“A healthy fear keeps you from dying. An unhealthy fear keeps you from living.” – Lis Williams
If you want to be a light bearer in the world, and you do because we need you out there, you’re going to have to face your fears. And you’re going to have to be willing to fail. To fall down, get back up, brush yourself off, and keep going.
Failing isn’t fun, and we rarely like to talk about our failures. But in truth, we all fail. We all make mistakes. If we could just stop making such a big deal of it, we would realize that our failures lead to our successes.
Fail your way to Success
When I was in my 20’s, I was in graduate school at night and working during the day. I had a group presentation that I had been preparing for, but the night before the presentation I was unexpectedly invited to a Cubs game. Never one to pass up an opportunity to spend an evening at Wrigley Field, I chose to go to the game instead of practicing my presentation. I had given many presentations in my life and wasn’t concerned in the least.
My group of four got up to present the next night in class, and when the first presenter finished I was up. I got up in front of the class of about twenty with my cue cards and slides and began to speak. But, as I was talking, I realized that I really didn’t know what I was going to say next. Rather than winging it like I had done many times before, I froze. That would have been bad enough, but despite the fact that my brain had frozen, my mouth was moving, babbling in an incoherent fashion. I heard myself, but I was unable to stop.
The audience was clearly uncomfortable by the disaster they were witnessing. One woman in front kept smiling and nodding encouragingly hoping I would recover my composure. Others just kept looking down perhaps in belief that I might be able to get through my part of the presentation if no one was paying attention. Even the professor was doing his best not to notice. I eventually stopped babbling and turned it over to the next presenter.
When we finished our presentation and headed back to our seats, a break was announced. I quickly left the building to take a walk and try to regain my composure. I wanted to leave and go home, but I had left all of my belongings back in the classroom. I would have to go back in and face my peers. Somehow I managed.
A moment changes everything
Nothing that embarrassing had ever happened to me. I had failed before, but I had never failed so publicly. What I learned that day was that I could fail in a big, public way, and it changed everything for me. I began to be afraid. I never wanted to have that experience again, and I was afraid that I might. I didn’t understand what had happened, nor did I understand what had brought it on. Only later did I come to see it for what it was: my first panic attack.
I became afraid to speak in public, even in small groups. Then my fear began to carry over to other areas of my life. I became claustrophobic on elevators and in skyscrapers, and I had panic attacks on airplanes. I began planning my life around avoiding situations that might be uncomfortable. My life revolved around my fears.
My life revolved around my fears
It was awful, and I knew it had to stop. I finally said to myself, no more! I’m not living like this. I will not let fear keep me from doing something that I want or need to do in life. I realized that to get over my fears, I had to step outside of myself. I had to get over my ego. I had to care less about what others thought of me and more about what I could do for others – even when it was scary. I began to face my fears head on, did things that scared me, and risked embarrassment.
And here’s the truth of it: We don’t just fail once and we don’t just get the opportunity to face our fears once. We get those opportunities with some frequency, and if you want to be a light in the darkness, you will let your failures point the route to success, face your fears, and be willing to step into the darkness now and then.
Don’t let fear keep you from doing the things you need to do
I can assure you it is so much better to be in the water, flailing around, not knowing how to swim, than it is to be standing on the shore afraid to jump in. If more of us would just admit to our fears and our failures, it would encourage others to do the same. Then no one would be left standing on the shore.
Who’s up for a swim?