I wish I’d come up with the title of this post but that honour goes to Samuel Beckett, the amazing Irish playwright and writer. There is much more complexity underlying these six simple phrases. The fear of Failure, the fear of fearing Failure so much, has sometimes rendered me paralytic. Logically, being wary of Failure makes sense – if I want to succeed in this thing called life, I need to succeed in everything I do otherwise…well there is no option but to succeed. Or so I thought, for a long time. Failure became this baddie that tracked me, traced my movement in life and with every achievement Failure was cast back into the shadows. However, the fear of Failure was never completely banished. When I had not been acknowledged in achieving some milestone in my life, I would feel Failure biting my heels. Academic achievement was always a big aspect of my life – fear of not meeting someone else’s randomly assigned standard drove me to excel. In this way I would stave off the feeling of being a ‘failure’.
However, Failure and the fear of it didn’t magically vanish when I saw the faults in academic valourisation. The fear transmuted itself into something else I judge myself on, which are my writing skills (or lack thereof?!). Self-deprecation and fear of failure are uneasy bedfellows in my mind and these two walked in tandem in rendering my relationship with writing as distinctly troubled. At the start of my university daze, I realised that failure wasn’t going away any time soon. Alexander Pope said it best with the phrase: “to err is human”. It is human to both fear failing and to fail. I have failed many times – from *that* AP Maths test in high school to disappointing those close to me (which I see as failing others). Fear of failure isn’t something unique to me and isn’t something escapable by being a successful human being (what is that, even?).
The shift in my thinking about failure hasn’t increased or decreased my successes but it has influenced how I deal with the times I do fail. Failure is still hobbling after me, trying to steal my shine. I realise and, importantly, accept that. And that has only come about because I became aware of why I fear failing. Once you know how and why your mind ticks over, you can become much better at dealing with emotionality. I’m not advocating hulksmashing emotions or programming feelings out of the equation, but rather letting feelings wash over you. Acknowledge their presence and understand why they’re there. The next step is doing something about it.
Things I do when fear of failing/generally failing life gets out of hand:
- Talk to myself (sometimes to others)
- Watch Black Books
- Eat baked goods 🙂
It is because of that acceptance that fear of failure doesn’t leave me in a cold sweat all the time. As this tedx talk shows, fear of failure and failure itself can be put to constructive use. Experiencing failure is learning. Failure is no longer that dark brooding character living in the shadows of my success – Failure, is in fact, pivotal to success.