The Fear of Failure
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Author Brené Brown addressed this question as I sat in a packed auditorium at Deerfield High School. During the pause that followed, you could hear our brain machinery whir into high gear as we mentally compiled an inventory. Write a book. Run a marathon. Run for mayor. Audition for a band. Start my own business.
Brown stopped us. While writing her own book, Daring Greatly, she decided this question, which she’d used her whole life, wasn’t really the right question to ask after all. Instead, she (we!) should really be asking …
What’s worth doing even if I fail?
Often we measure our self-worth by our achievements: the diploma on our wall, a medal, a title, the size of our office. Brown says that’s a faulty gauge. The measure should instead show how often and how hard we strive to achieve, whatever the results. Our self-worth should be tied to our willingness to dare greatly.
But daring is easy, you might say. Anyone can try to do something great. Yes, but not everyone does! And you could come up with a long list of reasons why, but they really all boil down to one: fear. Fear of putting yourself out there. Most often, fear of failure.
From her research, Brown discovered that that this act of putting yourself in a vulnerable position of failing is what helps us find real fulfillment and a deeper meaning in life. You may experience hurt or embarrassment, but it’s nothing compared to the pain of regret, of wondering what life would be like if you’d only had the courage to …. What?
Now it’s your turn. Compile your own inventory of things you’d always wanted to do but never thought you could. Things you worried you would fail at. Then let’s talk! I’d love to help you get started, and cheer you on along the way.
For extra inspiration, I’ll leave you with the quote Brown used as a springboard for her book, Teddy Roosevelt’s homage to all those who strive valiantly.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the
man who points out how the strong man
stumbles, or where the doer of deeds
could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually
in the arena, whose face is marred by dust
and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly …
who at best knows in the end the triumph
of high achievement, and who at the worst, if
he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net/bjwok