Terrified of Failing

I don’t watch much television, but my guilty secret is that I’m addicted to Project Runway. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, it’s a reality show that puts a group of fashion designers under unreasonable time constraints to create something beautiful, within a budget. The contestants are judged by several well-known designers and gradually kicked off the show until the finale.

I love the creativity of it, the making of something beautiful from nothing, the intense focus that it requires, and the way that each person must be willing to fail. Last week was the “unconventional materials challenge,” a test not just of design or construction but the ability to transform trash into treasure. One of the contestants, paralyzed by the enormity of the task, broke down and said, “I’m terrified of the shame of failing.”

This sentence struck me like a thunderbolt. I’ve been in that place, so I recognized it right away. I see it in the young when they are not motivated to try. I see it in the students who come through the teacher training program, and I see it in myself when I must find solutions to challenging personal or business problems.

The key here is to notice the part of you that is afraid of being vulnerable. Get to know that part, become curious. Can you identify why you are afraid? Is it because you don’t feel sufficiently prepared? Are you not able to trust your skill set? Or are you indulging in self-sabotage, imagining that the world is judging you and labeling you a failure?

Finding out that something isn’t working or didn’t go the way you had planned is an opportunity to learn, to change, to grow. Failing isn’t a step back; it’s sometimes a necessary step forward on the road to success. In life knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do want.

Learn to trust the journey and experience the rich textures that this life experience offers you — not just the smooth easy-going moments but the rough, rugged and raw ones too. They are all part of your story.

For those of you wanting to know more, I recommend the book Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chödrön.

Image credit: airpix via Flickr (CC)

 

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