Who loves to fail? Personally, I don’t particularly enjoy it and you probably don’t either. Failure comes in many forms; from test scores to job interviews to relationships. Rarely do we suffer physical effects from our failures, but they often come at an emotional or psychological cost. Our initial reaction to pain is to avoid or remove it and avoiding pain sounds like a good physical or emotional plan, but is it really? Because when it comes down to it, avoiding failure often means giving in to fear. And while a good dose of fear has kept both you an me alive for all these years, what is its cost?
Last year I set up a booth at Urbana’s Market on the Square selling prints. After looking at my work, a man told me that he was an amateur photographer as well. He entertained thoughts of selling his work at markets and fairs, but wasn’t sure that he was good enough. He feared that by putting his work in the open, people would openly criticize his photography. I understand the fear of spending money and not getting a return, but it is a bit of stretch to believe that people would publicly ridicule a photographer. First of all, people are generally to polite for that, and if they aren’t polite then you can count on the fact they just don’t care that much. If people don’t like your work they simply pass by. His irrational fear prevented him from doing something good, perhaps even great.
This isn’t easy and change doesn’t come overnight. Also, I am not immune from the irrational effects of fear and I am no expert in psychology but here are some thoughts when fear is keeping you from doing something …
What is the worst thing that (reasonably) could happen? Everything we do involves risk, even getting out of bed is a risky proposition. But understanding both the potential risk and its severity is important to assessing any course of action. Many times the greatest risk is simply rejection. There are a number of strangers whose portraits I would love to take – free. Why not just ask them? Because I am afraid of how embarrassed it would be for them to tell me “no”. Looking at this situation, the severity of failure is low (brief embarrassment from somebody I don’t know and will probably never meet again) but the probability failing is high. It is quite clear that my fear is quite irrational, or at least the intensity of that fear.
It is worth doing? This is personal question we all have to answer for ourselves. To spend our lives seeking out and fixing every irrational fear we have would probably be irrational and neurotic in itself. Choose your battles. There are certain things I want to accomplish in this life and certain activities that I consider are worthy to pursue. We all have a short amount of time (life is too short) to excel which necessitates the removal of unnecessary obstacles that we place in our own path.
Fear doesn’t have to be an enemy to conquer, but can be a friend to motivate. Instead of it repelling us backward lets use it to propel us forward. What I am suggesting is this, put yourself in situations where you can fail but use that energy to work hard to ensure that you don’t. Fear generates a good amount of energy and motivation, which properly directed, allows people to accomplish things thought unattainable.