Fear of failure

By Katherine Cox

Fear is a feeling that everyone experiences at one time or another. For me, it seems like an obstacle I need to overcome daily. I worry too much about what others may think, about what may happen to me, about which direction my life might take in the future. One of the longest, deeply rooted fears I have had is the fear of failure.

Ever since I was nine years old I have feared going to university. That may sound strange to a lot of you, but it really did concern me. I dreamt of a huge, white examination room with many rows of chairs and seats in front of me. I saw a tutor at the front of the room and hundreds of students surrounding me with their heads bent down over their papers, scribbling away enthusiastically. As soon as I saw this I panicked. In my dream I didn’t know what the exam was about and I didn’t know the answers to the questions on the paper. I woke up, panicked and confused.

I think this is a problem many people have: not having all the answers in life and being scared of not being in control or not being able to control certain life situations. For me, this dream/nightmare stemmed from my desire to impress and receive the approval of my father. He has always encouraged me to go to university, to receive a good education, to forge myself a stable career, and make a good life for myself. I was scared of going to university as I thought it would be too difficult to complete successfully, and so I have evaded it for a while. I went to TAFE instead for five years and completed a course in Professional Writing, which I graduated from last year. This gave me the confidence to try attending University, despite the risk of failure.I have learnt by confronting this fear head on that; number one, university is not as hard as I first thought; number two, even if I fail something I can still try again by resubmitting or at worst re-doing a subject; and number three, there are more options to life than to just give up. I think failure to me is not trying to do something, or not trying to follow through with your own expectations of what you want in life.

For me, I have found that my Christian faith helps me to combat some of my fears. Through my reliance on Christ I have discovered that I don’t need to be perfect, despite what the world may think, and that God accepts me for who I am not for what I have or haven’t achieved. Achieving good things like passing university, volunteering, or donating to the poor are good and acceptable practices to God, particularly if you profess to be a Christian. However, they will not get you an automatic ticket to the “pearly gates” and God will not necessarily give you 10 gold stars.

A particular Bible verse from the Gospel of Luke describes Jesus telling his disciples not to worry about the clothes they wear or the food they eat, as he said that God would provide for their needs. He said, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?” I use these verses not only in relation to my physical needs but also to my spiritual and mental needs; one of my mental needs being my university work. So far this year, God has provided me with the information needed and support through my lecturers and tutors to complete my assignments successfully. I am grateful that I can share my fears with God and also with friends and family who are supportive and can help to alleviate some of my worries.

Even as I write these paragraphs I am somewhat fearful of your reactions. I find writing about what I believe in to be incredibly difficult and my life so far as a Christian has not been perfect. But my reasons behind my faith are personal; God has helped me through some tough times over the last few years, particularly when dealing with loss and grief. He has also shown me many answers to prayer. Through experiencing his power, I know that I don’t need to fear about the trivial things in life. For example, university work, or what I’m going to wear tomorrow, because in the end I am not in control, and the one who is, is more faithful than I am.

So my advice to you is that whenever you are fearful or are worried about something, ask yourself whether worrying about this issue will really help it or not. If not, try considering whether this issue will still be important in a few weeks, months, or years and try to see the bigger picture. Looking back over my life experiences so far, I would say that the most important thing is to not let fear stop you from achieving your goals.

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