Fear of failure has always been a part of everyone’s lives as long as humankind existed. Fear is an essential part of evolutionary science as it has protected our ancestors from extreme dangers for survival. Failure on the other end is just the opposite outcomes of success. But for far too long, society has engraved the idea of how success is more preferable and historic than failure. The successful was always deemed worthy and celebrated, while the failure was neglected. Thus, the inability to achieve success does not just mean you failed, but you are a failure too. And that my friend, is where fear of failure came from.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and also an advocate for creative living through her book Big Magic, took vows when she was just sixteen years old. She vowed to the universe that regardless of the outcomes, she would write forever. In essence, she only promised to become a writer, not a great writer, or a successful writer or she would have published books by the age of thirty. This beautifully portrays how she did not fear to fail because she did not set any expectations for the outcome of her creativity. In fact, she would have probably embraced them with open arms. Although failure is crucial for creative growth, fear of failure is certainly not.
For starters, fearing failure means you are self-sabotaging yourself to be stuck in your comfort zone. A step from your comfort zone into the realm of the unknown is a prerequisite for exploration and innovation through your creative endeavours. When you fear failure or the outcome of making something and putting it out into the world, you will always attempt to take the safe route, in other words, avoiding any kind of risks regardless of its plus sides. But the reality is, there are very few safe routes and this definitely puts constraints on how much you can grow as a creative person when you do not put that creativity into use. For example, there are no perfect known guidelines to be followed when it comes to inventing to resolve conflicts in science instead what is available is just probabilities of an idea working out.
When Thomas Edison said ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’, it meant that he took every creative route possible regardless of its risks and ended up creating wonders. This leads to the next point where fear of failure prevents you from learning. When you don’t put that creativity of yours into use, there is nothing for you to learn from to improve your craft. Failure can be said to be the carrier of lessons. As for creative growth, failure allows one to explore what works for them and what doesn’t and ultimately learn from them. It provides us with a platform to experiment with our creativity and our potential. For instance, if you’re a writer, unless you attempt to keep writing regardless of the many obstacles and failures in your way, you will never discover or learn more about your own style of writing.
Just imagine if Maya Angelou stopped exploring her skills halfway because she feared failure? It would have become a great disservice to the world. Besides, your fear of failure also relies on the validation of other people. It’s only human to crave validation. But the problem is, we focus too much on if people would approve of us of our work. When we begin to seek approval and validation, we begin to lose sight of satisfaction and the addition of value in our lives through our creative work. Thus, we stop producing work that makes us truly happy or that involves risks, which again means no room for learning and improvement. The thought of possible bad reviews, or “what will other people say?” silently but surely ensures we stay attached to what we know (comfort zone) instead of diving in deep with our creativity and exploring new possibilities. Not only your fear of failure makes you yearn for approval, but it also makes you an insecure person.
Part of living a creative life while probing your creativity is to be confident with what you put out into the world. The ultimate question should be ‘if you are satisfied with what you have created?’. But when you fear failure and focus only on the outcome of it, it not only derails your path of exploration of your creativity, but it starts to make you doubt your capability of being a creative person itself. The reality is, each one of us in the face of this planet has this innate ability to be creative. The result is the thousands of remarkable works produced by humankind such as art, poetry, and innovation. But beginning to doubt that part of you is an injustice to your creativity. It makes you question if all the extra hours you put into creating your crafts were ever worthy or if you are ever good enough to pursue your creative destiny.
The point here is not the inquiry it forms in your head, but the hopelessness that it forms in your heart and where there is no hope, there is no vision. When there is no vision, there is no space for creativity. It basically halts your creative process because you begin to adopt the notion that ‘if you cannot produce a successful work, then why bother producing at all?’. Investing in your creative growth that builds a creative life in itself is an exceptional move filled with bravery. That itself can be considered a great accomplishment. Fail if you have to. So, what if you fail? What do you have to lose in this short life where you should actually be doing absolutely everything you can to live a life filled with joy and genuine happiness? And if your creativity contributes to that joy and happiness, then to hell with failure.