With my fear of failure at an all-time high, I often find myself hesitant to take the necessary leaps. As we approach adulthood, the decisions we make can have long-lasting consequences. Because of this, doubt often clouds the choices in front of me. What if I don’t succeed? What if all these efforts go to waste? What if I’m simply not good enough?
Failure is the sore thumb that sticks out, especially when it seems like everyone else is thriving. When I come across an interesting opportunity — a cool summer program or a writing contest I wish to enter — more often than not, I am the biggest obstacle standing in my own way. Before I can even muster up the will to chase after said opportunity, my mind is already busy coming up with ways to deter me. After all, how can you fail if you don’t even give yourself the chance to?
As I’m sure one can guess, the typical result is that I end up backing down. I let the opportunity pass me by. It was safer for me to face the certainty of not trying rather than risk rejection. The issue is that I’m not working to succeed. Rather, I am working to avoid failing.
So how can someone remedy this? As it is with many things, the key lies in reframing the issue. Yes, there is a significant chance you will fail. In fact, in competitive circumstances, it’s probably more likely that you will. But I like to think of this famous quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” The only way to guarantee failure is in fact to not try at all.
There are numerous reasons why we actually should let an opportunity go. Perhaps there is something more urgent that requires our attention. Perhaps there is a lack of time. Perhaps we need to lighten our workload a bit. The list is endless. But fear of failure should not be one of them.
It’s easy for me to spiral and come up with dozens of scenarios that result from failure. But if I sit down, take a break and come back to it later, I often find that realistically, the consequences are not as far-reaching as my anxious mind thinks.
I like to think of emotions as beach balls floating in a pool. The harder we push them down, the harder they bounce back up. Ironically, one of the best ways to get over the fear of failure is to let yourself feel it. Emotions such as anger and frustration will never go away. They are a primal part of what makes us human. Instead of eliminating them, we should focus on learning how to deal with them when they come. The first part of that process is to just let yourself express those emotions.
Ignoring these emotions won’t take away their potency. Regardless, the fear of failure will likely always be there with us. I’ve learned to think of this fear as a backseat passenger, something that I acknowledge is there, but something that will not dictate my final destination. It’s only when we accept these emotions for what they are that we can truly tackle the issue at its roots.