Artist beautifully illustrates the transformative power of turning toward fear

Fear is a finicky beast.

When my oldest daughter was in the deepest throes of a clinical phobia, her fear overtook everything. She practically became a hermit at 16, afraid to go anywhere. Thankfully, we found an excellent therapist who taught her how to tame her fear, to gently manage it, to approach it in such a way that allowed it to dissipate instead of continuing to dominate her every thought.


People who struggle with anxiety or fear, whether it stems from trauma or wonky brain wiring, understand how overwhelming it can be. Fear and anxiety can feel incapacitating at times, making you want to run far away or curl into the tiniest ball and disappear. But neither of those things actually helps. In fact, the first thing my daughter's therapist told her is that avoidance always make anxiety worse.

Instead, she taught my daughter to approach that fearful voice in her head. After all, that voice was hers, and it desperately wanted to be heard and understood. Ignoring it, avoiding it, trying to distract it way simply made it yell louder. "Maybe you're right," she would say to that voice, even though it terrified her to do so. "Maybe you're right, and maybe you're wrong. Let's just wait and see what happens"—that became her mantra to her own brain, and as counterintuitive as it seemed, it worked.

I could explain the science of the amygdala—the fight-or-flight center of the brain that acts on instinct—and why the "Maybe you're right" approach helped retrain it not to overreact. But an artist has created a visual series that describes it in different terms that may resonate more with people who have experienced embracing fear.

Cécile Carre posted her series of paintings about fear on Facebook and they've been shared more than 12,000 times. As with any art, interpretations will naturally vary, but judging from the comments, people dealing with anxiety, fear, or unhealed trauma may find some truth in it.

The first image shows a girl curled in a fetal position with her back to a big, scary monster bearing down on her, with a word painted beneath it.

"Everyday..."

As the girl turns and faces the monster, it immediately looks less scary. Still big, still towering over her, but not terrifying.

"...Trying..."

As the girl walks toward the monster, she starts looking bigger. The monster transforms into a mirror image of herself, the terror of it literally melting away.

"...to watch..."

And then it becomes a child looking for comfort rushing into her arms. Even its color begins to blend with her own.

"...and embrace..."

And then a baby, purely in need of nurturing, wrapped lovingly in her arms.

"...my fear..."

And then...nothing. Just a simple, calm little diamond where the girl was.

"...until it disappears completely..."

The work of turning toward what you fear is not simple or easy, and it may take therapy, medication, or other methods to treat mental illness effectively. But this series of paintings shows what many experience when they stop avoiding and start approaching the roaring voice that tells them to be afraid. Though it's thoroughly terrifying to make that initial turn—I saw it in my own daughter, and it took a lot of effort—seeing the beast shrink down and eventually disappear is an incredible gift.

Thank you, Cécile Carre, for illustrating that so beautifully. You can order her prints here.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."