s taken a few years to build up the courage to take this true love in my hands and do something with it. Thank you for your post – it rang true for me in many ways.

  4. Thanks for sharing your feelings and experiences Michelle. The new way of doing business in this new earth that is birthing needs this example and encouragement. You always inspire me!

  5. Dear Michelle,

    One never sees or gets a hint of any of your fears. To me you inspire, you encourage and are so generous with your knowledge, skills and ideas. I enjoy each post, I am really encouraged to get back to textile designing and thanks so much xx


  6. Pattern Observer (namely you and your wonderful team) has given me the expertise, the confidence and the kick up the bum needed to start me properly on this track to doing what I love – doubts and imperfections are part of whatever gives us the drive to get going, are the things that make our work what it is – we should never begrudge them. Allons y, mes amis!

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