Fear of Failure: How to Kick It to the Curb
I’ve been quiet on the writing front lately, and it’s only due in part to busyness. Over the past year or so, I’ve written plenty on fear—I’ve delved into my own personal fears and explored ones that many of us face. And I’ve had considerable victory over fear (if I do say so myself,) thanks to good therapy, hard work, and the Almighty God. I’m happy overall, things are going well for me and with my family, and from the outside, you’d probably think I pretty much have my act together now. But the truth is, behind the scenes, I’ve been spinning my wheels on several fronts, not really getting anywhere, except more and more frustrated and down on myself. In a recent coaching session, I came to what I believe is at the root: fear of failure.
Now, I know that fear of failure is common and that there is no shame in it, but still…I hardly fit the profile (the one I created) for this particular struggle. I am not afraid to take a risk on a new idea. I’m not intimidated to learn new things or go into uncharted territory. And I understand well that everything has a process, and that process almost always includes trial and error. Still, I often end up paralyzed—doing the safe ‘nothing’ instead of the precarious ‘something’—because deep down, I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t succeed. And I’m not talking about the little things here. I’m referring to my deepest passions, my career, my big goals and dreams in life. The important stuff.
What if I end up a big, fat failure at those?
I know my answer to that question, and it’s not pretty. Chances are, your answer isn’t either. And there, in the answer, lies the fear-behind-the-fear.
Dig down a little deeper, and you will discover the lie behind the fear-behind-the-fear: my worth is tied to my successes and failures.
I know, I know, I KNOW this is not true…in my head. I can recite several Scriptures that contradict this. And, as I described in my book, Grafted In, I really have learned to ground my identity in Him. I know He determines my true value. But even so, my heart still has pockets of insecurity that I haven’t yet emptied.
However, one of the things I’ve found in my seemingly endless process of removing lies and believing truths is that it’s critical you believe your own voice when you’re doing it. Find words that resonate; words that are palatable to you that you can actually swallow. You may have to work a bit to find those right words, but it’s worth the struggle.
So then, these are the ones I’ve put together to kick my fear of failure to the curb. If they resonate with you, say ’em with me, won’t you? Nice and loud, for the people in the back:
- My value comes from who I am, and not from what I can produce. Who am I? I am my beliefs, my loves, my passions. I am how I behave and what I choose. What I think and what I say. I am not defined by any one of these things, but by a combination of all of them. Who I am and how I show up in life begins to define my value.
- Who I am is loved and accepted by God, every minute of every day. I do not have to work to be loved by Him. I do not have to try to gain His acceptance or His approval. My belonging is completely secure. When life is complicated and hard, I can find rest in this immovable truth.
- I am not solely responsible for my own success. I need to do my own due-diligence, but the Lord is my champion, my promoter, my opportunity-maker, and my impact-sustainer. When I fully lean on him to fulfill those roles, I can offload the burden I’ve placed on myself to make it all happen.
- Failure at _______ does not equal being a failure. Some things just may not work, the timing may not be right, or maybe whatever I’m trying just ain’t my bag. Whatever those things are, those things are not who I am.
- Success and impact are not always measurable every step along the journey. My life is a whole, the same way I am a whole and not just a collection of body parts. I’m an unfinished work, and my journey is still ahead of me. So let’s stop constantly assessing how we’re doing, shall we? Just stop it.
There are some of us who have work to do on how we’re showing up in life, on our behavior, and on our decision-making skills. OK, let’s be honest–all of us do. But if you (like me) for the most part, ARE showing up, living an obedient life, moving forward the best you know how, let me assure you: YOU CANNOT FAIL in the grand scheme of things.
I’m saying this to myself as I write.
Because with God in His rightful place in our lives, we cannot be failures, no matter what we do. If we allow Him to work in us, with us, and through us, He will see to it that we will succeed according to His standards, which are certainly higher and better than our own.
I’m convinced some of the biggest regrets in life are the ones where we could have done something but were afraid to, or should have done something but were unable to do it because we got in our own way. I don’t want to live that way.
I want to go for it. The big, scary, risky stuff. The stuff that matters.
And I want to go unafraid.