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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

4 Ways to Break Through Your Fear of Failure

Early morning fog fell over my hometown in Mechanicsville.

The little town just north of Richmond, Virginia is a series of twisty roads met by acres and acres of green, velvet grass. Where I learned to ride horseback.

I approached this hobby with a sort of wide-eyed horror, wonder and intimidation all at once. Like how it feels when you find yourself in the midst of a celebrity sighting.

And then the terrifying and wonderful moment would happen. I'd swing my leg over and rest in the saddle, grab the reins and move forward. One day at lessons, my teacher was trying to coax me into a quicker pace, moving from a cantor (a middle-speed) to full-on gallop.

But I was too scared when the hooves met the road.

Galloping looked so fast in the movies. What if I lost control? Or did everything wrong? What if I couldn't do it?

"What's the worst that could happen?" my teacher asked. "You fall? If you fall off the horse, could you get back on? If you're good with that, then you can do this. But you can't let that fear keep you from trying."

Though I don't think simply falling off is the worst-case scenario of horseback riding gone wild (anyone who's seen Gone With the Wind can attest to that), my teacher was right. I couldn't let fear of failure keep me from getting on the horse.

Lately, I've treated my creative projects much like those early mornings of riding lessons. Full of fears. Asking myself all of the what-ifs:

What if I lose control? 

What if they hate it?

Or worse, what if no one cares?

What if I put in all of this extra effort and it's not good enough?

Then I remember horseback riding. And the bigger scarier question takes top-billing: 

What if I never start?

If you find yourself on the brink of a creative-gallop, but too consumed with a fear of failure before you begin writing, singing, painting, podcasting, job interviewing, anything-ing, here are a few ways to combat the fear of failure from holding you back:

Do it For the Practice.

I've loved blogging for years. I do it because I love to hear thoughts from others and express frustrations, joys, and big life questions.

But I also do it to put myself out there. To break through the fear of being judged.

For so many of us, the singers, the violinists, the teachers, the chefs: this work comes from our hearts.

And if someone rejects our work, if they don't like it on Instagram or if we don't cultivate a large Facebook page, it feels like rejection.

But the more content you create, the more practice you have releasing the work, allowing it to live beyond your closed doors or journal bindings. It becomes easier. I promise.

Do it to Be in the Game.

There's a group in downtown Norfolk that runs together. Attended by very fit people. Like, people who have run marathons and are trained to be physically elite as they serve in the military. Bless it.

And then there's me. Desk job. Extra pounds hanging on my waist (and, let's be honest, other areas). Huffing. Puffing. The weakest link by far. I'm at the back of the group, worried that I'm annoying or inconveniencing others by needing to stop and walk.

But I've learned to appreciate being a part of the team. Of having a place on stage rather than a seat in the arena. I've learned to enjoy the encouragement from others trying to reach a similar goal. I'm not the best. Not even close. But I've pounded my feet and traveled much further than I ever could on my own.

Finding community in the midst of creative work can have a similar impact. Alright, maybe you're not the best writer, singer, tap-dancer. Maybe you don't have an MFA or certificate that launches you to the head of your field.

But who in their settled, emotionally stable mind creates to be at the head of the pack?

Do it for the joy it brings you.

In this day and age, we've entrepreneurialized our creative worlds to corporate-building, New York City skyscraper heights. In other words, if you're not making money off of your creative endeavors, you're not really an artist.

But what about the women who sit in their sun rooms with a canvas and watercolors? The actresses who serve tables to balance their budget? The freelance writers and editors who have to stitch their living together like a patchwork quilt?

The majority of us will not become multi-millionaires from our art. But society of late has convinced us that if we're not, we're failures.

If we're too focused on monetizing our joy, we'll lose the sense of why we ever picked up our brush, pens, or guitars in the first place.

Do it For How You'll Feel About Yourself After.

This isn't for results. Statistics.

This is for sense of completion. A sense of beauty that comes from making something. Of speaking, writing, cooking or singing something into existence that wasn't there before.

The only failure we're guaranteed is the failure that comes with being
too tangled up in fear to ever begin in the first place.

Pssst! P.S. People who subscribed to the Prodigal Sister email list (henceforth known as the Prodigal Squad) got this post delivered straight to their inbox first thing this morning! They were also automatically given five entries into an upcoming contest that you will want to get in on:



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