The Fear of Failure

For those times when it feels like the fear of failure is too much.

I’m afraid I’ll fail

There’s nothing wrong with that. Fearing to fail is normal, natural. Starting a new job, inviting someone into your life, every single New Year’s resolution. It’s when the fear grows, expands, and obscures your vision with everything that could go wrong that we’ve got a problem.

The fear is too much

It can feel like it. They say fear is a powerful motivator, yet it always seems to have the opposite effect. Maybe it helps drive others forward, but not you.

Your emotions are each uniquely odd.  Happiness manifests as a quiet joy, needing no urging.  Sadness is fleeting and temporary, healed through time.  Anger hides what lurks beneath the surface, covering the truth.  Fear, however, requires direct action.  It can only be overcome.  It must be faced down, acknowledged.

Failing is harder than not trying

Being told you’ve failed is hard, true.  To give yourself to something – a work project, a book, a blog, a tabletop campaign, your marriage – and to be told it isn’t good enough is devastating.  It feels easier to not try in the first place, to live in the comfortable realm of what could have been.

What’s worse is when the voice denouncing you the loudest and most often is your own.  You use words to describe yourself such as ‘failure’ and ‘broken’.    

How do I move forward?

By redefining what it means to fail.  

Failure isn’t that someone might come alongside you and say that what you wrote was garbage. It’s not that you might let your wife down again. It’s not that you aren’t good enough. You’ll write some absolute trash, and you’re all but guaranteed to disappoint her.

Failure isn’t any of the above, rather it’s inaction. It’s no longer trying. It’s not facing the fear, not taking that single step forward when your mind is screaming at you to stay where you are, shouting that moving forward leads to failure and pain.

When you do fail and inaction wins? Fight your way back to your feet and take a step forward, no matter how small. When the voice that’s telling you it’s too dangerous to get back up is too loud, remember you aren’t in this alone anymore, and that there are those who will shout above the noise for you.

Keep moving forward, knowing that you will fail, but don’t forget – failure doesn’t define you. It might loom, big as a mountain, but it will soon be a speck in the distance.

Keep doing what you love.  Keep writing.  Even if nothing external comes from it. 

When you’re too afraid to write, and nothing seems to make a difference, read this.  You wrote it after all.  

Maybe it’s time to stop asking yourself ‘what if I fail,’ and start asking ‘what if I don’t even try?’

  ~  Brandt

Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

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