Fear of Failure

I’m starting a new chapter of my life, so naturally, I’m getting reflective. And panicking a little. Basically, I’m scared of failure. I’m so scared of failure. And I’m trying really hard to shake that off before the semester starts. (Yes, my first day of class is today, I’m a little behind schedule).

I’ve failed at things before. I was the worst on my college sailing team (although I tried!) ‘Introduction to Microeconomics’ was a nightmare. There’s plenty more: many jobs I didn’t get, quizzes I failed, relationships I messed up, etc.

Because I’m starting something new, I have to constantly remind myself not to hold back. There’s a little voice inside of me that always wants me to not try my hardest, just so I can maintain the fiction that I really would have done better, if only I had tried my hardest.

Lindsay, from That Je Ne Sais Quoi, wrote a beautiful post about her fear of ‘peaking,’ the fear of her best years being behind her. I related so much to that post. Every time I write a blog post that I’m proud of, I have a little voice at the back of my mind that says, “You probably won’t do/write/create something as good as this again.”

Beautiful, beautiful lingerie

But the thing I’ve realized is that when I say I have ‘fear of failure,’ I’m lying to myself. What I’m really afraid of is mediocrity, of doing a good enough job to get by, but never enough to be as awesome and special as the designers I look up to.

Creative professions have no place for the mediocre. Either you break through the noise, or you don’t– and sometimes even when you do, it’s just a flash in the pan. I’ve done all the ‘right’ things for a long time. I got good grades, I went to the ‘right’ school, I got a job. I’m just hoping my choices now are on the path to something greater– not a detour, a distraction or a step backwards.

15 Comments
  1. Oh my goodness. You are not alone: I’m really struggling with this right now, as I start to plan for my next steps. While we can’t know what the future holds, I, and I know others do as well, can’t help but feel that the step you’re taking is overwhelmingly the “right” one for you, where you are, right now. Might it change in the future? Sure! But as terrifying as the fear of failure is, especially for creative types, it’s also one of the driving forces that keeps us going and pushes us forward. Hang in there over the next few weeks!

  2. We can focus on external “success” (which is how others judge us) or instead focus on the joy of engaging in activities we enjoy. That inner success is ultimately more important. Many people my age have external success but are unhappy, seeing their lives as empty. The happiest people I know are those who enjoy their work and hobbies, independent of how the rest of the world views them.

  3. I’m wishing you the absolute best, and want you to know that even if lingerie is not my forte, at all, I think you at least already have a distinctive voice, and I am really excited for you and what you might do in the future.
    All fields have the BIG names and the exceptional but most are also, almost always, changing and that’s because a lot of different people are adding their voice and bringing something new to the table. You’re already at the jumping off point, all you have to do now is try.

  4. What an honest post! I had a similar feeling last spring when a major project I was working on fell through. I had to come to terms with it and move on, which for awhile was disheartening. But you know what? My failure turned into a success. Not going through with that project lead me to the one I’m working on today. It’s the kind of project you eat, sleep, and live and you can’t stop thinking about it. It’s the kind of project that invigorates you. So if this new chapter in your life doesn’t turn out, something else will come along. I know it :)

    • Thank you so much! It sucks when something falls through that you’re looking forward to– I’m so glad it led to something even better :).

  5. Not sure if I’ll tell you something the previous thoughtful commenters haven’t already written- my own fear of “failure”?- but will still chime in regardless…
    Sometime what we may regard as failure will actually be viewed as a positive thing few years down the road. And many of us who may be viewed as “successful” in their profession are actually quite miserable and hate their job.
    You do follow your passion and willing to take a big risk regardless of the unknown outcome, and that’s a huge success to begin with!

    The universe of lingerie has waited a long time for this fine blog, and if your early designs as posted here are any indication I’m sure you’ll do great.
    Al the best.

  6. I’m scared, too. I’m scared of the whole world, to be honest. But I have a friend that once wrote something about her plans and being afraid, and when she asked her mother “but what if I’m afraid?” her mother answered her “Then do it afraid. But do it” (I guess this is the most accurate translation I got, but anyway). I sometimes think about the future so much that I get afraid that I’m not doing anything yet, or that I’m not going to get where I wanted to get.

    The point is that we are all trying new things. It’s ok to be afraid of them. Just by admitting that you are human, therefore you might make mistakes and, yes, be a failure, you are already a winner. Because I’m sure that you are going to try the best that you can and choose what feels right. We are all by your side and hoping for the best – always :)

    • Her mom sounds pretty wise, I think that’s how it has to go! Your neurosis sounds a lot like my neurosis– I try to push through it and stay busy, but sometimes it just feels like all the worry will crush me! This next year I think I’ll be too busy to even worry though, which will probably be good.

  7. Hey Caro,

    I loved this post. I can honestly say after making some pretty drastic life changes in the past few years that you just gotta go for it, ESPECIALLY if it scares you. I think you need to harness that energy you have right now. It’s obvious you have a feeling in your gut and a growing love of lingerie in your heart, and you’re letting those things determine your direction. It is so hard to do that, and by facing your fear of failure you’re already among a different, courageous group of people.

    http://pinterest.com/pin/7881368071141153/
    This here diagram… it’s exactly what’s happening! You should be so proud, and I know you have a great support network to help you through.

    During my last gig, I worked with entrepreneurs and read so much about the most talented ones making big strides in the world (charity:water, space x, etc.). I wrote up a book (“The Startup Playbook”) that covered the major bases, and one of the biggest keys to success: overcoming your fear of failure. I wouldn’t say they didn’t have it — everyone does — it’s just pursuing what you want in spite of it, and knowing that *something* will come of it. Maybe it will provide some comfort and inspiration, knowing that you’re in really good company:

    https://www.openforum.com/articles/top-41-tips-from-game-changing-entrepreneurs/

    Take a look at the first one — it’s Sara Blakely, of Spanx! :) Kindred lingerie spirits.

    xxo

  8. Pingback: Brace Yourself » thatjenesaisquoi.com

  9. Fear – ah, what a familiar sensation. I do not fear failure because to me failure merely means the item is on my ‘not for me’ list. I rather fear being mediocre – being just ‘okay’ at everything. I find that fear leaves me with a sense of paralysis wherein I do not move forward, I am terribly unproductive, I fail to take care of myself, and I am horribly withdrawn. So I get the feeling, I understand.
    For me this is the start of my last year of my four year BA in English. I had gotten over all of this until this year when my husband’s job moved us and I am now writing my last year (on a letter of permission) at a new university, with new professors, a new department, and everything around me… new. This last week before school I feel frozen. O.o

  10. Good luck with your studies I’m sure you’ll do amazing!! My question is, what made you choose FIT programme rather than any other programme? I saw a previous post where you asked for opinions on different schools but I’m interested in what made you pick this particular one?

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