The Fear of Failure and Overcoming It

Since I was a child, my dream has been to be a writer and an artist. I wanted to be fluent in French and travel the world. These things were always treated as of as a “hobby” by the adults in my life growing up, so I was afraid to focus on them and never seriously pursued any of them as a profession.

Instead, I followed a practical route and studied medical coding and medical transcription, which I had already been exposed to at work and knew I could be assured to have a steady, comfortable job, whereas if I had a degree in my dream fields, I knew I might not find a job or make a living that would allow me to pay off my student loans, buy a car or a house, or support a family.

Even though I have spent time abroad and studied in France, my ability to use French has been reduced to a pathetic level. Art, writing, traveling- these things had all for the most part fallen by the wayside until recent years when I began painting again and writing for my blog and writing short stories. While I am pragmatic enough to know that it was probably the better idea to choose a career in healthcare, I can’t help but wonder how my life would be different had I chosen to pursue my passions instead. Could I have published works by now? Would I have matured my artistic ability and be spending my days in a studio creating paintings that would hang in galleries? I will never know, but I’d like to believe that somewhere in an alternate universe a different version of me has done just that.

What would you do if you knew without a doubt that you would not fail?

Would you take a giant leap that you’ve always wanted but have always been too afraid to do? Would you confidently move forward and climb higher than you’ve ever imagined? What are you missing out on by choosing not to act? Happiness? A step up the career ladder? An opportunity to create a better life or situation?

One of the biggest fears that people face is a fear of failure. Do you ignore your interests or passions because you don’t believe you will be successful? Some people equate a fear of rejection or disappointing others with failure. Is it others’ opinions of yourself what you are concerned with?

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Why did I make my choice? After much reflection, I realize it came down to fear of failure and the uncertainty of creating a living that could meet my and my future family’s needs. I know I was afraid of failing, afraid of not being good enough to succeed, and I know I also wanted to have my parents’ approval. So now I work each day in a mundane job, bored and forever taking notes for stories I may never write and think of paintings I don’t have time to make.

Fear is a natural reaction to most, if not all animal species. It helps preserve and protect, but it is also can deter and disable one from living life to their fullest. Why do we fear failure and what purpose does it serve in our lives? Sometimes a fear of failure can be just the kick in the ass that helps people overcome obstacles and achieve greatness. For others, it is a crippling weight that holds them down and keeps them from being who or what they want to be.

How to move on

Think about why you are being held back from your dream. Figure out what it is that is holding you back… Is it laziness? Procrastination? Fear of shame or embarrassment? A lack of faith and confidence in yourself or real commitment to succeed? Is it emotions? Do you think what you want will take too long or be too difficult to achieve; is the risk potentially not worth the reward?

Is it something real, like perhaps a lack of money for a training program, or constructed, like an invisible wall in your brain keeping you from taking the first step towards your dream? Examining your inner self and understanding the cause is the first step to moving past this roadblock.

Don't fear failure

Then decide on a starting point. Do you need to request information? Do you need to ask for help? Do you need someone to keep you accountable so that you are able to reach the necessary milestones to get you to where you want to go? Do you need to put forth some sort of tangible commitment like an enrollment fee, or a contract, or just letting others know what you want?

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Research

Find out exactly what steps you need to take to get where you want to go. If you know that your hesitation is due to some sort of emotional setback try speaking with a therapist, a pastor, a friend, a counselor, or anyone who can listen to you in a non-judgmental way and be able to give you the support and resources to be able to go forward.

Control

Begin with the factors of the situation that you can control. You can control the amount of effort you put into a project. You can control how you act. You can control who you surround yourself with. You can control whether you choose to have a positive or negative outlook. You can choose to learn from your mistakes or keep on making them. You can pick yourself up and try again and again or give up.

Prioritization

Don’t stop working until you get there. I say fuck fear and fuck failure; aim high and never be sorry for the road that has taken you to this point in your life. Even if it is one piece at a time, go for it. Pretend you won’t fail. Push failure so far out of your mind that you don’t think of it again.

As Nike says, “just do it,” whether you have to take baby steps or giant leap make some sort of measurable effort. Sometimes it can be incredibly motivational to see how far you’ve gone and are then inspired to go even farther. Sometimes once we’ve done a little we realize it’s really not that hard. If a bird never gets out of its nest and tries to fly it will never know what it really can do. Hop out of your comfortable nest and flap those wings.

Check-in

Stop often to assess your progress and to reevaluate your goals. Maybe once you’ve put in a little effort you’ll realize this isn’t for me and you move on or maybe you’ll realize you should have really started this a long time ago and not know why you didn’t.

What about me?

If this was a movie, this would be the climactic scene where I say, “fuck it,” and quit my job and throw myself into creativity.

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Buuut, I can’t do that, at least not right now…. stick with me. Have you been to an art store lately? I visited Blick’s last week. Art supplies are expensive and I can’t be the “starving artist.” I have a family to take care of. At this point, I can’t provide them with the essentials they need if I am sitting at my desk writing all day. So unless my husband starts making beaucoup bucks with is computer programming or I somehow win the lottery I do not play, continue toiling away I shall.

Ok, hold up– Sarah, why did you just give me this big long lecture about ignoring my fear and following my passion?

I hear you. I want you to examine your own dreams and goals and find a way to make them a reality. Find what will drive you. Just because I am not saying FU to my day job right now doesn’t mean that I’ve given up.

In my downtime I am writing every day, painting, working on honing my craft and promoting myself and my work everywhere and every way I can- so one day it will be my everyday, not just my evenings and weekends.

I’m not trying to come off as a hypocrite trying to tell you what to do; I am attempting to give you advice based on my own experiences. As a fellow caring human, I want you to be happy.

Your life is your journey, follow your own road and enjoy it. Our time is short so make the most of it that you can.

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8 thoughts on “The Fear of Failure and Overcoming It

  1. Bexa says:

    This is such a well written and motivating post! I also have a degree in the sciences, but my passion is most definitely in creativity. Itโ€™s great that you are still making time for your hobbies and interests in your spare time and keeping your options open. Sometimes I think it is nice to have a good mix of stability and creativity in life to keep things balanced. Thanks for the inspirational post โค xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

  2. Emily (@emahlee13) says:

    This post was everything I needed to read right now. Fear has paralyzed me my whole life, that along with some mental health issues, I’ve never truly known what I’ve wanted to do and I’m still trying to figure it out. But part of figuring it out is letting go of that fear of failure, and that’s what I’m struggling with now. But it needs to be done and your post has inspired me. I want myself to be happy and fulfilled too. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom!! <3

    xoxo Emily

    https://www.thatweirdgirllife.com

  3. Anna Reel says:

    I looooooved this post! I really appreciate your realness and honesty. And what many people don’t realize is that working that 9-5 job does not mean you’ve failed; sometimes it’s that very job that allows us the freedom (of time and money) to do the things we love most! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Great post! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

  4. Kristin Harris/Tales from Home says:

    This is definitely a thought provoking post and I know there are more then a few hobbies that I wish were more then they are and dreams that werenโ€™t followed. I definitely want to make sure my own children follow the dreams they want to rather then picking a career just because they think they should.

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