Fear of Failure? Aww, “F” It!

Go for the gold. Raise the bar. Above and beyond.

Ours isn’t a society that rewards mediocrity; instead, we demand performance. As a result, those of us who live here feel compelled to wear the label “overachiever” like a badge of honor.

But is that healthy? Does it enrich our life experience??

What if, instead, we heeded the advice to not be quite so “perfect?” What if we were to slow down… pull back…  relax a little?

The challenge is that we must create space to make that possible. We’ve got to make room, trade one thing for something else. As much as we might like to make the day longer to cram more in, we’re all allotted the same 24 hours. How we choose to fill it is up to us.

Here’s where “failure” comes in. I don’t mean trying your hardest and not succeeding; I’m talking about the intentional, deliberate act of not living up to society’s overly demanding expectations.

One of the best takeaways from working with a terrific therapist years ago was the permission — no, the MANDATE — to fail a little.

In my “old” life, I worked in the world of agency public relations. In order to accurately bill clients for our work, we tracked time in 15-minute increments. Needless to say, it was not my favorite aspect of the job. (Any attorneys out there feel me?!)

There was the expectation that employees would work a minimum number of hours each week, and every Monday morning the clock started over at zero, regardless of the number hours put in the week before.

As a dutiful rule-follower, I adhered to the letter of the law. I didn’t miss the minimum mark for years. But I lost myself in the process — and I felt stuck.

So when my therapist challenged me to intentionally fail at something in my life, I took aim at time. One week, I drew a deep breath and didn’t enter the minimum hours expected. I purposefully left it short by 1.25 hours.

You know what? Despite my predictions (and fears) otherwise, NOBODY NOTICED! (And if they did, they kindly kept it to themselves.) But, to me, it was oh, so LIBERATING! That one small act represented huge victory because it gave me something I felt I had surrendered: POWER over my own life.

Pulling back was a hard practice for a perfectionist like me, but allowing myself to “fail” — over something relatively small, and to no negative consequence — was one of the first steps to becoming unstuck. And it made the next decade at work a little easier.

I’ll leave you with an old colleague’s words, which are relevant not just here:

“Quit being such an OVER-achiever. There’s nothing wrong with ‘just’ achieving.”  🙂

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