Monday, 29 September 2008

The Fear of Failure

Thankfully, failure - or what society perceives as failure - has never been something that’s worried me, but I know plenty of people who have lived their entire lives so far without ever taking a risk because they’re sure they wouldn’t be able to accept failure. Either they have extremely high expectations of themselves or they fear that others will ridicule them.

Well guess what? Others DO and WILL ridicule us when we ‘fail’. But those people are generally suffering from low self esteem themselves so therefore love to see others trip up - it makes them feel less of a failure in their own lives and if my ‘failures’ help them in some way then so be it. I can’t change how they view my life so I just have to accept it.

What can be changed is the way we view our own lives and the expectations we have to ourselves. This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit recently - mostly because of a friend who always follows the safe path even though she’d love to turn her life around and do something more interesting.

Now I’ve taken a few silly risks in my time , been maybe just a bit too spontaneous, but I’m still here to tell the tale and my life’s pretty good. Sometimes things have worked out the way I’d hoped and sometimes not, but I honestly don’t feel as if I’ve failed at anything.

Failure is just a perception of the outcome of an event but the way I see it, everything we do in life carries a lesson with it and regardless of what I’ve done, my life’s been enriched because of the them. I’ve learned a lot and experienced a lot - life’s been an adventure and isn’t that the way it should be?

I’ve upped sticks and moved loads of times without worrying about my children’s inheritance or the fact that other family members would comment about it being time to put down some roots. I’ve been homeless with three kids and a dog, sleeping in a car, in cabins and in friends’ houses but even that was an adventure and we all learned loads from it. I’ve quit my safe job for something I’d rather be doing and although it didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped, I learned a whole load from that too. We managed fine, but had to be frugal. Not a hardship, really. I’ve started college courses and quit because they weren’t for me, and even though I was told it’s about time I learned to stick at something, I’d learned stuff I wouldn’t otherwise have known. And why stick at something you’re not enjoying just because others think you should? Life’s too short! It’s funny how those same people forget that I managed to get a B grade in social sciences A level without attending a single class though! A lot of people will always focus on the negative but it’s up to us whether we let it bother us or not.

Even my kids who have, according to others, “been pulled from pillar to post” agree that our life was an adventure - they met a lot of people and did a lot of stuff that most haven’t done. They learned a lot. Lise feels it’s time to settle down, LM wants to continue on the adventure, and Paul… well, he doesn’t care. He’s happy wherever and whatever.

Obviously I’m not advocating jumping off Tower Bridge just to see what it feels like or selling your grandmother’s jewellery in the hope that she won’t notice - things like that can get you into deep trouble and can have an adverse effect on others - but as long as you’ve considered what the possible outcomes are likely to be and nobody’s going to get hurt and you won’t end up behind bars (and I’m not talking pub landlord here), taking a risk can be enriching, educating and incredibly thrilling.

If there’s something you really want to do but don’t dare, all you need to do is weigh up the likely results, ease up on yourself and stop worrying about what others will think. This is YOUR life - not your parents’, your children’s or your friends. Only you know how to live it. Failure really isn't an option simply because it doesn't exist.

Sharon J


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emmani said...

Sharon, we sound sooooo similar.

I've never had a base, I've started 12 different college courses, finally passing one with a distinction because I enjoyed the subject and had a fabulous tutor who understood my desire to learn but not to study!

Obviously you can tell from my blog journey, I'm not afraid to take risks, but I don't class them as risks, just adventures!

This has to be one of THE best posts I have ever read...I may even print this one out (on recycled paper!) and keep it with me when I travel.

Thanks Sharon, marvelous thoughts! It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one.

Jade of the Jungle said...

What a truly fab post, Sharon! (How do you keep coming out with them?)

A lot of this rings true for me at the moment - you know where I am with my own choices in life. I've always been totally risk-averse, which is weird because my parents are in a way the most unconventional people I know, and willing to just do what they feel is right. Maybe that's what's made me the opposite?

Anyways, I guess I'm still growing, and learning, and one day I hope to have the strength of my convictions so that I'm answerable to no one but myself. Until then I'll just carry on enjoying your posts :)

Jade x

Lizzie said...

Hi Sharon
Things like that might matter to some but I am sure it wont matter to your kids. My paents always supported every weird thing I did (having once had to ring my boss to explain I wasn't coming home from a two week holiday in Crete). I asked my kids, since they are older now, if they would have preferred normal parents but they said no, they like us just as we are, after all that is all they have ever known. Normal parents are weird to them - and they dont hesitate to tell me about other people parents behaviour either.
Be who you are.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Sharon.
I have no fear of failure, only a fear of never trying.

emmani said...

Yes... well said Laura, I like that quote!

Sharon J said...

@ Emmani. I didn't realise anybody would find it that useful that they'd take it travelling with them. You're definitely NOT the only one who's lived/lives this way but I'm pretty sure we're in the minority, which I feel is a shame. Life's short, we only have the one shot at it, and it could all be over tomorrow.

@ Jade. I hope you get there. My parents led a conventional kind of lifestyle but my grandad always used to say "grab life by the bol***ks and squeeze the hell out of it".

@ Lizzie. My kids think 'conventional' parents are boring and feel sorry for the kids who are gonna inherit a house and money but who never got to experience the adventure that life really is.

@ Move to Portugal. I agree with Emma - wonderful quote.

Anonymous said...

thanks sharon, what a post!

i loved your comment about how other ppl may laugh, but s*d 'em! you're so right.

actually at the moment, fear of what other ppl will say if i change my mind re moving to new zealand is helping me keep going with it, LOL