Speak Up / Speaking Out

Fear of failure and how to deal with it

. 4 min read . Written by Roopal Kewalya
Fear of failure and how to deal with it

The first word that you hear as a child and the word that you use with your child is the innocuously simple two-letter word – ‘No’.

Our parents were so focused on protecting us that as we grew up, the fear of falling when we took our first steps somewhere transformed into fear of failing as we took our first steps into the world outside our home.

We were taught to be safe, stable and secure and while these are essential for the well-being of every individual, there is a restless seeking in our hearts that urges us to explore.

Leave your job and start your own business. Forget the top IT company you work for and start baking from home for toddlers. Or become a storyteller. Or take a year-long sabbatical and travel the world. Leave your relationship and live alone. Forever. Life constantly puts us at crossroads but more often than not, we choose to take the safe path because the first words we hear were ‘No.’

What we are truly afraid of, is failing. Because failure makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes it might be a small slip. Other times, it might be like falling face first on the ground and looking up with a bloody mouth and broken teeth. Just that the pain that you feel comes from somewhere within.

But the truth is, failure is our best friend. It brings through with it, shame, embarrassment, guilt, and regret. It also brings out from under the surface all parts of our personality that we have always wanted to hide. It brings us face-to-face with our shadow side – one that lies hidden between Facebook posts and Insta stories.

The parts that we leave out on Instagram and Facebook are the parts that actually define us.  Because those are the ones that we are not willing to show.

Share your failures. Because in all honesty, there is nothing called failure.

Why do we ‘fail’?

  • This impossible quest for perfection sets us up for failure every single day. The idea of the perfect mother. The idea of a perfect job and being the perfect employee. Or the perfect boss. The idea of being a perfect partner and expecting the same from our partners.

Dropping the ‘perfect’ tag and just doing the best that we can in the moment is enough for success.

  • If we can’t be perfect, then we might as well not do it at all. The success stories we hear tell us only about the part which was successful. Not hundreds of iterations that it took for the person to arrive at that point.

Share your failures. Before you think people might laugh at you, there are more chances of other people being inspired and encouraged to share their failures.

  • What will people think of me if I fail?

No one has the time to think about someone else. We are all living in our own bubbles. Even if they do, your quest for your dream should not leave you with any time to think about those people. Drop the baggage.

  • What will I think of myself if I fail?

We are the heroes of our own stories. And there is no story worth telling that does not have failure and challenges in it. Make your story interesting to tell. Fail more. Fail often.

  • Let me overthink this for a bit and make it worse.

Of course, it so happened that I made a minor mistake in a work presentation. But now I think my whole team is laughing at me. Why were those two colleagues sniggering behind my back? Why are they speaking in hushed tones? Maybe the whole office knows. Oh my God. I will not get a raise this year. Or no promotion. Maybe I should quit this job. Find another one. And so on and so forth. Get out of your own head and look at the situation for what it is. Not what your mind thinks it will be.

We tend to talk about failures when we have arrived at a seemingly successful stage of your life. In fact, it’s considered fashionable to talk about failure then. But nobody talks about failure while they are going through it. It sounds like a complain, a rant, a case of sour grapes perhaps and an invite for judgement.

But success and failure are not absolute. It’s always relative. Look around you. You are more successful than many other people in this world.

That brings us to the question of – What do you define failure as? What do you define success as?

Your job, your salary, the kind of home you live in, the gadgets you are surrounded by, money in your bank, do not define success. Because the metrics for that kind of success keep changing.

What is success?

  • Taking a risk in your life – personal or professional, small or big, is a marker of success. Because it displays strength and fortitude that whatever comes my way, I will embrace it with happiness.
  • Persistence is success. Keeping at something simply because you believe in it, irrespective of the outcome, is a marker of success.
  • Doing your everyday chores, jobs, duties and pursuing your passion with love and care for yourself and others is a marker for success
  • Your relationships are a mark of your success. Your relationship with yourself, first and then how you relate to others and how others relate to you. In a healthy, respectful and positive manner.
  • Falling down and getting up again is a mark of success because nothing teaches you more than failure.

Success is not a destination, it’s an attitude. It doesn’t come to the chosen few. It is available to us every day in the choices that we make. So is failure.

Fear of failure is like fearing a ghost in darkness. The more you believe in the possibility of a ghost, the bigger it becomes in your head. The moment you face it, it ceases to exist.