Oct 112012

Author: Anna Palmer

I have recently found myself in the presence of an overwhelming feeling of impending failure.  From past experience, I know this feeling envelops me at times when the future is uncertain.  It presents itself at times when I am unsure of how I will do on an essay or a test, badgering me into thinking I am destined to fail.  It pesters me when the task at hand seems incomprehensible, urging me to stop while I am ahead.  When it hits me full force, I begin to believe that I will not be successful in the long-term.

Upon coming to New Zealand, I believed I would miraculously discover what it is I want to do with my life, post-graduation that is.  I had this picture in my head of finally discovering what it is I’m passionate about and pursuing this passion with vigor and intensity.  I cannot help but think now that this was too high of an expectation, one that has inevitably left me feeling like somewhat of a failure.  I still have absolutely no idea what I want to do after I graduate, and that is such a scary, looming feeling.  It leads me to the irrational conclusion that no matter what I set my sights on, I will fail regardless, so I might as well not even try.

Why is it the fear of failing gets in the way of all the possibilities that lay ahead?  Why is it so challenging to look past this possibility of failure and simply try your best anyway?  Are we so conditioned to believe that any amount of failure impacts upon who we are as a person?  Any attempts to rationalize this fear lead me to believe that such rationalization is not possible.  But this does not take away from how much of an effect this belief can have.  Failing is an inevitable part of life; if it weren’t for the mistakes we made, the tests we failed, the misjudgments we made, how would we ever learn?  Somehow, this knowledge does not make the fear diminish.  It would be all too easy if we knew at what we would be successful and what paths we had better veer from.  If I had the opportunity to peer into my future and deliberately assess when and where I would make my mistakes, I cannot be certain I would turn it down.

This fear of failure is something I have been feeling more and more recently.  Maybe it comes from the realization that I will soon have to go back to my “normal” life of challenging classes and, from there, I am edging closer and closer to the end of my college career.  It is the fear of the unknown, the fear of what I cannot predict, wrapped up in this fear of failing.

I know that when I return home, some big decisions await me, decisions I would rather not worry about not now, not ever.  And with these decisions come the possibility of failure.  Looking over the classes I have yet to take, I worry that I am never going to graduate, another irrational fear. This leads me to the conclusion that I will never find my passion in life and thus never be successful; something I know is not likely but nevertheless feels so possible at times.

It comes down to the difference between knowing what to do and actually doing what I should do.  I should focus on the task at hand, not on trying to predict what will happen in the future.  I do not know how successful I will be nor do I know exactly what the future holds, but I do know that failure is a part of life, for better or for worse. This thought brings me some comfort, knowing that it is a natural part of the human experience, and the choice comes in the decision to learn from the experience or not. Actually turning this knowledge into a core belief and acting upon this belief is the tricky part that will inevitably take time and effort.  But for now, I seek to work toward a relinquishing of this fear of failure, as it does not serve me in the present moment nor does it push me to do my best, for this is all I can ask of myself.

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