The Fear of Failure
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | July 2016
Childhood failures impact our willingness to engage in novel and new experiences. Our success requires resisting inclinations to protectively hide.
A child fears failure when normal stumblings are severely chastened. The painful scoldings burn inadequacy into young minds. The child must contend with the powerful emotions of disappointing the significant figures in their developing lives. The subsequent turning away by the caregiver is a more significant blow to development than the original failing. Many emerge from childhood scarred and frightened; failure is unacceptable. This ugly gift of inadequacy bestows deep and lasting scars that interfere with motivation for decades to come. The grown child’s harsh past colors new experience with unbearable risk, unknowns spark undue fear. The unpredictablness of novel experience alarms, signaling looming disaster. These underlying fears, unless addressed, may stunt growth, preventing flourishing in love and life.
A tender rose bud, tightly closed, is not diseased. The bud is in the process of becoming a radiant flower. We are becoming; a bud waiting to bloom; no matter what the beginning, the future remains to be determined.
Growth is painful; but also pleasant.
The broken soul’s sensitivities jump when corrected, igniting defensiveness, and fear. The slightest reminders of imperfection feel unbearable and demand a protective counter-attack.
One response to soften fears is to make the world kinder, adjusting experience to coddle our entrapping sensitivities, avoiding notable triggers, befriending softer personalities; but this is not enough (and limiting). A greater work is found inside, attending to our injured soul, directing compassion inward, embracing the person we are. Until the broken soul is treated, outside forces, no matter how kind, will always threaten.
A rose bud is simple, providing a nice, but inadequate example. Our experience is more complicated, full of complexities; perhaps we expand the example of the rose and consider the entire rose bush. A rose bush is adorned with an array of flowers in various stages of blooming. We, even in brokenness, have some character traits in full bloom, while others are struggling to form. The individual rose buds have beauty different than the bursting floral beauty of a mature flower. Within the bud is the grand potential for color and intoxicating fragrance. We don’t carelessly clip the forming buds because of current lack. Instead, we make room for the bloom. We find areas to prune, eliminating unproductive branches and withering flowers, while allocating more nourishment to the tender buds.
Our growth requires tender care—not careless tearing the undesirable from the whole. We gently, carefully, and lovingly trim, nourish and care for the soul. Many lost souls need guidance in this task, being raised in a critical world of harsh punishing remarks, they have adopted patterns, becoming a self-berating critic, embodying their childhood environment.
"Growth requires tender care—not carelessly tearing the undesirable from the whole."
Effective approaches for improvement require practice, persistence and patience. Growth isn’t easy, nor is it quick. New paths are demanding. There are no quick fixes or easy escapes. When we undertake this work with false expectations of ease, desiring a magical transformation, the eventual collisions with reality discourage.
We must embrace change with kindness, identifying weakness with curiosity, understanding, and persistence. Growth can be an exciting process—not feared but embraced. Yet when newness is greeted with childhood fears, the change intimidates; self-enlightenment is avoided. The past keeps replaying tired childhood dramas. We are compelled to soothe our fears by burying weaknesses, hiding the imperfections and feigning completeness.
We can free ourselves from the childhood chains holding us back; we must escape. We must compassionately tend the emotional disruptions interfering with reality, distorting experience and blocking knowledge. We may need outside guidance to widen our views. But with proper guidance, and healthy doses of humility, we progress, escaping the damaging sensitivities. The beauties of life begin to unfold in reality, opening to bright blooms. We continue to carry imperfections and the accompanying fears but do so with hope and joy.