Fear of Failing Turned Me Into a Failure
I am not an adventurous person. I’ve never been drunk. I can’t stand food hotter than “mild.” I don’t like my windows open all the way. And I don’t like concerts. For most of my life, venturing past my comfort zone wasn’t an option because, well, what if I screwed up? I always felt that my cautious attitude toward failure was a sign of maturity, that I was, for lack of a better word, “adulting” somewhat correctly. I hadn’t considered that perhaps my fear of trying new things was putting me at a disadvantage. In my mind, if I didn’t try, I didn’t fail. If I didn’t fail, I didn’t lose.
I graduated college at 20 years old with a new job in my field. The same week I put the deposit on my first apartment was the same week I started the gig. My future seemed like it was falling into place perfectly: go to school, get an education, get a job, move away from home. This ended abruptly when I gave into the pressures of responsibility. “Must not screw up, I'm an adult now, I have to plan my life now.”
I lasted eight months at the job. Every day I went into work worried that I would make a mistake. That I would give the wrong advice, that I would make the wrong decision, that maybe I wasn’t ready to move away from home after all, that maybe this wasn’t the career path for me. The list went on, and before I knew it, I had used up all my sick days at work lying in bed being anxious, depressed and exhausted.
I remember countless days spent crying, while scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, and looking at all the women who had made leaps and bounds in their careers and living life how they wanted to. I looked down at myself and thought, “Why can’t I be confident like them? They’re so fearless; why am I afraid of me?” Every day I desired to be better, learn more, dress how I want, express what I feel, and be free in this world. I desired to be my authentic self, but my fear of failing kept me from exploring and expressing; it left me stagnant and repressed. Three years after graduating from college, my diploma was collecting dust due to fear of the "real world".
Let me tell you something: There is no growth in the comfort zone. Going after what you want can be uncomfortable, but it only lasts a moment. When you make a mistake and it’s embarrassing or frustrating, those emotions are not what define you. The worst part of failing is spending time thinking about how you failed, not the actual failure itself. Being embarrassed sucks; making mistakes sucks; losing a little dignity when you’re vulnerable sucks, but it never lasts. Those emotions are fleeting moments in time.
Embarrassment or fear or frustration shouldn’t be the reason you do or don’t do something in your life, because that feeling doesn’t last. Those uncomfortable emotions are just the side effects of failing, not the defining moments of your character.
I’ve now built myself a world where I believe in myself, regardless of my job or circumstances. My past self has taught me so much, and now those lessons are building my current and future self. I didn’t need a new job or new apartment or new city to see this; I just had to change my perspective. In fact, I still have a similar job to the one I had three years ago, and I still live in a basement apartment, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
Whatever you desire to do or be is attainable; you just have to remember that the only thing holding you back is you. Allow yourself to be thoroughly you. Allow yourself to run unapologetically after what you want. There are no set of rules for how you should live your life; you get to make your own.
By Caitlynn McEachern, 23