A Personal and Honest Post ↠ The Fear of Failing

“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” – Woody Allen.

When I first decided to expand my blog to include more than just travel related content I wasn’t sure what else I could, or would write about. I thought about other brands/blogs I follow that do a variety of content for inspiration.

I have never considered myself to be a ‘fashionista,’ (to be honest, I don’t even have a style. One day I love the idea of dressing in hippie/boho vibes, the next I love the look of being more dressed up. If anything, my style is unique and an amalgamation of lots of styles – see below for examples) and I rarely wear make-up so I knew the topics of fashion and make-up were no go zones for me.

Instead I wanted my first post outside of travel to be something that resonates with me, something that perhaps even describes me on a deeper level.

The idea of ‘fear of failing’ had been floating around in my head for a few days and each day I was writing a longer and longer draft in my head about this feeling so I thought why not put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard in this case, and let the words flow how they may.

It’s funny now that I think about it to be honest; here I am, wanting to write a post about how I feel as though the notion of ‘failing’ has consumed my life in so many ways but my biggest concern is what if the post is a fail? What if it’s too personal (how do we know and who decides what is too personal to put out there?)? How does one decide what to share with the world and what to bottle up?

For some reason (that I’m still yet to figure out) there was more of a burning desire to write it than not, so here we are.

According to the Oxford dictionary the main definition of the word fail is ‘to be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal’ and failure indicates a ‘lack of success’.

There is this idea of having the weight of something on your shoulders when you have to worry about something or deal with something difficult, and once you no longer have to worry about this thing one can happily say the weight is off my shoulders. For me, the notion around failing is that weight.

I don’t know how I came to be so caught up with the fear of failing but it’s something that has been apart of me for as long as I can remember. I realise that is a common fear for most when it comes to the basics such as sitting an exam or playing a sports game, yet while I considered the idea of failing in these aspects they weren’t the main ones that would consume me. Rather I was, or still am I should say, caught up by the idea of failing at life.

When I was 12 I decided I was going to join the Australian Defence Force (Navy to be specific) after school and for the next 7 years I didn’t consider a single other career.

Fast forward those 7 years, I’m 19 and it’s time to start applying. I froze, overwhelmed with the feeling of what if I fail, what if this, what if that. Just like that, there went the life long dream and career aspiration I held onto for so many years; of course I considered myself a failure over not pursuing that career.

Well if I’m not joining the Navy I better pick something else, long story short I ended up choosing to do a Bachelor of Journalism.

During the 3 years that it took me to complete this degree I was lucky enough to never have to sit major exams, only in-lecture tests and online quizzes (along with in semester assignments of course). 3 years broken up into 6 semesters with 4 units per semester, and I failed 1 quiz.

That’s it I thought, I’ve failed the entire unit, which means I’ve failed this semester which will then impact my degree as a whole and I’m going to have to re-do this entire year. Safe to say I didn’t fail anything overall as the quiz was worth nothing towards the unit or my degree.

In my final year of uni I had to undertake an internship, I did mine at two places; the first was totally up my alley as the company didn’t just write news stories but also lifestyle articles, it was a great experience and I even did a few articles for them post internship – finally a success rather than fail.

My second internship however was just not for me. It was in a newsroom, something that I didn’t think interested me but I thought best to give it a go before completely shutting the idea down. I was right; I definitely did not like it. At the time I was interning, a mum from a small town down the coast had gone missing. A few days later some body parts washed up on a nearby beach. The family were waiting for confirmation as to whether this was their missing mum/wife. The newsroom sent me, along with the other intern, to knock on the family’s door and ask them how they felt about the remains being their loved one. The lack of empathy showed by my supervisor towards this family’s pain was disturbing to me; they didn’t care that this family hadn’t even got confirmation whether it were her or not, they were more concerned with the news article they could get out of it. After this incident I still had 4 weeks of the internship to go.

Unfortunately (although it was kind of a blessing in disguise in a way as it got me out of doing the rest of the internship) I ended up in hospital and undergoing unplanned surgery.

A few days later the head of the journalism department at my university called me and pretty much abused me over not completing my internship – despite the fact I was in hospital! Telling me I was the only person to be unhappy about the placement, that many other interns had landed jobs in the newsroom post internship, that overall I had made the uni look bad. Way to make me feel like an even bigger failure.

During the time I was doing my degree I also decided to start a blog (this one to be precise). I didn’t know what I really wanted out of the blog, was it just as a hobby or did I seriously want this to be my full time job if possible? I follow heaps of bloggers that have made the latter come true for them, so why not me.

Well I can tell you this; I haven’t made a single cent off my blog in the 3.5 years I’ve had it. In some ways I see this as a bit of a fail on my end and often get caught up in a downward spiral of I’ve failed everything but at the same time I have the ability to sit back and tell myself how is it possible to make this blog a big thing when I’m studying full time and working multiple jobs as well?

The biggest thing about my blog that made me consider myself to be a failure for was that from January 2016 to March 2018 I managed to publish at least one post a month during this time, but then came April 2018 and I didn’t post anything. Between May 2018 and May 2019 I published a mere 5 posts.

