“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have” -Unknown
How many times do we allow FEAR, self-doubt or the idea of failing to stop us doing something new or challenging or both?
In my case allowing fear to hold me back has been pattern of behaviour I’ve become so accustomed to, it’s now a deeply ingrained way of working and one I am now working hard to undo.
It may be a pattern for you too. How often do you shy away rather than go for it? What stops you? Is it the Fear? Is it Failure. Or is it one leading to the other?
From the age of nine, I found that choosing not to do something mitigated the worry about what people might think, the chance of getting it wrong, of looking stupid, of FAILING. I missed out on opportunities to rock climb, abseil, climb mountains, go canoeing, learn to dance and I actually developed a deep rooted fear of water as a result of not going to swimming lessons.
Much of this refusal to try related to my body image and worrying about how I might look wearing the various outfits associated with such pursuits. Ultimately though, it was linked to a fear of failure and the ironic thing is, in not doing these things and not taking the opportunity to grow, I felt even more of a failure.
The very thing I was trying to avoid, I became.
And what’s sad about that is, I missed so many chances to experience genuine joy.
What I’ve learnt very recently is that when I do feel fear it’s best to immerse myself in it. To really feel it, to respond to it and to look eyeball to eyeball with the things that I fear the most. What is it they say.. “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. Acting on it seems to take the wind out of its sails, to dampen the flames, to lessen the impact and I can more than vouch for that. Telling myself that the fear will pass, it’s purely an emotion and I won’t be stuck feeling it really helps.
I recently found myself standing on a high platform about to jump into a pool of muddy water, my ultimate nemesis. I watched as dozens of others managed it without fuss, with smiles and laughter and certainly without any deaths and I asked myself why I was so fearful.
Yes, I couldn’t swim more than a few metres but I was wearing a buoyancy aid so logically I knew I’d be fine.
Yes, I had a fear of getting water on my face and I was about to be submerged under water but it only lasted a few seconds so what was the worst that could happen?
I asked myself how I would feel afterwards. What would it mean to me to know I had done it? Would that feeling outweigh the temporary fear I was feeling? YES!
I stopped my inner voice ‘Miss Meddler’ in her tracks. She was busy telling me to turn around, that I couldn’t do it, I’d make a prat of myself if I tried and instead of listening to her, I applied some positive thinking. I remembered that positive thoughts attract success whereas fearful thoughts attract fear and fear attracts failure.
I adopted my own manta ‘I can & I am’
I slowly got myself into a seated position on the edge of the platform and then used the Mel Robbins 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique to jump. It did feel like I was under water for an age, and I did panic when I came up and found my legs wouldn’t work to get me to the edge, but I did get to the edge and the sense of achievement was immense, even if the enormous sense of relief came first.
I didn’t die.
I didn’t fail.
I faced my fear.
I drowned it in courage and I replaced self-doubt with self-belief.
I replaced failure with success.
I gave myself a chance. I grew.
And then, a few days later came lesson number two… Controlled fear.
When I got home, I asked myself if I would return to the water jump again. My initial thought was ‘NO WAY’.
But Why? I’d already done it. I didn’t die. I felt a massive sense of achievement. I knew I wouldn’t fail. Why not give it a go?
The answer was that if I was going to do it again, I wanted do it in a way I’d observed others doing it, wearing a huge smile and even screaming ‘WHHEEEEEEEEE’
To get there I would need to face the fear head on, in a very controlled environment, a swimming lesson.
What is remarkable about this is, despite harbouring a fear of putting my face in water for over 30 years, in my very first swimming lesson I did it several times. I didn’t panic and as the lesson progressed it became more natural. Why? Because I was in the hands of an expert who knew how to help somebody like me and her confidence gave me confidence.
Asking for help is often our last resort. It can be seen as a sign of weakness and this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a sign of strength and it provides a remarkable opportunity to move away from fear and failure and move towards growth. It’s a huge act of self-love.
So love yourself whole-heartedly, get out of your own way and don’t allow fear to cause you to fail. Find your inner Self-Love Ninja and drown the fear in positive thoughts & decisive action. Stop passing up opportunities to experience joy and to live a full, happy life.
You own all of the courage you need to fight the fear head on and in doing so you will learn, flourish and continue on the journey to being a better you.