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Fear Is Not Real: Fight the Photogra-Fear



I’m not gonna lie; I was worried.

I sat in the movie theater with my box of buttered jalapeno popcorn (Jalapeno popcorn is created by tipping the container of jalapenos found in the condiment area onto your popcorn. They provide them for your nachos and hot dogs, but it is a shame not to use them on your popcorn. It is delicious and I highly recommend it. You will thank me for this.) I furrowed my brow with nervous anticipation, for this was no ordinary movie; I was awaiting the start of M. Night Shyamalan’s “After Earth.”

afterearthI have been an M. Night Shyamalan fan for years. His gift for storytelling with that crazy plot twist at the end (What do you mean, “He’s DEAD?”) had captivated me early on and I love all his movies, well, with the exception of “The Last Airbender.”

True, I never actually saw it, but I’ve also never had my femur broken and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like that, either. Had I been a 7th grade boy, though, I’ll bet I would have loved it.

But M. Night and I had a bit of a falling out over “The Happening.” I think the word that best describes it is “betrayed,” both with the storyline and for Mark Wahlberg for agreeing to be in it. Why, Marky Mark, WHY?

It was as though 3/4’s through the storyline, M. Night just said, “Whatever. I’m tired. And nothing sounds good anyway. Let’s just do a rock-paper-scissors on the ending and go home.”

But I was willing to forgive and forget “The Happening” ever happened. We are all entitled to make mistakes, even the best Hollywood writers and directors, and I held out hope that with “After Earth,” M. Night and I would turn a corner and regain that movie magic.

And we did.

Without going into great detail and turning this article into a movie review, I will say that it wasn’t the acting or the location or the cinematography that made it great, although all were. No, it was with this one quote, that M. Night fully and completely redeemed himself:

“Fear is not real. It is a product of the thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But, Fear…is a choice.”

(Man, I wish I could write it with as much “oomph” as Will Smith said it in the movie, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

Fear is not real. It is a byproduct of the thoughts you create.

We don’t fear the past and we don’t fear the present; we fear the future. Those things that have yet to happen. The worries that wake us in the middle of the night and keep us up until the alarm goes off in the morning. And we worry about the stupidest things, don’t we? All the “What if’s?” All the imagined problems, the likes of which rarely, if ever, see the light of day.


In spite of being prepared, we worry about the wedding we have to shoot this weekend. We worry that a client won’t like his/her images. We raise our prices and we worry that we killed our business. We worry that we aren’t changing. We worry that we are changing too much.

We fret and we stress and we worry…and worry is just a watered down version of fear.

Fear is not real. It is a byproduct of the thoughts you create.

Now, I know a lot of people reading that line will take it to mean that we should change our thought process and thus, change the byproducts of those thoughts. And they would be right. But saying and doing are two very different things. How do we accomplish this?

Maybe my mom can help with that.

flashlightWhen I was a little girl, I was deathly afraid of the dark. I mean, the kind of afraid that looks at a puny nightlight and says, “Oh yeah, what’s THAT gonna do?” I would have slept with the overheads on AND a flashlight in my hand if my mom would have let me.

My fear just kept increasing until finally, I suspect my parents had enough. One night, my mom walked in my room and turned out my light, plunging the room into darkness. I did what any six-year old who was afraid of the dark would do:

I shut my eyes tight and freaked.

She walked over to me in the darkness, took my hand and sat on my bed. She waited until I stopped crying and said, “Open your eyes. What do you see?” After repeated requests and a promise of ice cream if I complied (that bribe still works to this day) I did as she asked. I opened my eyes to a pitch black room and waited for the monsters. And with each tick of my Barbie clock, the monsters receded farther and farther into my imagination.

She made me look my FEAR in the face. I recognized it, called it out, and it lost its power. All the pretty little Winnie-the-Pooh night lights in the world could not accomplish what my mom did with one simple action: making me change my thoughts and face my fear. Call out the monsters.

“Fear is a choice.”

As a grown up mother of two, I can tell you it doesn’t get easier the older you get. Marriage, children, running a photography business…the fears can easily start to add up.

Oh, I’ve tried as an adult to ignore them. Believe me. I tried to stick my head in the sand ostrich-style and pretend they didn’t exist. I thought I’d be much happier with my ignorance. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?

I amassed a gigantic library of positive quotes and happy thoughts and motivational posters. They actually hang in my office, right next to my “Rocky” Balboa framed print.

I’ve attended the workshops that tell me to simply focus on the light. (No photography pun intended.) But I have learned that no matter how much I “Norman Vincent Peale and Tony Robbins” myself, until I face a problem straight on with education and, dare I say, humor (go figure) then that Fear will still be there.


We grow when we leave the well-lit path and check out what’s lurking in that cave nobody wants to walk by. It might be nothing, like my six-year old bedroom, or it might be something.

Either way, you’ll know what’s there, ’cause what you don’t know can hurt you.

So, just as “Fear is a Choice,” WE have a choice. We can sleep with the light on or we can choose to look into the darkness and realize that we are strong. We are capable. And we’re not going to be afraid.

And, Mr. M. Night Shyamalan, thanks for the reminder. You and I are good, now.

Image credits: What’s under your bed? by 5mal5, Berlin – Photo review by jeffwilcox, Week #14 – Fear by DavidShutter, Photographer, conqueror by Michal Osmenda