I had failed my blog, might as well delete it now. I didn’t, obviously, but my brain automatically went to the most drastic measure possible all because I didn’t write a couple of words for a few months. Writers get ‘writers block’ all the time, why wasn’t I allowed to as well?

I’m sure you can now see this endless downward spiral my brain gets into over the smallest thing happening. If that’s how dramatic I get over a small uni quiz and not being able to write on my blog as often as I’d like, how bad does it get when it comes to the big things that really matter? Well let me tell you.

When you finish your uni degree everyone congratulates you, tells you what a good job you did, blah blah. Bloody oath I was proud of myself for getting through the 3 years and walking away with a degree, what I wasn’t proud of was the fact that I spent 3 years getting a degree for a field I wouldn’t even work in. Add another thing I had failed at to my never-ending list of failures.

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Early last year something didn’t quite feel right within me and I made the adult decision to see a professional about it. Nearly a year and a half later I still see the same psychologist; sometimes the sessions are weeks, even months, apart, other times they’re weekly or fortnightly.

At first I was very secretive about this aspect of my life, hiding it from everyone (including my parents and family). Feelings of shame overwhelmed me; I didn’t want people to know that I was that much of a failure that I had to see a psych. Now I tell every second person that I have a psychologist, there’s no shame in asking for help. I actually encourage anyone and everyone to see one every now and then. Sometimes all you need is someone from an outside perspective to talk things over with, bring you back to Earth from the overthinking downward spiral your brain can sometimes get into.

My partner would say to you that I constantly strive for perfection. To me part of this perfection is the burning desire (some might say slight OCD) to be able to plan things, I like to dot my I’s and cross my T’s. Part of this planning included having a timeline of when I wanted things to happen – let’s make one thing clear, it’s good to have a plan for some things. Plan your meals for the week. Plan that holiday for the end of the year. But by all means do not try to plan out your life the way I had, it was plain silly.

Have a full time job straight out of uni. Own my own house by my early 20s. Engaged by 24. First kid by 25.

You get the gist. Don’t ask me why these things by these certain ages because quite frankly I don’t even know how I came up with them, perhaps just an internal feeling, perhaps slightly influenced by those around me and what ages they did things.

Yet here I am 24, bouncing between casual and part time jobs (and starting my own business), living in a rental and not engaged. I had failed at my own life plan. A plan that I can now admit was ridiculous. I mean how can I plan when I was going to get engaged unless I was proposing to myself?

I just want to take a second to touch on the idea that you have to have a full time job to be an adult. THIS IS A LOAD OF BOGUS. This is something that took me a while to figure out. I have never worked a full time job in my life, but I have worked full time hours across various jobs and I’m happy doing that. Why? Because it gives me the freedom to pack my bags and go travelling whenever I want to, I don’t have to worry about building up my annual leave and being constricted to only 4 weeks per year. Travel is not just a hobby to me; it’s a part of me. It’s what I’ve done since I was a baby and having my family live across 3 continents it’s not something I plan to stop doing anytime soon. Just because I don’t go to work 9-5 five times a week doesn’t mean I’m not an adult. I pay my own bills. I do my own grocery shopping. And I do the most adult thing possible: I book my own doctor’s appointments! 😂

It took me a really long time to accept that I couldn’t plan every aspect of my life and that THAT IS OK, and I honestly think that this acceptance stems from my psychology sessions.

Last year also saw the end of my long-term relationship and, of course you guessed it, I saw that as another failure to add to my list; I had failed to love someone and make it last.

I think this is one of the failures that hit me the hardest; I felt like it was consuming me and it would never leave, until one day I realised I hadn’t failed. Instead, I had simply outgrown an aspect of my life and that is ok it happens to everyone.

Again I don’t think I would have fully been able to accept the notion that some things just aren’t meant to be if it weren’t for the help of a professional. So any stigma associated with seeking professional help should be thrown out the window.

Johnny Cash once said, “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping-stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

To me when I read this quote, it makes me think of where these so called failures I have in my head (which let’s be honest aren’t really failures) have actually got me today.

If I had joined the navy as per my 12-year-old self thought I would, I wouldn’t have decided to do journalism which in turn means I wouldn’t have started my blog.

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I also wouldn’t have decided to do my fitness course and become a PT, a door which has led to most, if not all, of my current closest friendships.

I certainly wouldn’t have the cute little beach shack I get to share with my partner if things had panned out differently.

It’s true, we can’t change the past or what has happened, all we can do is accept and move on.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t have everything worked out as I’m still learning. I’d love to say I don’t fear failing at all anymore, but that would be a lie. I cry a lot. But I also laugh a lot. I still let things affect my energy when I shouldn’t. But I also now have the ability to take a step back and breathe for a second when I start to feel consumed by feelings.

As cliché as it is, when one door closes another one opens – no matter what aspect of life it may happen in, whether it’s work or relationship related.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this post it is this: accept the closing of doors and embrace the opening of new ones, and most importantly realise not every door that closes is a failure.

 

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