Overcoming the Fear of Failure
As I sit here and write, as I prepare for my classes this week, I feel overwhelmed by excitement and opportunity. Truth: I’m also scared shitless. I am. It’s true. There’s a cocktail of emotions swirling in my gut, some that compel me to just GO, and some that relegate me to the fetal position on my bed. Sure, it’s easier, quieter, less risky to stay in, to accept the status quo, to not try, to swim in the ever-predictable known world, where outcomes are guaranteed and safety ensured. But where’s the fun in that?
I grew up with a strong need to compete, a need to win, a need to stand-out.
I quite enjoyed the feelings of success but became allergic to even the whiff of failure. I became quite practiced in pursuing strengths, areas in which I knew I’d perform well, but challenges that didn’t align with my natural talents and gifts, why bother? That could lead to embarrassment, loss, failure! God forbid I allow myself the humility and lessons from loss. How am I to expand if I keep myself confined to a comfy box I designed myself? I’m not. I was stuck for many, many years. I felt a crushing combination of fear and doubt, mixed with hope and possibility.
I learned that As, wins, placing first, and other very finite, black-and-white versions of success were deemed worthy, valuable. How else was I to exhibit my strengths, showcase my sincere efforts if it weren’t to be applauded by others (mostly my parents)? I seriously gave so little credence to the vast well of compassion, generosity, creativity and love I had stewing inside me.
Instead, I hoarded all aspects of my vulnerability, all my softness, all that added to who I was. What I was fostering and projecting was so imbalanced, and the further I walked this path, the harder it was to turn it around.
Yoga not only showed me the beauty of succeeding and failing, but the multitude of possibilities in-between.
Life is full of gray, the complicated inner workings between decisions, the complexities of relationships, and the unique concoction of ingredients that helps us each become happy, thriving human beings. My competitive, hardened self went into my first class, and ten years later a softer, kinder, more open me has emerged. I am not done. I’ve only just begun, but I feel so much more equipped to keep moving in the right direction, and I genuinely have Yoga to thank for that.
Through my practice that began over a decade ago, I slowly learned that comparison got me nowhere. My biggest competition has always been and will always be with myself. The person I used to be was never, ever satisfied. Truly.
I never felt like I’d given enough, shown enough, done enough. And that’s because I was deriving this sense of worth based on external pursuits. Never mind being a loyal, supportive friend; how was I to measure that?
And then somewhere along the line, it hit me. True success, in-particular lasting happiness and feelings of well-being, are not quantifiable!
No win, no stat, no grade point average, no age, no weight, no income level, no NUMBER, can finally equalize and settle my soul.
It doesn’t mean those pursuits aren’t worthwhile.
Go ahead: Enjoy, win, lose, learn, compete!
Just remember what I forgot: happiness and success are dependent on your level of energy in any given moment, not whether you succeed or fail in the eyes of another. I was emphasizing the end over the means.
When I started valuing how I felt during the moment and began emphasizing the quality of my thoughts, I realized how much I held myself back because of my fear of failure.
Suddenly, even small decisions became opportunities for ridicule, for rejection, for the diminishment of self. Rather than seeing the possibility for learning, for excitement, for joy, I foreshadowed negative results instead. And so I kept myself from living and growing, choosing to repeat more of the same, or not engage altogether.
So my love of winning and fear of losing predicated much of my decision-making and led me down the path of discontent. Yoga, the wise words of Eckhart Tolle and Osho, major life events, and the example of many extraordinary people, have all influenced who I am today, and that feels lightyears away from who I was.
I felt worse about myself and my life when examining things I wanted to do, risks I wanted to take, and people I wanted to connect with; and I kept myself from them out of fear. The biggest failure is not trying, seeing time go by that was wasted in what-ifing decisions, energy wasted in self-disbelief.
The truth of the matter is life is a gift. We have a few years on this planet to find a way to live happily.
My purpose and intention is to treat myself and my life with respect and kindness, and to look back knowing I pursued a life of joy every single day. I will not fear failure or success. I will believe in my ability to learn from my mistakes, to achieve my unique goals, and to share any and all goodness I acquire along the way. We’re all capable of this. Love and appreciate yourself first, it’ll all build from there.
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