Why are we so scared of failure?

If there is one thing sure in life is that human beings tend to fail. All of us indistinctly. No one escapes the inevitable fate of missing a goal. It starts a way back in the past when as infants we try to stand up on our feet and keep falling down when moving our first steps into the world and it continues pretty much for the rest of our lives whenever we put efforts into something we aim at reaching. 

But hey, that’s not novelty, right? And while we are all confronted with that, we also all know that failing is not opposite to success but it is just an inherent part of it. Life experience has taught us so. We have witnessed it around us, inside us, we post/read encouraging quotes about learning through failure on social medias. It is just a fact-checked awareness. I might be wrong, but I think we can all easily shake hands on this.

And yet, what makes failure such a big deal? Why do we still feel shattered when things don’t work as we had envisioned? And if it is true that we are aware of the learning potential of failures, how come the R factor (Rationality) does not console our E factor (Emotionality)? Feels like being stuck in a paradox right? 

This article does not have the ambition of illustrating a 360 degrees snapshot of that complex system of causes that makes us want to “disappear” every time we fail. It would take an encyclopedia to detail it all out and in fact there is a wealth of literature out-there from more authoritative writers than me. This article is in fact an invitation to reflect on the semantic association to the word itself. Perhaps a little stimulus to change the way we feel about failure and also to help people around us change their instinctive reaction towards it.

Falling from failure is an invitation to party for our saboteur voice. That little sneaky, attractive noise whispered straights to our neurons. Such a familiar voice, right? We heard it before saying things like: “You are not good enough, you see?” – “You are not worth. I had told you already”. This voice is not actual though and very likely comes from a far past away: family, school, establishment. A series of events we had not influence on, in moments of our lives when we were not able to protect ourselves. Everything under the false myth of being the utopian mirror of perfection. 

Reality is different. There is not such a thing as perfection in fact. Perfection is simply a smartly constructed mind-trick. Perhaps created by power structures to control us for the benefits of those power structures themselves? Who knows!

What does exist though is resilience: the innate ability we all have to get on our feet again after falling. Precisely what babies do when they learn how to walk. What also exists is compassion: that feeling of deep understanding and acceptance that in life shit just happens and not everything is preventable. And that is functional to take responsibility about failure while it is not functional to feel guilty about it. What definitely exists is wisdom: that abstract system of intelligence that motivates us to reflect philosophically about the world, the universe and society to live a better life, for ourselves and others.

If we make use of an analogy, and we convert fear of failing into a virus, then resilience, compassion and wisdom are the active principles of a healthy immune system and if we insist on this analogy, then it means that the more we strengthen that immune system, the less our body-mind gets infected.

So how to do that? Easy? Probably not. Impossible? Definitely not.

For sure nothing will change if one doesn’t want to. Nothing will happen without a piece of mind. Nothing will move without awareness. And when we are aware, we will acknowledge that failure is unavoidable, that it takes courage to take risks, that the world needs more of our irreverent creativity, that everything we want in life is at the other side of fear. Most important, that it is only when we stop trying being infallible, that we can make peace with ourselves and feel authentically free. Free to try, free to fail, free to learn, free to lead.

And if you are not ready for that, no worries. I have a secret shortcut that I can whisper in your ears to prevent you from failing on your goals: just don’t even bother try to reach them 😉 . 

Luca.

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