“Only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first presidential inaugural speech in 1933. Many leaders, parents, and teachers have said those words to inspire and encourage courageous behavior. There are a number of different reasons to fear but the fear of failure is the one that people struggle with on a regular basis. It is hard to accept that failure is a part of life and yet we can only appreciate success if we know first how to fail.
Fear of failure is just one of life’s tough lessons. In life we will fall and fail, physically or metaphorically, and we too will be injured. Too often this type of fear tells us that we are not smart enough, tall enough, healthy enough, good enough, which can sometimes paralyze and stymie self-esteem, confidence and trust. When we doubt our abilities and ourselves we miss opportunities that could be right for us. Yes maybe we don’t get it right at first or even after the 10th time but how will we know unless we try.
Recently I attended a leadership conference and one of my major take-away was that failure is key to success. Leaders, who were unsuccessful and failed many times admitted that they learned from their failures, then tried again and again until they got it right. Rarely does anyone go right to the top without hard work and a lot of failure. Once again a child is a great example of this. When toddlers start learning to walk, they don’t just get up and take off walking, they stumble and fall. They go through the process of learning to stand, shuffling around furniture and slowly they expand their movements by taking more and more risks. Once they have gained confidence in their skills, they let go and walk however they are not completely successful right away. Toddlers frequently fall down and yet are not deterred by their failure. They get up and try again and again and again. At the conference, all of the presenters talked about their fear of failure, how often they had failed and how they overcame failure to find success. It was actually reassuring to hear that those very successful people feared failure like the rest of us. Successful people can make success look easy. Aren’t we all a bit guilty of taking for granted that successful people must have had everything fall perfectly into place? That is so not true. Most of the leaders at the conference struggled just like us and had to keep trying. They also were quick to mentioned a long list of people who helped them along the way to achieve their goals.
Quite honestly fearing failure or even it being afraid to make a mistake is a tough burden to bear. It is tiresome to constantly worry about finding perfection and losing to the fear of failure. Fear does not make us stronger it feeds our weaknesses and I am weary of the worry. Through the years, I have discovered that when my spirit is weak and in need support or unquestionable love, I turn to the Bible. When I read texts found in Psalms or Isaiah, it feels like the writers have also struggled with fears and doubts and have trusted God to see them through their circumstance. For example Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I am the LORD your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do Not fear; I will help you.’” Those words matter to me and they show me that I am not alone in my fear… the people of Israel or Isaiah feared and God said trust me I will help you, (My words). God had their back! Reading these words helps me to feel supported by God even when I fail or make mistakes. I trust that this is true. I will fall and I will get up again and again and again. And like my daughter who tries to do her best to ensure Finley’s safety, God is running around trying to help me get up again and again and again.