Afraid to Fail: I’m Always Afraid of Not Being Good Enough
One More Confession in 2011
I have always been afraid to fail. I have let other people’s expectations, assumptions and opinions carry too much weight. Instead of learning to plan, making connections with new people and being a student of the world, I applied the brakes of self-doubt and second-guessing at every turn. I knew I was fairly smart, I grasped ideas quickly and I was always formulating theories and stories in my head, but putting it all together is an entirely different matter. Seeing a project to completion and sticking to your goals requires commitment and belief in yourself. If I had been awake from the very beginning of my journey, I would have been able to say, “Your expectations are your own. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, but my life is my own to live and I am the one to determine its course. I am not here to impress people or catch a rich husband and live a life of display and material wealth and outward achievements like degrees and titles. And if you try to push me down that path then I will end up in debt over my head and will need to take several years to figure my life out in my late twenties.”
Instead, I was always too polite. I never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. I am very sensitive to the way people interact, and because I was so attuned to how things might be perceived, I went out of my way to never say what I really thought, never discuss what I really wanted and instead spent a lot of time listening and never disagreeing. Those are two important ideas: listening and never disagreeing. Listening is a powerful skill to have. I’m an adept listener because I am genuinely interested in what others have to say. But I take listening too far. I internalize too much of what I hear and what other people think. So I’m moving on from that. I’ll always listen and I’ll always want to know more, but I am not going to take what other people think to be any more important than my own ideas. And then there is the second idea of never disagreeing. Arguing is a waste of time, so I don’t like to spend time pointing out how others are wrong. You won’t change their minds and they won’t change yours. So it’s easier to just listen to someone’s opinion and then thank them for it politely and move on.
You know what it’s like to be buried under the weight of your own and other people’s expectations of you. There is too much great stuff in this life and too many great people in this world to spend even one minute of it drowning in someone else’s arguments and finding yourself angry, annoyed and exasperated. How can you be creative if you spend all your time arguing or trying to live up to other people’s expectations? How can you do what you want in life if you are trying to do what other people want you to do?
Part of the reason this blog started out anonymously is because I was afraid it would fail. I didn’t want to announce myself to the world only to abandon this project, casting it aside like one hundred other failed ideas. I’ve also always been afraid to associate my ideas and beliefs with myself. Maybe because I am afraid of criticism and rejection. But I am coming to understand how immature that is. So what if people don’t like it? So what if people laugh and point? It’s nice that I want everyone to love and get along and play nicely, but life and a life’s work is not that simple. If I did it and I stand behind it, then one million critics won’t bring me down or make me stop.
I am no longer afraid to fail. I will be OK with failing. In fact, I will welcome it. Failing is an opportunity to learn and come back ten times stronger. I will be OK with doing my best and seeing what happens. I will not hide who I am. I will set goals for 2012 and keep track of them right here on this site.
Repeat after me:
I do not have to spend time with people I don’t want to spend my time with.
Other people are free to live their lives as they please and I will not force my ideas upon them.
In return, no one can dictate the direction of my life but me.