Freedom from Fear of Failure
Updated: Jan 16
“She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.” – Beau Taplin
As hard as it is to admit, I unfortunately spent a lot of my life being afraid to truly challenge myself. I’d like to say that I have always been an independent, strong-willed female, and I think I often portrayed that role outwardly. When it came to stepping out of my comfort zone, however, I can’t tell you how many times I unconsciously held myself back and stood idly while opportunities passed me by.
I can't recall a time in my life that I have been afraid to speak my mind or to stand up for myself or others. I have spent my entire adult life coaching and empowering young women to be the best that they can be and to always rise up to challenges without fear. I have watched many of the young ladies that I have worked with over the years grow up to be incredible, confident, high-achieving adult women. Over the past few years of increasing self-awareness, I begrudgingly came to find that some of the traits that I have spent so many years working diligently and tirelessly to instill in others did not even exist within myself.
Thinking back to my teenage years, I can often recall taking the easier route when given a choice. My grades in school, though never poor, never reached anywhere near my aptitude, and in my second semester of my senior year of high school, I dropped all of the advanced courses that I had completed first semester. I chose to coast through the tail end of my high school career with a much easier work load because I had made my mind up that I would begin attending a local community college rather than the universities which I had been accepted into. At the time, it seemed like a logical choice considering it would likely produce a similar end result and it wasn’t as scary as the potential changes and challenges that came along with my other options.
Throughout my first few years of college, I changed my major several times. I had no real sense of direction and totally feared taking any real risks. I ultimately graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in business communications, but not from my first school of choice because I had a million excuses at age 21 for why that would be unrealistic (I was also married, working full time, taking courses for my real estate license, and coaching basically full time) and I was far too comfortable to push the envelope. I seriously considered pursuing my M.B.A. after a few years of working full-time in a legitimate career field and was accepted into a great program, but decided that it wasn’t the “right time,” that I wasn’t yet in a career that I envisioned myself in long-term, and that, with so much future uncertainty, I wasn’t ready to commit to the work or foot the bill that would come along with a master’s program.
After I completed my undergrad, I continued to work my way up through my career field and found myself at age 23 working for a corporation and taking home a decent paycheck that continued to grow. After several years of the “corporate America” experience, I found myself feeling stuck and unfulfilled. I went through an extended period (I’m talking years) of applying for positions that seemed much more along the lines of what I wanted to do, interviewing for those positions and feeling like an excellent fit, being offered the positions, and then ultimately turning those positions down… because 1) the salary couldn’t match what I was making, 2) I was too scared to take a risk, and 3) deep down, I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough to fulfill those positions.
HELLO! I went through extensive interview processes with many of those positions and still convinced myself that there was no way that, if I accepted the position, I would actually prove to be good enough in the long run. I was terrified of the unknown and, in a sense, I was being “bought out” to just stick with what I already knew and continue living my unfulfilling 8 to 5 career life.
Luckily for me, one day I received a phone call out of the blue for a job opportunity that I hadn’t even known about or applied for, and that I knew in my soul I could not pass up. It felt like the perfect fit, and the timing seemed somewhat decent in terms of what I envisioned for my future. I was scared to death to take the leap, but the pieces lined up and I knew in my bones that it was now or never. I took the risk and made the jump, and I’ve been in that same career for five years now. My gut instinct proved to be correct, and the thought of looking at job postings has never even crossed my mind during this time.
Though I would like to say that this is the end of the story, that I learned that the risk is always worth the reward and that I gained true confidence and followed my heart for the rest of eternity, it unfortunately still took me a few more years to figure it out. The amount of speaking opportunities, coaching opportunities, and choreography opportunities that I continued to pass up with a long list of excuses, even after I was brave/lucky enough to take the leap into a new career, is lengthier than I'd like to admit. I’ve turned down countless opportunities in the past because, “I’m SO busy already,” and most importantly, "What if I still wasn’t good enough?"How could I accept an opportunity when the timing “wasn’t right” and when I might let someone down, or even worse, they’d think I was a fraud all along? Even with a proven track record of success and all the supporting documentation to disprove my fears, I still couldn’t get out of my own head.
Motherhood, maturity, and life experiences led me to spend some serious time getting to know and appreciate who I really am. With increased self-awareness, I started to believe and trust in myself enough to begin accepting and even volunteering myself for opportunities. And guess what I’ve learned from every teeny, tiny, baby step “yes” that I’ve given to a super scary, challenging opportunity? 1) I DO have time for things that add value to my life, 2) so far, the risk has always been worth it, and 3) I am totally capable and even (dare I say) good at those things that I once doubted I could do! Every exciting challenge that I have accepted has boosted my confidence and made me wonder why I ever doubted myself in the first place.
Possibly the most important knowledge I gained from this new found courage was the realization that perfection is a myth and failure is subjective. Even if I choose to accept a challenge or take on an opportunity that feels right to me, put my best effort into it, and still fail to meet someone else’s expectations, then it isn’t really about me as a person and it just wasn’t a good fit in the first place. There’s always lessons to be learned from every experience.
I can't say that I carry regret for missing out on the things that I didn't allow myself to experience in the past. I know that every decision I've made and every step I have taken in life has led me to exactly where I am, which is exactly where I’m supposed to be today. My work ethic and dedication to any of my past and present commitments has always been evident, but my confidence to push myself beyond my comfort zone was buried by perfectionism and a subconscious fear of failure. It took real, hard personal work for me to realize and overcome this.
My hope is that the values that I have tried to instill in all of the young women I have worked with over the years will encourage them to believe in themselves and go for what they want in life. More importantly, I hope that the confidence that I have in myself now will set an example for my daughter, and that she will never fear challenge or think of herself as incapable of anything she desires. We are all smart enough, brave enough, and good enough to go after our dreams, no matter how scary they may seem.