by Chantal Bufe
Sometimes I wonder what the world would look like if we all dared a little more. If we were able to put aside our fear of failure, rejection, and shame, and just... jumped.
I am pretty sure the answer is: a whole lot of crazy, beautiful magic.
Maybe fear of failure is the problem here? Because we know too well how quickly we like to judge and when we do, our perception becomes our opinion and our opinion becomes our reality and then - alea iacta est, the dice are dealt, and we have made up our mind about someone and.... judge.
Sans fear of failure and judgment, we wouldn't mind falling as much. We would get back up, feeling supported by the people around us who would commend us for having tried in the first place.
Sans fear of failure and judgment, we would feel free to express ourselves fully, explore possibilities thoroughly, and seize opportunities more readily.
Sans fear of failure and judgment, we would feel comfortable sharing our successes and - most importantly - our failures! Our vulnerability would be out there, visible for everyone to see (and comment on) while we proudly admit: "Yes, ouch, I fell, but that's ok... because I am HUMAN!"
Is this such a utopian scenario in which waiting for humankind's realization that judgment is of no service to anyone is like Waiting for Godot? (In case you haven't read the book, Godot never arrives.)
So, what to do?
We can start by distancing ourselves from striving for outside acknowledgment, approval, and acceptance and instead focus on recognizing, nourishing, and strengthening our inner passions.
1. Accept failure
Be prepared for failure and the subsequent pain that follows. Failure is a natural part of life and, therefore, an involuntary companion on your risk-taking journey. Two things are important to remember here:
When we fail, we have at least tried. Which means we can never regret not trying. And isn't this an empowering feeling? Trying, attempting, endeavoring, seeking, striving, aiming, and yes.... struggling... isn't this so much more rewarding than never having tried in the first place?
Or in Paulo Coehlo's words:
It's better to cross the line and suffer the consequences than to stare at the line for the rest of your life.
Secondly, let's remember that we all need to start somewhere. Every successful person has had their shares of failures, and the only thing that differentiates these people from others is that they didn't give up. They chose not to quit. They allowed themselves to pass through the pain of failure, dusted themselves off, and tried again. And again. And again.
Until, one day, they realized that their continuous effort, patience, resilience, and sheer refusal to resign brought them here: success.
2. Rejection equals redirection
We often consider rejection synonymous with failure, and we all know the following scenario too well: we open our hearts (to someone or something), and it is scary. We become vulnerable, and that is even scarier. Already feeling insecure, we are then ....rejected. Now, we feel immense pain which manifests as shame (what will people think of me? who am I to have tried this in the first place?). So we quickly close our hearts and promise ourselves never to let down our guard again because THIS was embarrassing! Right?
This was not embarrassing. It was brave. And the entity telling you that rejection is embarrassing is not you but your ego (the part of you who reacts to the outside world and deeply cares about what other people think). So, if we (try our hardest and) take the ego out of the equation, we can see rejection for what it is: a guidepost that prevents us from going the wrong way while redirecting us to something that is meant for us.
And since a subtle whisper would often not suffice (we are strong-willed humans, after all!), redirection often materializes as loud and painful rejection. That way, we are sure to listen (for pain is something that we humans pay close attention to, especially when it is our own).
So next time you experience rejection and are pained and shamed by it, try and take a step back and put some faith into the new path that all of a sudden has opened up instead. It is your path, after all! Start exploring it!
3. No excuses
It usually takes time before we take risks. And rightfully so: before we take a (serious) leap, it is crucial to understand what we are risking entirely. To examine who, how, and what will be affected by our taking a risk is necessary to determine whether this risk is worth taking. This valuable preparation time means we are serious about our endeavor and want it to succeed. And when done thoroughly, it will allow us a better take-off for when we jump.
Then there is what I like to call the justification time, during which we come up with one excuse after the other to rationalize why we are not able to take the risk we have been contemplating. These excuses always start with the following three words.
I am not ...
I am not strong /smart/ original /attractive/rich (fill in the blank) enough.
When we are scared to take risks, there are endless ways we can try and convince ourselves of all the reasons that make it impossible to pursue our endeavor.
The good thing is that there is always that inner voice. The one that bugs and bugs you for as long as it takes for you to face the truth: your excuses are plain excuses and you either continue to nourish them or destroy them. One by one. Until there are none left.
Until the inner voice has won, and then you prepare and muster up all the courage and ... jump.
4. Be You
A common excuse for not having yet dared is because "someone else has done x/y/z (fill in your heart's desire here) already".
Fact is: yes: someone else has very, very likely already done (and accomplished/ received awards for/ made millions doing) what you would like to do.
So here are your options: not doing what you feel passionate about at all (and regretting it forever) or just doing it your way.
You are unique, so whatever you create will have your distinctive signature on it, independent from anything that has ever existed before.
And if you continuously remember to tap into this creatively unique well filled with your authenticity and originality, courage, and resilience, there are no limits to what you can achieve.
5. Your only shot
This is it. This is your opportunity. Right here and right now. You have this precious life which will end at some point (amidst our daily to-dos, we like to forget this rather consequential certainty), so really: carpe diem and seize the present. Stop and smell the flowers, gather the rosebuds and strike the iron while it's hot... you get my point: take the chance. Now.
And then be brave and share the story of how you dared with others, for THIS is how we replace judgment with empathy and (seeming) failure with (actual) success.