November 02, 2018
How do you react to opportunities? Do you jump in with both feet? Or do you get ready to jump but fear stops you. For me, I jump right in and then quickly thereafter become full of fear that I'm going to fail.
And I do fail sometimes. Actually, if I'm going to be completely transparent, I “fail” (according to my biggest critic....me) most times.
But here's the part I want to talk about: what is failing, exactly? And what happens to us when we let that the fear of failure keep us from trying?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. In August, I began a journey that forced me to face not only the fear of failing but another one of my biggest fears -- the fear that I am not “smart enough.” This particular fear stems from an old belief that I do not learn like everyone else, that I have trouble retaining information, and that I am a hands-on-learner only.
The journey that kickstarted these familiar anxieties? I’d enrolled in a Whole Food Plant-Based Nutrition Certification course from Cornell University.
And the fear that I would fail settled in shortly after I made the decision to enroll.
I’m writing this not because I have some life-changing formula on how to break the cycle of fear. Sorry! I’m not sure anyone really has that. What I do have to share, however, is the knowledge that you can let that fear in without it holding you back.
When faced with the fear of failure, we really have two choices: to quit (which means we never give ourselves the opportunity to succeed or fail), or to forge ahead (despite that fear of failing nipping at our heels).
This time, I chose the latter. And the fear, as expected, forged ahead with me.
Once I decided I was going through with the course, I had to get things in order. I cleaned my house, did the laundry, and batch-cooked for the week. Then I let my family and friends know I wasn't going to be as available as I normally am. Time to focus. I created a space to buckle down and do the work.
Carving out a space was important because fear creates chaos that can keep me spinning out in all different directions except for the one direction I want to go in. And I really wanted to do well on this course.
Getting organized didn’t erase my fear. My fear, at times, was almost tangible; it felt like walking through thick fog. But having a system in place did help me stay on track.
The course itself was difficult for me, probably much more so than it needed to be because I was looking at it through a lens of fear. Yes, the content at times was dense (lots of sifting through nutrition science research!), but it was my fear that made it much harder.
When I am grounded and in my power, I know that real failure comes from not giving yourself a chance to strive for something better or more beautiful in your life. And this I believe comes from fear -- fearing the unknown, fearing we are not enough, and yes, fear of failure.
My journey with Cornell was an awakening to my potential to learn. I gave myself permission to feel all the fear and to walk through it, not hide from or ignore it but to sit with the fear and know that I could and would complete the journey. It doesn’t matter that I sometimes had to go over the material numerous times, or that it might have taken me longer than some of the others. What matters is that I completed the course and I now here I am, holding my certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University.
By Shirma Blanchard
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