I was a very fearful child, but I wasn’t scared of the monster under my bed like most other kids my age. I was afraid of something even more difficult to control – what other people thought of me.
To this end, I tried my hardest to be perfect. There was no room for failure. I had to get it right every single time. I became anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed, trying constantly to please everyone. I stopped doing things I enjoyed in case I was bad at them.
And then one day, I just stopped doing things altogether.
The older I got, though, the more I realised that our mainstream ideas of success and failure are flawed. And that these ideas have stopped many people from doing what they truly love.
Who determines what success looks like?
The short answer is – you do!
Society will have you believe that success looks a certain way. Nice car, big house, fancy job, perfect wife, cute kids and of course, a dog. The reality is, however, that success can look different for everyone.
Success, for me, is linked to what I value most in this world, what brings me happiness and what makes me feel most like myself.
I find success in the quality of my relationships with my partner, friends, and family. I find success in the healing relationship I am forming with myself. I find success in being able to live life authentically; where I can do things that nourish me.
I could not care less about what kind of car I drive or how expensive my watch is – that, for me, is not success. And the good news is that you get to decide what success looks like for you as well.
Failure is a gift
When I think of the years I spent fearing failure, I realise what a lost opportunity they all were. Without failure there are no lessons. Without lessons there is no growth. Without growth, we will never reach our full potential.
Failure, mistakes, error, they all serve the same purpose – to help us become better versions of ourselves. We need failure and if we look closely at moments when things don’t go as planned, we will be better prepared for next time.
Accepting that failure is a normal, healthy part of life is to accept that you are human. Integrating failure into your life as a development tool is a way of showing yourself care and understanding.
It’s impossible to know everything and we all mess up sometimes! Go easy on yourself and embrace the opportunity to learn something new.
Have the courage to be joyful
It’s all very easy to say “don’t be afraid” but how do you actually do that? Defining your own success and doing things even if you’re bad at them takes courage, bravery and confidence. These are not easy skills to master.
I think the secret is that you just have to do it scared. Sit with the uncomfortable feelings, the judgement, the doubt, and remind yourself that none of those negative, toxic voices in your head are speaking a word of truth.
You are allowed to do things just because you enjoy them. So what if you’re bad at it? Just because you’re bad at something doesn’t mean you should stop doing it.
Do it for yourself. Keep doing it because it brings you joy. Keep doing it because it excites you, stimulates you and makes you feel good. Don’t stop because it’s not perfect, finished, or ready. It never will be, and the final product shouldn’t always be the most important part.
The bottom line is the fear of failure is not a good enough reason to stop living your life.
My hope is that one day we will live in a world that cares less about material possessions and more about who we are as people. Where claiming joy and pleasure is not the revolutionary act it’s made out to be. Where we can give ourselves and each other a break.
I don’t know if I’ll ever see a world like this in my lifetime. But I do know we can start doing things to help us get closer to it. So, let’s all start doing things that we’re bad at, just for the fun of it! Art, music, exercise, cooking, dancing – whatever makes you feel content and happy.
Let’s challenge the notion that perfection is real, that success is measured and that happiness is earned.
Tell us: What do you do that makes you happy, even though you are not very good at it?
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