By now I’m sure we’ve all heard from several people about how failure isn’t a bad thing. About how we should embrace failure and learn from it. About how many times Thomas Edison failed and Michael Jordan failed before reaching success. This perspective makes a lot of sense to me as I’m sure it makes sense to you but it’s still very hard for me to apply it to my own life.
I hate it when I think I’m failing and not being perfect! I feel like I’m doing something wrong, like no one else would make the same “dumb” mistakes I made. Everytime I fail or do anything wrong or risky the negative inner talk just beats me to oblivion. So what does this result in? Day after day of listening to this toxic self talk leads to the internalization of these negative beliefs to the point that it becomes who I am. Even worse, slowly I’m less willing to try new things or do anything different for the fear of failure.
I personally hide behind excuses that I’m getting older so I know my likes and dislikes and don’t want to do X or Y, but deep down it is rooted in this fear that has become me. This fear that if I do something that pushes me out of my comfort zone, something that is so unstructured and so new, somehow I’ll be hurt; so I won’t even try.
Conceptually, understanding failure is pretty easy and it makes logical sense that we have to fail in order to succeed. However, psychologically something very different is happening behind the scenes. For some people this isn’t a problem, but for people like me it is. It might be conditioning, or it might be due to a traumatic event in the past; regardless, I recently realized it is time to push past these trivial fears so I can have the liberty to just allow myself to fail to figure out what I’m capable of doing.
So how is one supposed to go about doing this? What’s really been effective for me is taking baby steps. One of my desires is to start connecting with more people, so I started at a very basic level of just making eye contact with some random strangers everyday. Then I started to attend some random meetups and just saying hi to a few people. Now I’m trying to connect with some of these people outside of these formalized meetings. I’m still far from there but I just started small.
Taking baby steps in addition to cultivating awareness has really pushed things to the next level. Being mindful and present in the situations that cause discomfort and fear has tremendously helped me tackle a few scary goals. I used to passively avoid situations where I would feel the slightest hint of discomfort. Now, through cultivating mindfulness I just remain present and observe these feelings and realize I can actively choose my reaction as opposed to passively follow my emotions.
For example, at these meetups sometimes I find it hard to connect with others and I’m by myself while everyone else is conversing. At times like this, I tend to either pull my phone out or pretend like I have somewhere to go so I don’t look lame standing in the corner of the room. This is rooted in this fear of being lonely and rejected, so to avoid this pain I usually try to avoid situations like this. The paradox of this is that by avoiding these situations its been super hard for me to meet new people over the past few years.
Now, when this type of situation comes up I acknowledge my feelings and accept them, which brings me to the last thing that has helped me overcome my fears. Taking baby steps and being mindful is great and all, but as soon as things don’t go as planned our fear is reaffirmed. Our mind will say “told you so” and the self critique will gain the upper hand again. However, through serious acceptance of the situation at hand you can take the power away from the self critique.
The only reason I feel “lame” standing by myself is because at some point in my life someone said or told me it was “lame”. However, by being aware of what feelings arise I have the liberty to choose my reaction as opposed to passively giving into the fear and running away from the situation. I can just accept whatever is happening and not feel dumb, and not feel lame, and just be. More often than not by just being there and open someone usually comes around for me to have a meaningful conversation with.
This might sounds like a bunch of new agey stuff “awareness” and “acceptance” etc., but I’ll guarantee you by cultivating and practicing these two things a lot of the difficulties in life won’t seem so hard anymore. Things will start to flow. The way I cultivated awareness and acceptance is through a daily meditation practice. If you are interested in how to start this reach out and I’ll try to round up a few links to send your way.