Being an educator, I see fear manifest itself in many different ways. Some people are terrified of spiders. Some are scared of boys. Some are afraid of school, storms, change… and the list goes on and on. But this past week, I noticed fear in a student that mirrored the bondage that has held me back from success in my own life.

The fear of failure.

I have a student who struggles with his reading. It’s become such an embarrassing disability for him that when he’s asked to read aloud, he covers his face and hides in the safety of his crossed arms. Convincing him that he’s safe to emerge from his self-made cage of bashfulness has been a difficult task and caused me some serious self-reflection.

When has fear of failure held me back?

My past is littered with missed opportunities because I was too proud to embarrass myself. Translation: I was too afraid of failure.

A week before I graduated with my Bachelors, I decided that my field of study just wasn’t the right one for me. Instead of continuing onto my Masters, I figured I was better off focusing on being a new wife and establishing my life with my husband before pursuing my degree. I don’t mean to say that there is anything wrong with that, because it truly was the best decision for us as a family.

My husband and I had huge plans for our life that included running our own business, so when it came time for me to apply to school again a couple of years later, I decided to get my MBA. It would be perfect for us, after all. Think of all the money we would save on accountants and financial services. It made sense.

So, I applied to school and went to the orientation. I was excited walking through the halls of school. I’m a complete nerd, by the way. A Lisa Simpsom or Hermione Granger to the core. I had a brand new notebook and pen ready to take important notes that would shape the rest of my life.

After 2 hours, I left the school in tears. My notebook was empty. My pen unused. I called my daddy, because this was a problem only a daddy could fix! What I didn’t expect on the other end of the phone was a Father. A tough-love-suck-it-up-face-the-truth Father. He asked me plain and simply, “If school wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing right now?”

My answers were obvious. They were in my heart waiting to be discovered. My parents can both tell you that I was a teacher without a classroom from a very young age. First grade, maybe. They always knew what I wanted to be, even when I didn’t.

Without planting any ideas in my mind and by only asking me reflection questions, my tough-love father turned into the daddy that I was looking for. After hours on the phone, he helped me realized that teaching was what I needed to be doing. He asked me, “So why didn’t you go into teaching right out of you Bachelors programs.”

Instantly, tears fell down my cheeks. I knew the answer without even pondering the question.  “Because, Daddy, if I fail with my MBA, I’m only messing up me. But if I fail at being a teacher, I am messing up little lives.”

And for the first time, I realized the strength of the grip that fear had on me.

That was more than two years ago, and I am not facing the final day of Masters program. A huge accomplishment.

But did I learn from that experience? Have I slipped free from fear’s grasp?

Of course…


My husband recently found a passion in writing. AJ has always been a story teller and discovering how much fun writing can be has been really exciting for him. And even more than that, it was a shared interest; I love to write, too. I started writing novels when I was just a little kid. First grade, maybe. (I think I figured out the world in first grade and forgot about it as I grew up!) But as the stress of life compounded in adulthood, I’ve drifted away from writing, no longer even keeping a journal. I’ve tried food blogs and life story blogs. But never found the time to really keep up with any of them. Nor were they really what I enjoyed doing. But when AJ started writing, I found myself watching him. Reading his work and longing to be creating my own.

So what was holding me back? I bet you’ll never guess.

What if I’m not good enough? What if my stories don’t make sense? What if I can’t articulate my thoughts?

I found a bit of safety in writing fan fiction for one of my favorite series. It was a lot of fun and all the characters were already created. As was the story. There was little risk of failure. I was just rewriting someone else’s work from a different point of view. And goodness was it fun.

But AJ kept encouraging me to do my own thing. To create my own story and run with it. Excuses were ease to find. FanFic is helping me practice. I’m sharpening my skills. Blah. Blah. BLAH.

One day, AJ told me that his goal in making a video game (his day job) was to create a game that he would enjoy to play. “It doesn’t matter what other people think if the final product is something that I could enjoy.”

That was my ah-ha moment. The fear of failure was again holding me back from doing something that I always really wanted to do. Writing can’t be done without exposing your soul and becoming vulnerable to your readers. But if my goal is to only satisfy one reader, myself, than how on earth can I fail? What kind of author would I be if I tried to write a book that I wouldn’t even enjoy reading?

I know it sounds elementary and completely DUH, but here I am. Embarking on my first major writing project. There’s still apprehension. And a lot of nervousness. But the fear of failure has subsided, and I am now ready to write!

Now just to find the time!

Published in: on 03.26.2011 at 12:10 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I am excited to see you overcome this fear more each day. You will do great, I know you will!

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