I am terribly afraid of failure. I'm not just afraid of failing at things I know I'm bad at, like tennis or calligraphy. I'm actually more afraid to fail at things I'm passionate about- things I'd like to think I can do well- like writing or singing. To attempt and fail at something that I've never done before or have never been able to do well may be embarrassing, but to attempt and fail at something I SHOULD be good at cuts deep into my identity. I think, "This is who I am- this is what I do- if I can't always succeed at my strengths, then perhaps I am not so special- not so helpful. Is what I can uniquely offer the world worth offering if I can't guarantee it's success- if I sometimes falter?"
Would the world really be better if I took a risk and attempted my full potential, or would I be doing the world a favor by living in neutral- doing only what I am very certain I can accomplish well?
Although I suspect my motives are rarely so pure as that- so focused on whether I am benefiting the larger public. Perhaps more often than not I am simply afraid that I am not as good- as talented- as wanted- as I'd like to be. I'm afraid if people saw what it was like for me to really try- really run with something- they would quickly realize that I am not what they thought- I am smaller- I am less capable. And the fear of people's opinions- that suffocating form of pride that simultaneously values self and peers (creation) over my creator- stifles that for which I was made.
Perhaps you have seen some of the London Olympics- I've always been drawn to the women's gymnastic events. While watching this year I couldn't help but feel heartbroken for Jordyn Wieber, who became ineligible to compete in the individual all-around finals due to a rule allowing a maximum of two athletes per country to advance. She had been a world champion- she was the best but when she risked it big competing at the Olympics she faltered- she performed less than her best. I cannot imagine knowing that you could do better- wanting so badly to redo- to prove yourself- wshing the whole world were not there to see your pain. But Jordyn Wieber competed. The risk she took began when she threw her whole self into training to be a gymnast years before- what she has accomplished and who she has become because of her decisions cannot be taken away by any mishap routine or a low score. I would say she is living what she was made to do- and so she is alive.
So my longing to be alive must be greater than my fear of failure- and for me...that begins with believing that my worth is wrapped up in my Creator. Because if I am confident in that- then failure is irrelevant to my identity and I embrace risk as the very thing that gives purpose to my identity.
But don't take my word for it.
A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done. - Cardinal Newman
It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who- at the best- knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who- at the worst- at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt