We Don’t Fear Failure, Just Each Other

People overuse the term “fear of failure.” However, Atychiphobia may be a huge misnomer. I don’t think we are afraid of the failure itself (noun) or the act of failing (verb). You don’t agree?

The thing we are actually afraid of is the potential result of the perceived failure. We are not worried about what the thing will do to us or how we will react to it. What we really cower away from is how other people could potentially react to our actions.

Being afraid of an unclear, non-tangible thing is crippling, and ridiculous. Think about it. We are afraid of something that doesn’t even exist. More than likely, it’s not even just one thing. There are many mythical foes we can contrive that will never manifest. How many scenarios can be crafted in fear. We are nervous and subdued about a potential idea. More specifically, we fear the possibility that people may find out about our failure and that we will look ignorant, incapable, or weak once we are exposed.

Regardless of others’ reaction, how we process their reaction is really the key issue at hand. This realization is empowering because it gives us back the control of the fear, and therefore, the end outcome.

We must look at the failure itself through another lens, even if we struggle to look at ourselves in a new way. Even with an undesirable outcome, the process of failing is adventurous, educational, and potentially enjoyable if accompanied by a mature frame of mind. It produces growth and leads to personal progress, which produces a rare and valuable commodity known as satisfaction.

Seasoned creatives and successful people love the process. The ultimate teacher is experience, but if we don’t take on the experience, we remain unchanged. Failure is often the only way to grow.

Humans are crippled by their fear of rejection. We have an innate desire to be liked and to be included. Our fraternal nature craves acceptance, especially from those we admire most. If people find out we failed, we are paralyzed with the thought of being excommunicated from the group. This fear leaves us feeling wildly insecure and vulnerable because we actually need to belong to a tribe.

Insecurity breeds obsession, and being visibly obsessed makes us more likely to fit in with a similarly obsessed group. Obsessing about one thing is often an attempt to cover another. A massive crowd is obsessed with football, not because the people merely love the game, but because they love belonging to the club of other football enthusiasts. Men especially have a need to compete, and desire to compete together because we doubt our own abilities and individuals and want to hedge our bets. Losing together doesn’t hurt as badly, and winning together is exhilarating.

We often love CrossFit, golf, motorcycles, civic organizations, and business success for the same reasons. We are constantly saying, “Look. I am obsessed too. I am one of you! Please invite me to play with you.”

We cannot avoid failure, nor can we mask it or lie about it forever.

Courage is necessary to be successful. Courage is not a lack of fear, but a willingness to do what we need to do, despite the fear.

Security is the ultimate combatant to fear. If we factor in the worst case scenario from the venture and can still live unscathed with that outcome, then we have real security. Then we have real freedom. What’s the worst that can happen? Think about it: Do you aggressively and immediately delete people from your life if they don’t perform perfectly or if they have a losing record? Would they do the same to you? If so, you are living your life alongside imposters and liars, and you will be better served with another group, or maybe even alone for a while until finding the right group.

If I see you bomb at something courageous, with good intent, I will likely admire you, not reject you. I hope the people that you legitimately care about would do the same. Our primary goal should be a secure self that learns how to fail well, with dignity, confidence, and purpose, conscious, grateful, and mindful along the entire journey. Our secondary desire may be to join a secure group of people to experience failures with, but the former is certainly not contingent on the latter.

Our competition should be with life itself and with the person we were yesterday, not the person across the street.

To be effective in life, we must have the freedom to fail. Failing to get a promotion, to win a national championship, to double your money on an investment, or to deliver the perfect toast won’t kill you. Instead, it is the very agent that will produce a more educated, tempered, compassionate, stronger, wiser, and better person.

Seek it. Love it. Own it!

Fail on.

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